“'The Stuff of Thought' by Steven Pinker can be divided into halves: the theory (chapters one through four) and the "fun stuff" (chapters five through eight). Both are very interesting, well-written, thoroughly explained and contain examples aplenty, but I feel I must review them separately.
Pinker's theory is highly persuasive. He outlines his theory of the relationship between our thought patterns and universal traits of human language, as well as opposing theories. As an argument, it's quite excellent: interesting, detailed, well researched, clearly explained and convincing. But it's dense. Though an excellent writer, the first four chapters drag on at times. There are so many examples and so much information - which is, yes, very interesting - but it leads to an occasionally dry read. I can imagine some readers with only a mild interest in linguistics would find it boring. Though this can be somewhat tedious, it's for evidently admirable reasons, as it presents his thesis perfectly.
The latter half assesses metaphors, etymology, profanity, and indirect speech in relation to his theory. These chapters are incredibly interesting and engaging, and as they are built upon the former chapters, it's worth every slow moment of the former half. My favourites were chapters seven (profanity) and eight (implicatures) in which he offered very interesting insights into both, when thought about, odd phenomenon.
You will learn something from this book, guaranteed. It's a wealth of information that will make you notice distinct patterns in your choice of words and the syntax in which you use them (for example, this review is rife with them). If linguistics is of any interest to you, you will draw something from this book that will stay with you for a while after you finish it.”
Emily Jane wrote this review Monday, November 26, 2012.