How You Say It Book Summary By Katherine D. Kinzler

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How You Say It (2020) by author Guy Deutscher examines the power of language.

He looks into speech and how it can shape our identity, as well as how it's used to interact with the world around us.

The book provides detailed research and analysis about how our accents, choice of words, and other linguistic differences become part of who we are and influence how we view others.

By delving deep into linguistics and its effects on society, How You Say It is sure to provide fascinating insights for any reader.

How You Say It Book

Book Name: How You Say It (Why You Talk the Way You Do – and What It Says About You)

Author(s): Katherine D. Kinzler

Rating: 4.2/5

Reading Time: 24 Minutes

Categories: Communication Skills

Author Bio

Katherine D.

Kinzler is one of the foremost experts in the field of understanding how language can affect socialization.

She is a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago and her work has even been featured in prestigious publications like The New York Times and Quartz.

Not only that, Kinzler's research has also been published in several academic journals worldwide.

If you're looking for help navigating conversation or wanting to make an impact with your words, then look no further than this expert!

Uncovering The Hidden Language Of Everyday Speech: The Psychology Behind How We Talk


Beyond just providing greetings, the words we choose to use in our everyday language reveal a lot about us – even if we don’t talk about them.

This can be especially true when it comes to the hidden biases that are often embedded in our conversations.

In How You Say It, you’ll learn all about the psychology behind speech and how this bias affects us.

You’ll uncover how early language acquisition shapes our accents, which unconscious factors guide our conversations, and why how you say something is often taken more seriously than what you actually say.

With this knowledge, you’ll gain an understanding of why orcas whistle with accents and how to decipher if a teen is a jock or a burnout – all without relying on what they look like.

At the end of reading How You Say It, you will have an awareness of these underlying biases so that you can recognize them in speech and strive to minimize their influence over your conversations.

The Power Of Social Forces In Shaping How We Speak

It’s well-known that we divide society into different social groups.

Easily identifiable factors like where we come from, our race, sex, religion and sports affiliation are all examples of this.

However, one factor that often goes overlooked is how we speak – something known as linguistic groupings.

The way we speak has a huge influence on our social lives in that we tend to gravitate towards those who share the same style of speech or inflection as us.

There’s also evidence which suggests that when joining a new social group, people will naturally alter their language to fit in and be accepted.

This was studied in depth by Penelope Eckert throughout the 1980s when she identified two distinct social groupings at a high school: jocks and burnouts.

The way each group talked even varied according to minor things like how they would pronounce lunch (jocks said ‘lunch’ while burnouts would say ‘launch’).

In the 1990s, American teens adopted upspeak – a Valley girl style whereby each statement sounded like a question; today vocal fry (a deep gravely tone) is more popular among young people.

Again, these speech patterns can be seen as annoying or too informal by older generations but it’s actually just an expression of unconscious bias towards their own social groups.

The conclusion here is clear: The way we speak is shaped by subtle social forces and therefore holds significant influence over our lives.

The Power Of Early Language Learning: Why Being Young Is The Real Key To Mastery

There is a clear consensus among experts that learning a language is easiest if you start at an early age.

This logical conclusion was supported by the stories of legendary writers Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov.

Both hailed from countries which spoke a language different from English, but they had both managed to master the English language later in life.

The difference in their level of fluency can be attributed to when they were first exposed to english.

Although both men must have worked hard to perfect their english, it was Nabokov who gained the upper hand, as he had been raised with the sounds and words of english from an early age thanks to his governess.

Studies support these findings and consistently show that our ability to master a new tongue starts decreasing at around 7 years old, by 20 that decline levels off meaning young adults and senior citizens should have equal language-learning capabilities.

The take away message here is that it is possible for adults to learn languages but they will never achieve fluency, as the brain has lost its malleability.

As well, even those who do learn manage to feel less emotionally attached.

For example, known curse words not only are understood but provoke no emotional effects in the speaker’s native language than those spoken in other languages studied.

Language And Identity: How Language Bond People Together Or Divides Them


The power of language to unify or divide should never be underestimated.

The June 16th 1976 march on Soweto by outraged students serves as a stark reminder of the effect that regulating language can have.

By passing the Afrikaans Medium Decree, the ruling National Party had essentially outlawed local languages like Zulu, Sotho, and Tswana – a move which was viewed by many as an insult and seen for what it truly was – another tool of government oppression.

When we bring this concept closer to home, language diversity itself can create both positive and negative effects.

For example, having a shared language helps us form social bonds and foster a sense of community.

On the other hand, linguistic & accent differences may be interpreted as a threat to group cohesion and widely-held stereotypes can arise from this.

In addition to creating tension, negative attitudes towards accents can even lead to low self esteem & linguistic insecurity in some individuals due to an internalization of both conscious and subconscious judgments that they receive.

Ultimately, when it comes to language & identity there’s a long history of both empowering unity as well as producing prejudice – with only one certainty – words always have consequences.

Speech May Be The Most Ancient And Deeply-Rooted Divider Among Humans

According to many evolutionary psychologists, humans are predisposed to categorize people as either us or them.

This tendency may have evolved to help us survive the harsh realities of nature by ensuring that we’re quick to identify friend and foe.

In today’s world, this same tendency leads to forms of social segregation such as racism.

However, evidence suggests that our biases around language and speech are even more deeply rooted than any other divide.

Many animal species use vocalizations as a way of recognizing friends and foes, such as orcas that have distinct “accents” within their pods.

Recent studies on bias have tested whether race or language takes precedence in our subconscious judgment of others.

Several have found that when faces are paired with voice samples, they are judged according to their speech rather than appearance; people categorized those who spoke perfectly as friends regardless of their skin tone.

This suggests that how someone speaks may be far more relevant than how they look when it comes to determining our biases about them.

Children Unconsciously Acquire Linguistic Bias Instinctively From Birth

Linguistic bias, which is the tendency to value one way of speaking over another, has been shown to start at birth.

Research shows that babies are already attuned to language differences even in the womb, and will often give preferential treatment to their mother’s native tongue.

For example, in a study, a baby was presented with two adults – one speaking in English and another in French – both offering toys.

The baby showed clear preference by reaching for objacts offered by the English speaker.

This demonstrates how humans instinctively interpret certain sounds as more important than others from an early age and carry this pattern forward into childhood.

In fact, children tend to choose playmates based on voices rather than race – selecting those with the same accent as theirs when given a selection of pictures with audio options.

It is clear that linguistic biases begin to form at a very young age due to instinctive survival preferences, but continued exposure to depictions of characters with certain accents can create lasting stereotypes that impact children’s views of the world.

Discrimination Based On Accent Is Widespread And Deeply Entrenched In Society


Discrimination based on accents is real, and it’s happening in many aspects of everyday life.

Manuel Fragante had all the qualifications to get his dream job at the Department of Motor Vehicles, yet he was turned down due to his accent.

The court even sided with the employer!

Unfortunately, this type of discrimination can be seen all over our society.

Studies have shown that even schools and universities treat foreign teachers differently due to their accent.

Meanwhile, people shopping for homes also encounter bias –– as Hispanic participants who spoke with a more pronounced accent were denied far more often than those who didn’t.

Discrimination doesn’t end after a potential customer or job candidate has been turned away either –– it can extend into the courtroom too!

Jurors tend to find those speaking standard English more believable than others.

This prejudice puts linguistic or racial minorities at a huge disadvantage when defending themselves in court, which is why we need to take it seriously and make addressing this issue a priority.

The Monolingual Myth: The Benefits Of Growing Up Bilingual

The idea of being bilingual has long been debated among linguists, with some debating that growing up speaking multiple languages can negatively impact a child’s development.

However, recent research has shown this to be a myth, as children who are raised bilingual do not suffer development deficits and actually experience mental benefits.

One of the benefits that learning two languages brings is an improvement in problem-solving and overall flexibility in thinking.

In addition, bilingual children are better at understanding the perspective and mental states of others.

On top of that, research suggests that being bilingual may offer protection against dementia or Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

In light of this knowledge, it is important to properly encourage linguistic diversity in all aspects of life – particularly among younger generations.

This means teaching kids a second language as early as possible and creating programs to support native speakers so they can continue to express themselves through their native tongues without fear of judgement or discrimination.

So there you have it: growing up speaking two (or more) languages does not hinder language learning; instead, it enhances cognitive abilities and encourages greater understanding between different cultures.

It can help make us sharper and more perceptive as individuals!

Wrap Up

The key takeaway from How You Say It:

Our language, accents, and pronunciation send powerful messages about our connections, status, and background.

These communication styles can either bring us together or divide us.

This diversity is to be celebrated – we should strive to teach our children multiple languages in order to build a more equitable and connected world.

So remember: it’s not just what you say that matters but how you say it too!

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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