Language in Thought and Action

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Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 196 pages
43 Reviews

In an era when communication has become increasingly diverse and complex, this classic work on semantics—now fully revised and updated—distills the relationship between language and those who use it.


Renowned professor and former U.S. Senator S. I. Hayakawa discusses the role of language in human life, the many functions of language, and how language—sometimes without our knowing—shapes our thinking in this engaging and highly respected book. Provocative and erudite, it examines the relationship between language and racial and religious prejudice; the nature and dangers of advertising from a linguistic point of view; and, in an additional chapter called “The Empty Eye,” the content, form, and hidden message of television, from situation comedies to news coverage to political advertising.

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Review: Language in Thought and Action

User Review  - Rob - Goodreads

One of my favorite books of all time. So well written, and it opened my eyes to the power of the levels of abstraction in communication. Read full review

Review: Language in Thought and Action

User Review  - Anne - Goodreads

The excerpts I was assigned to read from this in high school struck me at the time as brilliant. Coming back to it now, I find it a little more basic than I expected, but I still appreciate having all this information spelled out and compiled in one place. Read full review

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About the author (1990)

S.I. Hayakawa's full name is Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa. The son of an import-export merchant, Hayakawa was born on July 18, 1906, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Hayakawa received his bachelors degree from the University of Manitoba and his masters degree from McGill University. While he was studying for his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin, Hayakawa worked as an assistant instructor in English, becoming a professor in the English extension division in 1936. In the 40 years that followed, Hayakawa joined the faculties at numerous universities and colleges as a professor, eventually becoming president emeritus at San Francisco State University. Hayakawa is the author of a number of books that cover the meaning of language and similar subjects. Among his book credits are the Book-of-the-Month selection Language in Action, Modern Guide to Synonyms and Related Words, Dimensions in Meaning, and Quotations from Chairman S.I. Hayakawa. The periodical ETC: Of Our Language and Our World is considered one of Hayakawa's greatest contributions to modern letters. Hayakawa has also contributed to New Republic, Harper's, Sewanee Review, and other periodicals.

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