Customer Reviews for

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

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2007

    Pinker's clinker.

    I would have loved a book that lived up to this book's promise. Sadly it fails. To give just three examples among hundreds: if you agree that a church cannot be hit by lightning on the steeple because a building is not sentient, you may enjoy this book. If you agree that it would not be killing a man to intentionally trap him with a mad dog resulting in the man's death, since all you would have done was 'cause him to become not alive,' this title may be a good read for you. If you don't mind the author listing the shortening of 'refrigerator' to 'fridge' as a transition to 'a single word,' you may be fine. But to me a church includes its steeple, a dog can be a weapon as truly as a dagger, and 'syllable' and 'word' (and 'morpheme') are not synonyms. Thus this book is gobbledegook to me, and I'd recommend reading something else.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 18, 2010

    Not a Casual Read

    This book is a blend of cognitive psychology, linguistic theory, social psychology and philosophy. Pinker raises questions that address the debate of extreme nativism (words shape our thoughts) vs linguistic determinism (word concepts are innate, fundamental building blocks, set by the physical constraints of our evolved brains) and settles upon a compromise: cognitive semantics. Pinker thinks that our words are shaped by some innate concepts, like a sense of time, or space, of big vs. little, etc, and that our experiences then come into play.

    Although interesting, this book is very slow-moving and laborious to read. There's one section which explores our love/hate relationship with obscene expletives. Clearly, they are part of our lives, but we tend to have sets of judgment and visceral reactions to these words, which really doesn't seem quite logical. Pinker makes the logic explicit, and clarifies the "rules" we've developed regarding our swear and epithet-hurling words. This part of the book was definitely entertaining, but for the most part, this is a book most likely to appeal to a specific, limited, audience.

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  • Posted August 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Theoretical discussion of language

    Steven Pinker's enthusiasm about language comes through everywhere in this book - which is a good thing, because the subject matter itself is dense and complex. This combination results in a curious reading experience: Pinker's lively style, many anecdotes and extreme lucidity pull you forward in the text, but the difficulty of the questions he raises could stump you for some time. He explores many linguistic theories in such depth that readers without a particular interest in the field may, frankly, get lost or find the book too abstract, despite Pinker's numerous attempts to ground his discussions in reality. Therefore, while this is a fine book, getAbstract recommends it primarily to patient readers who have a strong interest in language and philosophy. Bring along an open mind and a sense of humor, since Pinker explores language practices - such as obscenities and insults - that may provoke emotional responses.

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  • Posted June 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Steven Pinker's The Stuff of Thought

    Pinker is a competent student of language and occasionally has interesting things to say about the various topics he chooses to discuss in this book. But he does not come close in terms of brilliance and insight when compared with George Lakoff.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2008

    The right televised read...

    I haven't had the pleasure of actually reading Steven's 'The Stuff of Thought'. However, his televised rendition on C-Span with language usually rated as un-acceptable for all ages was a breath of fresh air in communications. I strongly advise everyone over 18 grab this book, read it, and explain his dignified guidance to any youth. The Stuff of Thought will guarantee assistance to anyone the right ways of communicating with children and young adults that usually leaves people in distress. Furthermore, excerpts from Mr. Pinker's book should be morethaneverso extended to all High School Faculty to be considered as curriculum in this early 21st Century! Jared

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2008

    refreshingly intelligent and witty

    A wonderful, witty look at the way our mind works when putting together what comes out of our mouths, reflecting or social and historical past.

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