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

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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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About the author

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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Additional Information

Publisher
Metropolitan Books
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Published on
May 2, 2006
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Pages
368
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ISBN
9781466837836
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Language Arts & Disciplines / General
Language Arts & Disciplines / Linguistics / General
Social Science / Anthropology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Roughly half the world's population speaks languages derived from a shared linguistic source known as Proto-Indo-European. But who were the early speakers of this ancient mother tongue, and how did they manage to spread it around the globe? Until now their identity has remained a tantalizing mystery to linguists, archaeologists, and even Nazis seeking the roots of the Aryan race. The Horse, the Wheel, and Language lifts the veil that has long shrouded these original Indo-European speakers, and reveals how their domestication of horses and use of the wheel spread language and transformed civilization.

Linking prehistoric archaeological remains with the development of language, David Anthony identifies the prehistoric peoples of central Eurasia's steppe grasslands as the original speakers of Proto-Indo-European, and shows how their innovative use of the ox wagon, horseback riding, and the warrior's chariot turned the Eurasian steppes into a thriving transcontinental corridor of communication, commerce, and cultural exchange. He explains how they spread their traditions and gave rise to important advances in copper mining, warfare, and patron-client political institutions, thereby ushering in an era of vibrant social change. Anthony also describes his fascinating discovery of how the wear from bits on ancient horse teeth reveals the origins of horseback riding.



The Horse, the Wheel, and Language solves a puzzle that has vexed scholars for two centuries--the source of the Indo-European languages and English--and recovers a magnificent and influential civilization from the past.

Akkadian is one of the earliest attested languages and the oldest recorded Semitic language. It exists in written record between 2500BC and 500BC, much of it in letters and reports concerned with domestic and business matters, and written in colloquial language. It provides a unique and valuable source for the study of linguistic change but which, perhaps because of the impenetrability of its writing system, has rarely been exploited by linguists. In this book, Guy Deutscher examines the historical development of subordinate structures in Akkadian. A case study comprises the first two parts of the book, presenting an historical grammar of sentential complementation. Part I traces the emergence of new structures and describes how the finite complements first emerged in Babylonian. It also explains the grammaticalization of the quotative construction. Part II is a functional history which examines the changes in the functional roles of different structures. It shows how, during the history of the language, finite complements and embedded questions became more widespread, whereas other structures (e.g. infinite complements, parataxis, etc.) receded. Part III seeks to explain the historical developments in a theoretical light, showing how the development in Akkadian is mirrored in many other languages. It goes on to suggest that the emergence of finite complementation may be seen as 'adaptive' and related to the development of more complex communication patterns. This book will be of interest to both specialists and general linguists alike. For specialists it offers a contribution towards a badly-needed historical grammar of the Akkadian language. For general linguists this book will be of interest not only for the questions which it raises about the nature of complementation, but also for the window which it provides on to this little-known language.
Akkadian is one of the earliest attested languages and the oldest recorded Semitic language. It exists in written record between 2500BC and 500BC, much of it in letters and reports concerned with domestic and business matters, and written in colloquial language. It provides a unique and valuable source for the study of linguistic change but which, perhaps because of the impenetrability of its writing system, has rarely been exploited by linguists. In this book, Guy Deutscher examines the historical development of subordinate structures in Akkadian. A case study comprises the first two parts of the book, presenting an historical grammar of sentential complementation. Part I traces the emergence of new structures and describes how the finite complements first emerged in Babylonian. It also explains the grammaticalization of the quotative construction. Part II is a functional history which examines the changes in the functional roles of different structures. It shows how, during the history of the language, finite complements and embedded questions became more widespread, whereas other structures (e.g. infinite complements, parataxis, etc.) receded. Part III seeks to explain the historical developments in a theoretical light, showing how the development in Akkadian is mirrored in many other languages. It goes on to suggest that the emergence of finite complementation may be seen as 'adaptive' and related to the development of more complex communication patterns. This book will be of interest to both specialists and general linguists alike. For specialists it offers a contribution towards a badly-needed historical grammar of the Akkadian language. For general linguists this book will be of interest not only for the questions which it raises about the nature of complementation, but also for the window which it provides on to this little-known language.
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