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Evolutionary Syntax

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The Making of Vernacular Singapore English

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Book Information


Title: The Unfolding of Language
Subtitle: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention
Written By: Guy Deutscher

"Language is mankind's greatest invention – except of course, that it was
never invented." So begins Guy Deutscher's 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 of such elaborate design?
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 shades of meaning?

Drawing on recent discoveries in modern linguistics, The Unfolding of
Language exposes the elusive forces of creation at work in human
communication. The emergence of linguistic complexity is reconstructed from
an early evolutionary "Me Tarzan" stage, all the way to the expressive
power of languages today. 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. 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 triumph of
design that is the Semitic verb, puzzle over single words that can express
highly elaborate sentiments, such as the Turkish
şehirlileştiremediklerimizdensiniz ("you are one of those whom we couldn't
turn into a town-dweller"), and observe how great changes of pronunciation
may result from an age old human habit - simple laziness. Through the
dramatic story of The Unfolding of Language, we discover the genius behind
a uniquely human faculty.

Publication Year: 2005
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Review: Read the review
BibTex: View BibTex record
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Subject Language(s): English
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Format: Hardback
ISBN: 043401155X
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 360
Prices: U.K. £ 14.00

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0805079076
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 360
Prices: U.S. $ 26.00