Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages

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A masterpiece of linguistics scholarship, at once erudite and entertaining, confronts the thorny question of how—and whether—culture shapes language and language, culture

Linguistics has long shied away from claiming any link between a language and the culture of its speakers: too much simplistic (even bigoted) chatter about the romance of Italian and the goose-stepping orderliness of German has made serious thinkers wary of the entire subject. But now, acclaimed linguist Guy Deutscher has dared to reopen the issue. Can culture influence language—and vice versa? Can different languages lead their speakers to different thoughts? Could our experience of the world depend on whether our language has a word for "blue"?

Challenging the consensus that the fundaments of language are hard-wired in our genes and thus universal, Deutscher argues that the answer to all these questions is—yes. In thrilling fashion, he takes us from Homer to Darwin, from Yale to the Amazon, from how to name the rainbow to why Russian water—a "she"—becomes a "he" once you dip a tea bag into her, demonstrating that language does in fact reflect culture in ways that are anything but trivial. Audacious, delightful, and field-changing, Through the Language Glass is a classic of intellectual discovery.

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About the author

Guy Deutscher is the author of The Unfolding of Language. Formerly a fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, and of the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Languages at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, he is an honorary research fellow at the School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures at the University of Manchester. He lives in Oxford, England.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Metropolitan Books
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Published on
Aug 31, 2010
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9781429970112
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Language Arts & Disciplines / Linguistics / Historical & Comparative
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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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Guy Deutscher
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.

Guy Deutscher
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.
Guy Deutscher
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.

Guy Deutscher
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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