The Stuff of Thought

The Toronto Star has a preview of Steven Pinker’s forthcoming book ‘The Stuff of Thought’ which apparently tackles language (no surprise there) but this time examines the multiple meanings in language and how and why we use metaphor.

The book isn’t slated to appear until late 2007, although it seems he’ll be doing some lectures based on the book throughout the coming year.

The article outlines some of the themes in his forthcoming work:

“The Harvard psychologist classes [his example of] the salt request as an example of indirect speech, a category that also includes euphemisms and innuendo. Two other key themes for Wednesday’s talk are the ubiquity of metaphor in everyday language and swearing and what it says about human emotion.

For Pinker all three categories of language provide windows on human nature, and analyzing them can reveal what people are thinking and feeling. The approach builds upon his earlier thesis that human nature has distinct and universal properties, some of which are innate ‚Äì determined at birth by genes rather than shaped primarily by environment.”

I had the pleasure of seeing of seeing one of Steven Pinker’s talks once, and even if you don’t buy his hard-nosed nativist view of cognition (that suggests that the fundamentals of our mental processes are inherited and selected for by evolution), he’s still greatly entertaining and thought-provoking.

Link to article ‘Of thought and metaphor’.

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