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by Guy Deutscher

Download The Unfolding of Language eBook
Guy Deutscher
Words Language & Grammar
Metropolitan Books (2005)
368 pages
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The aim of this book is to explain how, in the absence of any architect or plan, complex linguistic systems develop.

How the French came to say on the day of the day of this day when they mean today.

Guy Deutscher (Hebrew: גיא דויטשר‎; born 1969 in Tel Aviv) is an Israeli linguist. He received an undergraduate degree in mathematics at University of Cambridge, before going on to earn a P. in linguistics there.

Deutscher’s relative openmindedness in these regards bodes well for our opinion of the book as a whole. The Gothic word for guest was gast, and the plural of gast was gastiz.

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an evolutionary tour of mankind's greatest invention. 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.

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?

The author and publisher have provided this e-book to you for your personal use only.

Drawing on recent, groundbreaking discoveries in modern linguistics, Deutscher exposes the elusive forces of creation at work in human communication

Drawing on recent, groundbreaking discoveries in modern linguistics, Deutscher exposes the elusive forces of creation at work in human communication.

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.

An evolutionary tour of mankind's greatest invention.
  • Nalaylewe
This is a very intelligent book, written with deep knowledge and humor. One is bound to learn quite a bit from the contents of the book. Among other things it aims at explaining the relationships that exist between language and mental evolution, social evolution and cultural evolution, which is what humans are about. But for the grace of me, I cannot understand how Amazon can release Kindle versions of books where some portions of the text are POSITIVELY UNREADABLE. The font is microscopic, causing the reader to have to skip some of the text. In my view this is quite inexcusable, as the technology is there to avoid the problem. This reflects at best a sense of carelessness from the people in charge of formatting the Kindle text, at worst a complete contempt toward the customer. A book SHOULD NOT BE KINDLE-RELEASED if it is not 100% readable. A lot still has to be done to make Kindle books at par with printed material. (Note: I have Kindle Paper White, one of the latest devices available.)
  • krot
A fascinating and well-written book.

Deutscher describes how languages change over time, and he offers some explanations for the changes. And he does this with some flair; it's more Bill Bryson than textbook.

He shows how the slang of today becomes the formal, proper language of tomorrow. This process has been occurring for millennia. It's interesting to hear the criticisms of ancient Roman commentators about the careless language of the day.

He also gives some insight into how certain languages work. I'd always wondered about the various salaams, shaloms, and the like in Semitic languages. Why are they so similar, but not exactly the same? And what about Latin case structure - what is that all about? Deutscher explains some of these potentially tedious topics in an interesting and informative manner.

After reading this book, you'll never hear language quite the same way again.

Essential reading for grammar Nazis!
  • Efmprof
After reading Tom Wolfe's last book, which lambasted Noam Chomsky's chokehold on the nature and evolution of language, I went back to this book which makes an impressive, relatively non-controversial case on how language and its components evolved. He is very, very careful not to engage in the intellectual and academic politics that Wolfe reveled in. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the origins of human consciousness and culture. It's a pretty easy read for an interested layman.
  • Urtte
A phenomenal book on the evolution of human language written with incredible wit and humor, as well as great erudition and intelligence. Highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning how and why language changes over the ages. As a speaker of both English and a Semitic language I found this book especially interesting as these are two language family groups that the author goes into a great deal of detail about. I would, however, have appreciated more references to the tonal languages of Asia as I know nothing of their grammar and wonder if this language family undergoes the same processes the Semitic and Indo-European languages do.
  • Frosha
I found this book to be a fascinating read. The book is about how language develops. Early on, the author mentions three forces are responsible for the way languages change: economy, expressiveness, and analogy. The rest of the book then goes into detail about how these forces work.

For example, in explaining economy the author writes about how ancient European languages tended to use p's in a lot of the places that we use f's today. The reason that we have changed to f's-- like pisk--> fish-- is because f's only require you to move your tongue half way up your mouth in contrast to p's which require you to block your mouth completely.

Other sections in this book, include an extended discussion on the role of metaphors (basically every word starts out as something physical, and then sometimes get abstracted into prepositions, adjectives, and adverbs) and a discussion of the templates of the Semitic languages. Both of these sections are thoroughly engaging, and very well written.

I think that this book would be best for people who already have an interest in language. There are frequent discussions about Latin and French, and although it's not necessary to know how to speak these languages, I found it useful to at least have a high school exposure to them. In general I feel like I have a much better understanding of language having read this book-- it's truly an incredible story!
  • Dagdage
The study and history of language, I feel, is irresistibly interesting. This book is absolutely fascinating in taking us on a tour of various languages and the many surprises, oddities, and shock about ingenuities that exotic languages, and not-so-exotic languages, embody. It expands our minds in the way that it shows us how other cultures see, and express, perceptions and ideas in a totally different light augmenting our own awareness of the commonplace and not-so-common place."Amazing. I never thought of .... (fill in the blanks) that way before. I have never seen and understood things that way," I found myself saying repeatedly in my head. I could not put this book down. I defy you to do so as well. A sure purchase.