A most interesting book, although it wasn't what I expected at all. I had expected an examination of the origins of language using historical linguist...moreA most interesting book, although it wasn't what I expected at all. I had expected an examination of the origins of language using historical linguistics, perhaps using computer algorithms to attempt to determine the origin of all the languages. This was nothing of the sort. This is biology, psychology, and anthropology all examining questions concerning how language came to be in the first place. The relationships between language, cognition, and culture are explored. There are myriad results of studies recounted, most of which are very interesting indeed. Toward the end of the book the idea that language is like a virus and evolves and spreads like a one is introduced. Quite a few questions. Many ideas. Not really an answers.(less)
This is one of my favorite books and one of the most unique I've ever read. The book is a playful and intelligent look at the vagaries, difficulties,...moreThis is one of my favorite books and one of the most unique I've ever read. The book is a playful and intelligent look at the vagaries, difficulties, and joys of translating even the simplest literary work from one language to another. Hofstadter takes up Clement Marot's "A une Damoyselle malade"--a french poem of 28 3-syllable lines--and attempts to translate it into English. There are many (over 80, I believe) translations in the book, each displaying different qualities of the original, but none capturing all of them. The translations alone are thoroughly entertaining, but here each is accompanied with background, discussion, and criticism.
Several translations and discussion appear in every other chapter with the alternating chapters filled with autobiographical anecdotes and a variety personal tidbits on literature, linguistics, computer science, music, and creativity. Incidentally, this book has perhaps the finest index I have ever seen--outstanding.(less)