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

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Henry Holt and Company, May 2, 2006 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 368 pages
2 Reviews

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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The unfolding of language: an evolutionary tour of mankind's greatest invention

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Deutscher (linguistics, Univ. of Leiden, Holland) here takes the reader on a journey through the rich history of language, offering insight into our primary mode of communication as he discusses such ... Read full review

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

User Review  - Pancha - Goodreads

This book and Through the Language Glass have some overlap, which can be annoying if you are reading them one after the other the way I did. That said, this is a fun and fascinating look at the way ... Read full review


Introduction i
A Castle in the Air
Perpetual Motion
The Forces of Destruction
A Reef of Dead Metaphors
The Forces of Creation
Craving for Order
The Unfolding of Language
Flipping Categories
Laryngeals Again?
The Cooks Counterpoint


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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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