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Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning by Benjamin K. Bergen (2012-11-15) Hardcover – 1703

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Basic Civitas Books (1703)
  • ASIN: B01K0SMTQ4
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bergen’s book was well worth the read. For myself, it was very much an introduction to embodied language thought, although I’ve seen some materials by Lakoff. Bergen’s style is friendly and easy to follow. He brings a lot of very practical evidence to our attention. This is one very valuable facet of the book. Sometimes self-fulfilling prophecy may seem to be the practice of the day? Generally though – the experiments he describes seem very genuine and the results that he reports are thought provoking.

The thought of language being integrally linked to the body has fascinating implications for notions of resurrection and eternity. Some people’s belief in eternity is ghostly, as if eternity has to do with wandering spirits. Bergen’s work implies that full bodily resurrection is more likely. (Bergen does not mention this link to resurrection.)

Bergen makes it clear that his account is ‘work in progress’. I felt however that he was too reluctant to draw conclusions and could have been more daring. I love the probing into what embodied language could imply for abstract thought. That whole field seems to be fascinating. Sometimes he underplays the impact of context (in this case simulation) on meaning, thus underplaying a vital field especially for intercultural communication. His work and that of his colleagues has many practical implications that still need to be drawn more fully. The main weakness of the book seems to me to be it’s failure to integrate parallel discussions going on in fields other than cognitive studies. My thoughts go to Paul Grice on pragmatics and then more recently Sperber and Wilson’s work on relevance. The latter seems to run closely in parallel with Bergen’s ‘discoveries’, and his book is much the weaker for not linking to their research, and to that on pragmatics in general.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
George Lakoff, the author of the foreword to Bergen's work (and his former teacher), claims that Louder than Words "is a stunningly beautiful synthesis of the new science of meaning" (xi). Indeed, Benjamin K. Bergen, an Associate Professor at the Department of Cognitive Science at the University of California, turned out to be a very skillful writer, who provides a thorough answer to the question about how human mind extracts meaning from language. Moreover, the style in which Bergen leads his argumentation in Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning (2012) is eloquent and scientific, yet plain enough to be understood by a non-scientist. Humorous anecdotes interweave with descriptions of scientific experiments, which makes the book a really enjoyable read.

Bergen explains his interest in the issue of meaning by claiming that "making meaning might be one of the most important things we do" and "what's perhaps most remarkable about it is that we hardly notice we're doing anything at all" (3). In his research, Bergen deals mostly with meaning that is conveyed through language, which as he observes, people (and only them) use "to make sense of the world" (3).

In the first parts of chapter I of his book, Bergen provides a brief account of the previous theories of meaning, paying particular attention to Mentalese, which he describes as "one of the most important and influential ideas people have had about meaning and the mind" (9). Even though Bergen pays tribute to this theory, he also enumerates its shortcomings. Mentalese does not allow us to really understand words, as he confirms, it only provides some mental definitions and do not break the vicious circle of defining words in terms of other words.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought the book after being amazed by Lakoff's various books on the mind and metaphor, and his work linking embodied cognition to language, hearing this book was from one of his students, and endorsed by him, I thought id give it a try, unfortunately it was not really worth it.

Over simplified, and engaging. Bergen uses allot of metaphor to try and express an overview of embodied cognition, but in doing so seems to create a convoluted and uninformative piece of writing. Perhaps a good overview for anyone not actually looking to learn about the subject, but just have a general idea of what Embodied Cognition encompasses, but you may end up with the wrong ideas, and so I wouldn't recommend it even for that.

All in all its a very simple overview of some amazing new ideas in cognitive science, but was not for me, didn't give it one star as I think the more books there are on this subject, the better, and its a hard thing to write about for people not informed on the subject.

If your looking for an overview of Embodied Cognition, i would strongly recommend "Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds" As I found this both well written, and easy to follow, as well as being wonderfully referenced, allowing you to explore further the points that take your fancy.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars 36 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating and rich with experimental examples 28 Aug. 2014
By Michael Ian Cohen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great book for anyone interested in linguistics and the way humans process language. Bergen provides over 200 experimental examples to illustrate his claims. It would have been helpful if Bergen had more frequently taken his readers a step back to discuss some of the wider, conceptual implications of this work. He does this near the end, but for a series of chapters, he spends most of his time describing the experimental evidence. As a reader, I feel like there is something very big emerging from this work, but I will need to go back and review the examples to think more carefully about the implications. This is a good companion text to Lakoff's The Political Mind, which provides insight into the power of metaphor (and some of the dangers thereof). I'd recommend reading Lakoff's text first, since it helps to provide a more conceptual framework before getting into the details of Bergen's work.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The book that brings neuro-linguistic programmings practice closer to cognitive linguistic science 6 April 2014
By Lucas Derks - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In clinical work, it became clear that, people create images, feelings, sounds, smels and tastes while speaking and listening. Embodied Simulation provides us with the meaning of language. However, scientific proof is often a long way off from the systematic support for a theory from therapeutic practice.
The divede between therapists and cognitive scientist becomes wider, the more progressive the therapists and the scientists seem to be. Scientist always need to safeguard their reputation and therefore may stay away from in their view 'isoteric' not established disciplines.
I belief that Benjamin Bergen is incognisent, that he helped to prove the basic models of NLP.
Maybe this book will help cognitive linguistics to open up for some other ideas that come from 40 years of clinical experience.

Louder than Words, is extremely well written: tells a story and gives definitive answers.

Lucas Derks
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I felt very comfortable with the illustrations within the text to ensure the ... 13 Mar. 2015
By Madone - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This author explains things in an incredible way, simple. There are always mnemonic tools we use every day and don't even know it. Without being supereogatory, his message (lessons) about meaning come through 'Loud and Clear' (no pun intended). I felt very comfortable with the illustrations within the text to ensure the reader has a complete understanding of some of the processes. Very nicely compiled and redistributed so that some otherwise complicated theories become simple comprehensive reality.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A peek inside your own brain 1 May 2013
By J. Dreyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have not yet finished this book...there is so much to digest in each page that I tend to consume only small portions at a time. But each session reveals new insights to ponder for days. If you want to really think about how you think, read this book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you! 25 Feb. 2013
By Vidas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am so glad I've found this book. So many themes of embodied cognition, simulation (- are we a simulation too?) neurolinguistics, embodied cognition were spinning in my head recently, and suddenly this. Definitelly way louder than words. Bam!!! - and everything settles nicely. Almost like an awakening. These understandings are changing everything, implications are huge, and I am so glad I've found this book.

Therefore, thank you, Mr. Bergen. For the ease of explanations, importance of the themes in this book and all the fabulous time I had reading it. Way to go! We begin to understand what the understanding is.
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