FEATURE14 January 2016

Steven Pinker in seven

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Steven Pinker, a professor at Harvard University, is a renowned experimental psychologist and writer on language, the mind and human nature. His most recent book is The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century 

1. You have written about a diverse range of subjects – how do you decide what to turn your attention to, and what do you want to cover next?

Steven Pinker: I like to say that, after writing a book about genocide, mass murder, world war, rape and torture (The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined), I decided it was time to write a book on topics that really get people emotionally engaged – namely dangling participles, split infinitives and beginning a sentence with ‘because’. Seriously, there is a common denominator beneath all the subjects I write on: human nature. I have alternated between books that focus on language – such as The Stuff of Thought and The Language Instinct – and books on the rest of human nature, such as How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate

2. Do you think the way language is evolving, and how we use it, has changed more in the past 20 years – with the ...