Last year Steven Pinker published a book called "The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature." Here's a blurb describing the book:
"How does a mind that evolved to think about rocks and plants and enemies think about love and physics and democracy? Why do we threaten and bribe and seduce in such elaborate, often comical ways? How can a choice of metaphors start a war, impeach a president, or win an election? Why do people impose taboos on topics like sex, excretion, and the divine? What does the peculiar syntax of swearing (just what does the "fuck" in "fuck you" actually mean?) tell us about ourselves? Why do some names thrive while others fall out of circulation? How do we control the amount of information that we absorb? And what good does this actually do us? Pinker answers all these questions and many, many more. He shows us that language really can tell us unexpected and fascinating things about ourselves."
And for a 17-minute film of Pinker talking about ideas from the book, see: