The Power of Language: How the Codes We Use to Think, Speak, and Live Transform Our Minds (Hardcover)
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“Sparkles with insight.”—Daniel Pink
One of Behavioral Scientist’s Summer Books of 2023
One of Next Big Idea Club’s "7 Books that Reveal the Wonders of Writing and Language"
This revolutionary book goes beyond any recent book on language to dissect how language operates in our minds and how to harness its virtually limitless power.
As Dr. Marian explains, while you may well think you speak only one language, in fact your mind accommodates multiple codes of communication. Some people speak Spanish, some Mandarin. Some speak poetry, some are fluent in math. The human brain is built to use multiple languages, and using more languages opens doors to creativity, brain health, and cognitive control.
Every new language we speak shapes how we extract and interpret information. It alters what we remember, how we perceive ourselves and the world around us, how we feel, the insights we have, the decisions we make, and the actions we take. Language is an invaluable tool for organizing, processing, and structuring information, and thereby unleashing radical advancement.
Learning a new language has broad lifetime consequences, and Dr. Marian reviews research showing that it:
· Enhances executive function—our ability to focus on the things that matter and ignore the things that don’t.
· Results in higher scores on creative-thinking tasks.
· Develops critical reasoning skills.
· Delays Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia by four to six years.
· Improves decisions made under emotional duress.
· Changes what we see, pay attention to, and recall.
About the Author
Dr. Viorica Marian is the Ralph and Jean Sundin Endowed Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders and professor of psychology at Northwestern University. Since 2000, Marian has directed the university's Bilingualism and Psycholinguistics Research Lab, receiving funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. She previously served as chair of the National Institutes of Health Language and Communication Study Section (2020-2022) and chair of the Northwestern University Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (2011-2014).
Marian is a native speaker of Romanian; a native-like speaker of Russian; a fluent speaker of English; and has studied or conducted research with a variety of other languages, including American Sign Language, Cantonese, Dutch, French, German, Mandarin, Spanish, Thai, and Ukrainian.
Apart from scientific papers, Marian has written for Scientific American, Psychology Today, The Hill, Medium, Latino USA, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Chicago Tribune. Her work has been featured on NPR, PBS, BBC, NBC, and CBS, as well as many podcasts.
"Full of delightful insights, this book is thoroughly researched and compulsively readable."
"Marian, a professor of communication sciences and disorders at Northwestern University, makes a convincing case for multilingualism in her illuminating debut… Marian’s extensive research and thoughtful analysis lend this entry weight, and the lay reader-friendly prose makes it all go down smoothly. Curious monolinguals will be inspired to expand their linguistic horizons."
"The Power of Language sparkles with insight. After reading this book, you will see and hear words differently—and feel a deeper appreciation for the sheer majesty of the human mind. (Bonus: It will also make you want to learn Swedish, Spanish, or Swahili!) Viorica Marian takes her place alongside Steven Pinker and George Lakoff as the author of an essential work about the science of language."
—Daniel H. Pink, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Drive, When, and The Power of Regret
"Whether or not you have reflected on language, whether or not you speak or think in several languages, you will learn a lot from this well-researched and well written book."
—Howard Gardner, professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education, author of the seminal bestseller Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences
"There exist countless books on language, each one a variant, it sometimes appears, of the ones that preceded it. But Viorica Marian has done the seemingly impossible—given us a uniquely original, fresh, and powerful perspective that promises to shape the scientific study of language and mind well into the future. Her focus is not so much on how the mind does language as on what language does for the mind and its user, and crucially, on what the consequences are, for individuals and entire societies, of having more than one language in that mind. Specialist and non-specialist readers alike will be captivated."
—Gerry Altmann, former editor of Cognition: The International Journal of Cognitive Science, and award-winning author of The Ascent of Babel
"A highly engaging and personal journey into the superpower you didn’t know you had!"
—Morten H. Christiansen, professor of psychology, Cornell University, professor in cognitive science of language, Aarhus University, Denmark, senior scientist, Haskins Laboratories, author of The Language Game
"If you speak only one language, you might be tempted to assume there's only one way to see the world. Many Americans took a couple years of a second language in high school but went no further. Meanwhile, the American poet Ferlinghetti wrote: Pity the nation that knows no other language than its own. In The Power of Language, Dr. Viorica Marian – an internationally renown expert in bilingualism research – beautifully shows all the ways that learning a second language can do so much more than simply add another way of talking; it can fortify your brain to make you sharper, wiser, more creative, and more open-minded. And she provides the scholarly receipts for her evidence in a comprehensive Notes section. With clear prose, insightful analogies, and a sly sense of humor, Marian reports masterfully on the science of bilingualism to reveal that one of the most effective ways for any monolingual to expand and improve their mind is to learn a second language."
—Michael J. Spivey, professor of cognitive science, University of California, author of Who You Are and The Continuity of Mind
"In this easy-to-read and informative book, Professor Viorica Marian marshals her extensive research experience, broad knowledge of science, and a personal and engaging style in telling the story of the one arguably most human cognitive faculty: language. Among other things, this book explains how the mastery of language — or, even better, of several languages — helps us think better, live better for longer, and be better to each other. Read it, and you’ll be better for it!"
—Shimon Edelman, professor of psychology, Cornell University, author of Computing the Mind