The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention

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Macmillan, May 2, 2006 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 358 pages

Blending the spirit of Eats, Shoots & Leaves with the science of The Language Instinct, an original inquiry into the development of that most essential-and mysterious-of human creations: Language

Language is mankind's greatest invention-except, of course, that it was never invented." So begins linguist Guy Deutscher's enthralling investigation into the genesis and evolution of language. If we started off with rudimentary utterances on the level of "man throw spear," how did we end up with sophisticated grammars, enormous vocabularies, and intricately nuanced degrees of meaning?

Drawing on recent groundbreaking discoveries in modern linguistics, Deutscher exposes the elusive forces of creation at work in human communication, giving us fresh insight into how language emerges, evolves, and decays. He traces the evolution of linguistic complexity from an early "Me Tarzan" stage to such elaborate single-word constructions as the Turkish sehirlilestiremediklerimizdensiniz ("you are one of those whom we couldn't turn into a town dweller"). Arguing that destruction and creation in language are intimately entwined, Deutscher shows how these processes are continuously in operation, generating new words, new structures, and new meanings.

As entertaining as it is erudite, The Unfolding of Language moves nimbly from ancient Babylonian to American idiom, from the central role of metaphor to the staggering triumph of design that is the Semitic verb, to tell the dramatic story and explain the genius behind a uniquely human faculty.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Cheryl_in_CC_NV - LibraryThing

Couldn't get into it. I'm still curious to read theories about how language first started, but this promised to be a treatise on linguistic analysis, with a chapter at the end that goes back in time only as far as the 'me Tarzan' stage. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Cheryl_in_CC_NV - LibraryThing

Couldn't get into it. I'm still curious to read theories about how language first started, but this promised to be a treatise on linguistic analysis, with a chapter at the end that goes back in time only as far as the 'me Tarzan' stage. Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
A Castle in the Air
21
Perpetual Motion
45
The Forces of Destruction
73
A Reef of Dead Metaphors
115
The Forces of Creation
144
Craving for Order
171
Epilogue
260
Flipping Categories
275
The Cooks Counterpoint
294
Bibliography
329
Acknowledgments
347
Copyright

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About the author (2006)

Born in Israel in 1969, Guy Deutscher studied mathematics and earned a Ph.D. in linguistics at the University of Cambridge, where he became a research fellow in 1998. A widely acclaimed scholar of ancient Semitic languages, Deutscher is at the University of Leiden in Holland.

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