The Unfolding of Language

The Unfolding of Language

An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention

Book - 2005
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result from simple laziness. Through the dramatic story of The Unfolding of Language, we discover the genius behind a uniquely human faculty. Book jacket.
From the written records of lost civilizations to the spoken idiom of today's streets, we move nimbly from ancient Babylonian through medieval French to the English of the present. We marvel at the staggering triumph of design that is the Semitic verb, puzzle over single words that can express highly elaborate sentiments, such as the Turkish sehirlilestiremediklerimizdensiniz (you are one of those whom we can't turn into a town-dweller), and learn how great changes of pronunciation may
entwined, Deutscher shows how these processes are continuously in operation, generating new words, new structures, and new meanings.
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 is formed, evolves, and decays. He traces the emergence of linguistic complexity from an early evolutionary "Me Tarzan" stage to the astonishing power of languages today, their capacity to express even the subtlest thoughts and ideas. Arguing that destruction and creation in language are intimately
utterances on the level of "man throw spear," how did we end up with sophisticated grammars, enormous vocabularies, and intricately nuanced shades of meaning?
Language is Mankind's Greatest invention-except of course, that it was never invented." So begins linguist Guy Deutscher's enthralling investigation into the evolution of language. No one believes that the Roman Senate sat down one day to design the complex system that is Latin grammar, and few believe, these days, in the literal truth of the story of the Tower of Babel. But then how did there come to be so many languages, and of such elaborate design? If we started off with rudimentary
Publisher: New York : Metropolitan Books, 2005
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 0805079076
Branch Call Number: 401 DEU
Characteristics: 358 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm

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stephen_r_ferg
Dec 14, 2017

This is the perfect book for somebody (like me) who has no knowledge of linguistics, and who would like a good, readable introduction to the study of languages, especially how and why languages (spelling and pronunciation, words and grammar) change over time. The author's main point is that languages are constantly changing, constantly in motion, and the book is designed to tell us how that process of constant change works, and to show how in the past it has actually worked in different languages.

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lovemybranch
Jun 11, 2017

Fascinating information and insights. The book presents an interesting theory of language development and gives clear demonstrations of the different processes at work. I just put a hold on his 2010 book, Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages.

If you already have some knowledge of the history of the English language, the first few chapters will be review. But I learned a lot about the linguistic methods of deducing earlier forms of words, even when there are no surviving records -- quite exciting.

The author's style was something I had to get past but this book is worth it. He seemed to be afraid that readers would be daunted by in-depth discussions of linguistics and quit reading, so he kept adding some cutesy humor to jolly us along. Toward the end of one chapter, he told readers that it would be okay to skip to the next chapter if we weren't up to reading one detailed discussion of Semitic languages. He also resorted to an unfortunate mechanism: pretending to report from a linguistics conference where a young linguistics professor presents a paper on this topic and then demolishes "straw-man" critics.

My advice to the author: trust your readers and your excellent material, and stick to straightforward writing.

SFPL_danielay Feb 29, 2016

Deutscher explains how language and grammatical structures evolve and changeover time. Well written and an entertaining read despite the sometimes difficult subject.

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Cecilturtle
Feb 20, 2010

An excellent introduction to linguistics, this book explores language and its fluidity. The author chooses different styles and examples, infused with humor, to illustrate what could otherwise be dry concepts. I particularly enjoyed the fact that he looked at various languages and did not take a solely anglo-centric approach. Some chapters are longer than others, but all are instructive. The epilogue does a great job of recapitulating. It has even given me tools which I can concretely apply at work - invaluable!

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