Friday, October 16, 2009


Let's say you're new to linguistics and would like to learn more about the subject but are turned off by all the texts out there that sling the "ling lingo" without backtracking and first explaining where all the terminology came from.  If this scenario sounds familiar, one author you might be interested in reading is Steven Pinker.

Steven Pinker's books offer insights into linguistics without immersing the reader in technicalities of linguistic study; in other words, his books are able to get people thinking about linguistics--even if they don't have a background in linguistics.  His latest book, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, focuses on investigating a proposed link between our word choices and our brains.

Pinker explores our brains and the way we think through examining the words we choose:

... our words connect to our thoughts, our communities, our emotions, our relationships, and to reality itself.  It isn't surprising that language supplies so many of the hot potatoes of our public and private life.  We are verbivores, a species that lives on words, and the meaning and use of language are bound to be among the major things we ponder, share, and dispute. (24)
The premise of the book is fascinating, making readers ask whether our mental reality shapes our words or our words shape our mental reality.

Whether or not you agree with Pinker's conclusions, his book provides great fodder for insightful discussion.  Other books of his you might want to check out are Words and Rules and The Language Instinct.

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