By Steven Pinker

ISBN-10: 0670063274

ISBN-13: 9780670063277

Long island instances bestselling writer Steven Pinker possesses that infrequent blend of clinical flair and verbal eloquence that allows him to supply lucid causes of deep and strong principles. His past books—including the Pulitzer Prize finalist The clean Slate, have catapulted him into the limelight as one in every of today’s most crucial and well known technological know-how writers.

Now, within the Stuff of notion, Pinker marries of the topics he understands top: language and human nature. the result's a desirable examine how our phrases clarify our nature. What does swearing show approximately our feelings? Why does innuendo expose whatever approximately relationships? Pinker unearths how our use of prepositions and tenses faucets into chiefly human ideas of area and time, and the way our nouns and verbs converse to our notions of topic. Even the names we supply our infants have vital issues to assert approximately our relationships to our kids and to society.

along with his signature wit and elegance, Pinker takes on clinical questions like no matter if language impacts idea, in addition to forays into daily life—why is bulk email known as junk mail and the way do romantic comedies get such mileage out of the ambiguities of relationship? The Stuff of proposal is a brilliantly crafted and hugely readable paintings that may entice enthusiasts of readers of every thing from The egocentric Gene and Blink to Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

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Additional resources for The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature

Example text

The nought-noughts? The naughties? Traditional etymology is o f limited help in figuring out what ushers a word into existence and whether it will catch on. Etymologists can trace most words back for centuries or more, but the trail goes cold well before they reach the actual moment at which a primordial wordsmith first dubbed a concept with a sound of his or her choosing. With recent coinages, though, we can follow the twisted path to wordhood in real time. Spam is not, as some people believe, an acronym for Short, Pointless, and Annoying Messages.

They must have extracted the mental equiva­ lent o f grammatical rules that add suffixes to words and arrange verbs and particles in phrases. D O W N THE RABBIT HOLE 29 The triumph of language acquisition is even more impressive when we consider that a talking child has solved a knotty instance of the problem o f induction: observing a finite sample o f events and framing a generalization that embraces the infinite set from which the events are drawn. Scientists engage in induction when they go beyond their data and put forward laws that make predictions about cases they haven't observed, such as that gas under pressure will be absorbed by a liquid, or that warm-blooded animals have larger body sizes at higher latitudes.

Yet the returns keep coming. Philosophers of science argue that theo­ ries are not just peeled off the data but constrained beforehand by reason­ able assumptions about the way the universe works, such as that nature is lawful and that simpler theories that fit the data are more likely to be true than complex ones. 7 8 As children learn their mother tongue, they, too, are solving an induc­ tion problem. When listening to their parents and siblings, they can't just file away every sentence and draw on that list in the future, or they would be as mindless as parrots.

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The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker


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