345: Nick Enfield | Narrative, Storytelling, And More In “Language Vs. Reality”


N. J. Enfield is a professor and the chair of linguistics at the University of Sydney, and a research associate in the Language and Cognition Group at the Max Planck Institute. He joins on episode 345, where we discuss his latest book Language Vs. Reality: Why Language Is Good for Lawyers and Bad for Scientists.

“Enfield offers a lively exploration of the science underlying the bugs and features of language. He examines the tenuous relationship between language and reality; details the array of effects language has on our memory, attention, and reasoning; and describes how these varied effects power narratives and storytelling as well as political spin and conspiracy theories. Why should we care what language is good for? Enfield, who has spent twenty years at the cutting edge of language research, argues that understanding how language works is crucial to tackling our most pressing challenges, including human cognitive bias, media spin, the “post-truth” problem, persuasion, the role of words in our thinking, and much more.”

Nick Enfield is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Sydney and director of the Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre, and the Sydney Centre for Language Research. He is head of a Research Excellence Initiative on The Crisis of Post-Truth Discourse. His research on language, culture, cognition and social life is based on long term field work in mainland Southeast Asia, especially Laos. His recent books include Natural Causes of LanguageDistributed Agency, and How We Talk. Nick has published widely in linguistics, anthropology, and cognitive science venues, and has written for the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement, the Wall Street Journal, and Science. He is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, the Royal Society of New South Wales, and the Australian Academy of the Humanities.


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