Tuesday, May 29, 2012

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...He loaded the hay into the wagon.

...He poured the water into the glass.

These two construction look very similar. We can capture the same concept as the first sentence in the following:

... He loaded the wagon with hay.

So what about:

... He poured the glass with water.

If you are a native speaker of English, the latter will probably clunk in your head like a bowl full of rocks.

So what's up with that? According to Steven Pinker in The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, the answer tells us a lot about language and even more about how the mind works. I won't try to explain the somewhat complicated answer, at least not at this early stage of my reading, but it has to do with the way our brains model the world.

Our minds contain an innate model of the physics of space, time and other matters, he says, and that model has a lot to say about how we think and speak.