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The Stuff of Thought is an exhilarating work of non-fiction. Surprising, thought-provoking and incredibly enjoyable, there is no other book like it - Steven Pinker will revolutionise the way you think about language. He analyses what words actually mean and how we use them, and he reveals what this can tell us about ourselves. He shows how we use space and motion as metaphors for more abstract ideas, and uncovers the deeper structures of human thought that have been shaped by evolutionary history. He also explores the emotional impact of language, from names to swear words, and shows us the full power that it can have over us. And, with this book, he also shows just how stimulating and entertaining language can be.
Bestselling Harvard psychology professor Pinker (The Blank Slate) investigates what the words we use tell us about the way we think. Language, he concludes, reflects our brain structure, which itself is innate. Similarly, the way we talk about things is rooted in, but not identical to, physical reality: human beings take "the analogue flow of sensation the world presents to them" and "package their experience into objects and events." Examining how we do this, the author summarizes and rejects such linguistic theories as "extreme nativism" and "radical pragmatism" as he tosses around terms like "content-locative" and "semantic reconstrual" that may seem daunting to general readers. But Pinker, a masterful popularizer, illuminates this specialized material with homely illustrations. The difference between drinking from a glass of beer and drinking a glass of beer, for example, shows that "the mind has the power to frame a single situation in very different ways." Separate chapters explore concepts of causality, naming, swearing and politeness as the tools with which we organize the flow of raw information. Metaphor in particular, he asserts, helps us "entertain new ideas and new ways of managing our affairs." His vivid prose and down-to-earth attitude will once again attract an enthusiastic audience outside academia.