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

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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.

368 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2005

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About the author

Guy Deutscher

13 books244 followers
Guy Deutscher is the author of Through the Language Glass and The Unfolding of Language. Formerly a Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge and of the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Languages in the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, he is an honorary Research Fellow at the School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures in the University of Manchester.

There is more than one author with this name
For the physics professor, please see: Guy Deutscher

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 319 reviews
Profile Image for Nathan.
Author 5 books115 followers
December 11, 2011
I admit it, I love language. Despite this, I've been astonishingly slow to pick up the overall history and shape of language. I've picked bits of the history of English (Celts, Germans, French, vowel shift) but never the overall picture of how languages change. I didn't even realize that, beyond "we are lazy buggers and mangle words", that it had been codified.

Boy, was I wrong!

As I read this book, I kept pausing to relate bits of what I'd learned to my kids. The author points to two great tectonic forces in language: contraction and metaphor. As we lazily pronounce words, they shrink because we favour the shorter versions. As we need new meanings (either for new concepts or simply because old meanings have lost rhetorical force) we create them from old words, using metaphor. These forces, erosion and construction, keep languages alive.

Deutscher backs this up with oodles of evidence. The killer revelation for me is that erosion is PREDICTABLE. Holy shit! As languages emerged from their common indoeuropean ancestor, their consonants all decayed in similar ways. For example, 'p' becomes 'f'. So the relationship between "Father" and "Pater" is as between "fish" and "pesce", "food" and "ped-", "first" and "premier". Entire relationships between equivalent words in different languages became apparent to me within the space of one chapter.

This rule is so solid that it predicted the existence of a new consonant in indoeuropean, the "missing link" between some equivalent words in modern languages. The story of how that was found is one of many "holy crap!" moments in this book. Oh, and who discovered that law of decaying consonants? One of the Brothers Grimm.

Language is beautiful, it's alive, and it's fascinating. Read this book.
Profile Image for ☕Laura.
508 reviews135 followers
August 7, 2015
I need to begin this review by stating emphatically what this book is not. Despite its somewhat misleading cover, it is not a scientific description of how language emerged in evolution, how grunting developed into speech. If that is what you are looking for, you will not find it here, as the author states there is no real evidence on which to determine that sequence of events. What this book is, however, is an utterly fascinating, well-grounded exploration of the basic principles which shape the course of language development, followed by a theoretical account of how language likely evolved from the basic "man rock throw" level to its current state, by applying those same principles. Using examples from various languages around the world at different stages throughout recorded history, the author presents a very logical and convincing explanation as to how languages have developed and changed through three simple principles: economy, expressiveness and analogy. Through these simple principles one can explain the emergence of case systems, word classes, and even complex grammatical structures; in fact all the elements which are present in language. I highly recommend this book to all fellow linguaphiles!
November 20, 2020
Ένα βατό και διασκεδαστικό εγχειρίδιο εκλαϊκευμένης γλωσσολογίας που θα μπορούσε να διαβαστεί ευχάριστα, τόσο από κάποιον που έχει επιστημονική κατάρτιση επάνω στο θέμα όσο κι από εκείνους που, σαν κι εμένα, δεν έχουν ανάλογη ακαδημαϊκή εμπειρία. Δεν είναι ακόμα ξεκάθαρο πότε ακριβώς ξεκίνησε η ανθρώπινη γλώσσα, ίσως 40 ή 100 χιλιάδες χρόνια πριν, ίσως και νωρίτερα από αυτό.

Όλα ξεκινούν με τρεις διαφορετικές κατηγορίες λέξεων: Λέξεις για τα φυσικά αντικείμενα (μέλη του σώματος, ζώα. πράγματα, και όρους που δηλώνουν συγγένεια πχ "πατέρας"), λέξεις σχετικές με απλές πράξεις (πχ ρίχνω, τρέχω, τρώω, πέφτω) και μια τρίτη μικρή ομάδα από λέξεις που χρησιμεύουν στο να δείχνουμε "εδώ", "εκεί" κτλ.

Από τη στιγμή που ο άνθρωπος μπόρεσε νοητικά να έχει συνείδηση πως αυτός είμαι εγώ κι κι εκείνος είσαι εσύ, που μπόρεσε να διακρίνει ανάμεσα στην πέτρα και τον καρπό και συνδύασε διαφορετικούς ήχους παραγόμενους από τις φωνητικές του χορδές προκειμένου να ονομάσει και να χαρακτηρίσει αυτές τις διακρίσεις, είχε γίνει ήδη η αρχή, το σημείο μηδέν από το οποίο ξεκινάει η δημιουργία της γλώσσας.

Αυτό σημαίνει πως πριν από το ξεκίνημα της γλώσσας αποκτήσαμε την ικανότητα να μπορούμε να διαχωρίζουμε τα πράγματα από τις πράξεις και μπορούσαμε να αναπαραστήσουμε με το νου μας ποιος κάνει τι σε ποιον. Με τη γλώσσα ο άνθρωπος κατάφερε να οργανώσει τις λέξεις που ήδη χρησιμοποιούσε τακτοποιώντας τις με μία ορισμένα σειρά ώστε αυτά που λέει να βγάζουν νόημα.

Πράγματα που πάνε μαζί τα τοποθετούμε το ένα δίπλα στο άλλο πχ οι φράσεις Πατέρας τρώω κρέας, κόρη ανεβαίνω δέντρο σχηματίζονται από τρεις απλές λέξεις χωρίς να διέπονται από γραμματικούς κανόνες αλλά με τον τρόπο που τις τοποθετούμε καταλαβαίνουμε πως Ο πατέρας τρώει το κρέας και Η κόρη ανεβαίνει στο δέντρο. Τοποθετούμε τις λέξεις έτσι ώστε να περιγράψουμε κάτι σύμφωνα με το χρόνο που αυτό συμβαίνει, προκειμένου να διηγηθούμε μια ιστορία που να βγάζει νόημα πχ πατέρας ρίχνω λόγχη μαμούθ που σημαίνει Ο πατέρας έριξε τη λόγχη για να σκοτώσει το μαμούθ και επιλέγουμε πάντα να προηγείται αυτός που δρα.

Φαίνεται πως μέσα στην εξελικτική της πορεία η γλώσσα τείνει να αποκτά πιο σύνθετη δομή, γραμματική, ένα σύνολο κανόνων που και αυτό μπορεί να εξελιχθεί ανεξάρτητα με τους αρχικούς βασικούς κανόνες εκ των οποίων δημιουργήθηκε. Κάπως έτσι προέκυψε και η ανάγκη για υποτακτική σύνδεση, όπου μια δευτερεύουσα πρόταση υποτάσσεται σε μια κύρια, προκειμένου να μεταφέρει περισσότερες και πληρέστερες πληροφορίες.

Από εκεί προκύπτουν άλλα τρία σημαντικά στοιχεία που σχετίζονται με τις γραμματικές δομές:

1. Η τάση να πηγαίνουμε από το κυριολεκτικό στο αφηρημένο χρησιμοποιώντας μεταφορές προκειμένου να επιτύχουμε μεγαλύτερη εκφραστικότητα πχ η λέξη σαρκασμός που χρησιμοποιείται σήμερα για να δηλώσει την κοροϊδευτική ειρωνεία προέρχεται από την λέξη σάρξ σάρκα καθώς στην ουσία όταν περιγελούμε κάποιον του προκαλούμε πόνο και τον πληγώνουμε.

2. η τάση απλούστευσης των γλωσσικών ήχων πχ ο ήχος "κχ" που χρειάζεται μεγαλύτερη προσπάθεια παραχθεί μπορεί να απλουστευθεί σε απλό, απαλό χ" προκειμένου να εξασφαλιστεί ένα είδος οικονομίας δυνάμεων.

3. Η αναλογία, που ορίζεται ως επιθυμία του νου για τάξη, είναι δηλαδή η ενστικτώδης ανάγκη των ομιλητών να βρουν κανονικότητα στη γλώσσα.

Κάτι που με συγκίνησε ιδιαίτερα ήταν αναφορά στην κοινή προϊστορική γλώσσα που οι άνθρωποι μιλούσαν πριν 6.000 χρόνια, την πρώτο - Ινδοευρωπαϊκή από την οποία εξελίχθηκε ένα πλήθος γλωσσών που μιλιούνται σήμερα από διαφορετικούς λαούς πχ Ελληνικά, Ιταλικά, Γαλλικά, Ισπανικά, Ιρλανδικά, Ουαλικά, Ρωσικά, Λιθουανικά, Πολωνικά, Αλβανικά, Αρμένικα, Περσικά, Χίντι και Παντζάμπι (Ινδικές γλώσσες) καθώς τα οι Γερμανικές γλώσσες και τα Αγγλικά κτλ. Είμαστε όλοι μια μεγάλη γλωσσική οικογένεια. Σε ένα δεύτερο επίπεδο μακάρι κάποια μέρα όλα τα κοινά που έχουμε να επικρατήσουν πάνω από τις διαφορές που μας χωρίζουν.

Σε ένα μικρό χωριό της κεντρικής Τουρκίας (Ανατολία) ανακαλύφθηκε μια πανάρχαια πόλη, η Χαττούσα, πρωτεύουσα των Χετταίων, που εμφανίστηκαν στα 2500 π.Χ. Εκεί, στα 1893, ανακαλύφθηκαν πήλινες πινακίδες σε σφηνοειδή ακκαδική γραφή, τις οποίες οι επιστήμονες μπόρεσαν να τις διαβάσουν, αλλά δεν μπορούσαν να καταλάβουν τη γλώσσα που αντιπροσώπευαν. Μπορούσαν να προφέρουν τη γλώσσα, αλλά η γλώσσα που περιεχόταν στα κείμενα ήταν παντελώς άγνωστη. Λίγο πάνω από μια δεκαετία αργότερα, στα 1915, ο Τσέχος γλωσσολόγος Bedrich Hrozný κατάφερε να συνδέσει την άγνωστη γλώσσα με την Ινδοευρωπαϊκή και έτσι βρέθηκε ένας ακόμα πανάρχαιος, χαμένος κρίκος στη γλωσσολογική αλυσίδα, οπότε πλέον σήμερα, οι επιστήμονες έχουν καταφέρει να αναπαράγουν τον τρόπο που μιλιόταν και ακουγόταν η πρώτο - Ινδοευρωπαϊκή.

Αν κάποιος θέλει να την ακούσει (δεν έχει σημασία αν είναι τέλεια η αναπαραγωγή, ούτως η άλλως δεν υπάρχει τρόπος να ανασύρουμε κάποιο ηχητικό αρχείο από εκείνους τους αιώνες προκειμένου να πετύχουμε απόλυτη ακρίβεια) σας βάζω εδώ ένα βιντεάκι:


Πάντα μου αρέσει να μαθαίνω τον τρόπο που άρχισαν όλα, αυτή η φυσική πράξη του να πιάσεις, να λάβεις κάτι, προκειμένου έπειτα να το καταλάβεις, να το αντιληφθείς ώστε να το κατανοήσεις, να το προσδιορίσεις και να το διαχειριστείς, όλα αυτά, είναι εκφάνσεις που προέκυψαν από μια νοητική διαδικασία, είναι μια συνειδητοποίηση, ένας τρόπος να δώσουμε ταυτότητα στους εαυτούς μας, και στους άλλους, και στον κόσμο που μας περιβάλλει. Θέλω να ξέρω από που ξεκίνησα ποιοι ήταν σε αυτόν τον κόσμο πριν από εμένα. Για όλα όσα δεν μπορεί να αναπαραστήσει η επιστήμη της αρχαιολογίας έρχεται η γλωσσολογία προκειμένου να καλύψει τα κενά και να διευρύνει τους γνωστικούς μας ορίζοντες.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,155 followers
February 4, 2021
A very in depth look at how language evolved, which doesn't give much space to 'language instinct' and 'universal grammar' and instead provides a really plausible account of how things like declensions and prefixes and genders evolved and indeed disappeared over time.

Mostly it's written in the very accessible and friendly style of Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages but the author has inexplicably included a bunch of whimsical fables and twee dialogues with silly names to illustrate some perfectly good points, and the publisher equally inexplicably didn't tell him to cut it all. That aside, a very interesting read.
Profile Image for John Brown.
4 reviews5 followers
November 6, 2013
I can highly recommend it. I started (but did not finish) a PhD in Computational Linguistics, and was put off by the unnecessary complexity of Head Driven Phrase Structure Grammar. Since then I have read a lot of linguistic books to try to understand the motivation for such complexity.
Deutscher keeps things simple, whilst answering all sort of questions that had occurred to me concerning the evolution of languages. The level of treatment is just a bit deeper than Pinker's "The Language Instinct" and his "Words and Rules", but the book is just as enthralling.
We learn why all the cases of Sanskrit and its descendent Latin arose, and why they then disappeared, and why they reappeared again in French verbs. We also learn how "heute tag", "aujourd'hui" and "today" all sprang from "hodie" which came from "hoc die".
The book is pure Linguistics, with nothing on Neuroscience (see Dehaene) or psycholinguistics (for a Linguist who recognizes this psychological branch, see the two books by Jackendoff), or Phonetics. I had previously read 3 books on Phonetics and could think of lots of concrete explanations for processes Deutscher describes generically.
The Psychologists all say "the two-year old is a little covariance machine". Deutscher has a terrific example regarding word morphology and "threek" as opposed to "fork".
So Deutscher's book has got it all for me, with links into all these other branches of knowledge.
Profile Image for Jamie Smith.
489 reviews77 followers
June 9, 2021
I enjoyed Guy Deutscher’s Through the Language Glass, and liked this one as well. Part of the reason is that he clearly explains key concepts in the evolution of languages and makes effective use of examples which are interesting and sometimes surprising, the kind that make you say “Hmm.” For instance, with repeated use over time words lose some of their emphasis. When I was a child ‘damn’ was serious business, to be used only in exceptional circumstances, and usually followed by an abashed apology. These days the word is so mild you rarely even hear it anymore, and I remember going to lunch with a co-worker who, when asked what he wanted on his pizza, just waved his hand and said "pepperoni and shit." It meant nothing to him to say that, but it definitely lowered my estimation of his intelligence.

Deschler has a good explanation of how French came to use ne...pas as its negative. ‘Pas’ means ‘step’, so how did it become part of negation?

A thousand years ago, the original negation marker in French was just ne. This mere shrug of syllable, however, was not deemed emphatic enough to convey the full extent of Gallic unenthusiasm, so various novel and imaginative intensifiers began to be added, to make sure that a ‘no’ was really taken for a ‘no’. Pas, which meant ‘step’, was just one of them, and was used in expressions like ‘I’m not going a step’. By the sixteenth century, pas and point had displaced most of the other variants, and had become so frequent that they lost much of their original force. In the end, they came to be seen as a necessary part of saying a simple ‘no’.

Negation in English underwent a similar transition. “The original negation marker in English was ne, as in French. The modern word ‘not’ started out as a full-bodied ne-a-wiht ‘not-ever-thing’, or in other words ‘nothing-whatsoever’. This phrase was added to the simple ‘no’, in order to create an emphatic ‘no way’, ‘not a jot’ type of ‘no’. By the tenth century, ne-a-wiht had already contracted to just nawiht, but it still retained its former meaning, so that a phrase like 'ic ne seo nawiht' still meant ‘I not see nothing whatsoever’.”

Indo-European started out heavily inflected, with eight cases for nouns. Over time, however, the case endings began to erode as people shortened words and phrases, in the same way that English’s ‘God be wy you’ eventually became our ‘good-bye.’ By the time of classical Latin there were five commonly used cases plus the rare vocative, which eventually merged with the nominative. Modern German has four, and English has only one remaining case ending, apostrophe-s to mark possession. However, since the case endings specified parts of speech, such as subject, direct object, indirect object, and object of the preposition, something had to be done to keep the meanings clear. In Latin word order is entirely subjective, and orators would sometimes stick the verb at the end to maintain a sense of suspense while they were talking. As English lost its case endings it added prepositions to indicate words’ functions in a sentence, and adopted the subject-verb-object word order, so that “John sees Mary” does not mean the same as “Mary sees John.”

English also added a plethora of prepositions to clarify meaning (the Wikipedia article on List of English Prepositions has pages of them), and readily turns nouns into verbs, a practice still frowned upon by some grammarians. There is even a word for this process, ‘verbing’, yet most people give no thought to verbing words like dialog, transition, audition, impact, and email.

And then, when we need a new concept, we freely create metaphors (once again, Wikipedia comes to the rescue with its List of English Language Metaphors). So, we throw people to the wolves and avoid speaking of the elephant in the room, especially if it's a white elephant. We talk about our decisions causing chain reactions leading us to cross the Rubicon while walking on slippery slopes.

I highlighted a number of passages from the book which I found interesting, informative, or just fun to think about, so I will let the author speak in his own words:

- In the past, for example, there were many more irregular plural nouns in English: one bōc (book), many bēc; one hand, two hend; one eye, two eyn; one cow, many kine. But gradually, ‘errors’ like ‘hands’ crept in by analogy on the regular -s plural pattern. So bēc was replaced by the ‘incorrect’ bokes (books) during the thirteenth century, eyn was replaced by eyes in the fourteenth century, kine by cows in the sixteenth.

- Sometimes, the contradictory meanings even rub shoulders for centuries: a word like ‘fast’, which started off meaning something like ‘secure’, or ‘not moving at all’, later developed the contrary sense ‘moving quickly’. Both meanings have survived until this very day, but we still manage to get along all right, apparently without too many serious mishaps.

- the [French] month of août, comes from no less a forebear than the Latin Augustus. Here, four consonants and three vowels have vanished without trace. At first sight, it might seem remarkable that the august Augustus could have ended up as a mere {oo}, but in French hands, there is nothing to it. Take Augustus, which by late Latin had already been shortened to Agustus; then drop the last syllable to get Agust. By the twelfth century, the g had also eroded away to leave {aoost}. The s was next in line for the chop, so the word came to be pronounced {aoot} and spelt août. Later, {aoot} was shortened to {oot}; and finally, the t was ditched… et voilà, le mois d’août.

- Once upon a time, in the days before records of Latin began, there must have been a phrase hoc die, which meant ‘(on) this day’. By the time of attested Latin, this phrase had eroded and fused into one word, hodie ‘today’. Later on, in Old French, hodie was ground down into a meager hui, but the French soon found that they couldn’t utter this paltry syllable with enough emphasis, so they piled up more words, and started saying au jour d’hui, literally ‘on the day of this-day’. But with repeated use, this became a set phrase, and so it fused into one word again: aujourd’hui. And nowadays in colloquial French, the same cycle is beginning all over again. A mere aujourd’hui is not deemed to have sufficient presence, and so to emphasize it, the French have started saying au jour d’aujourd’hui – literally ‘on the day of on-the-day-of-this-day’.

- Whether a verb will turn into a preposition or a postposition depends on the basic choice in the arrangement of the action and the patient. In a language with the order ‘take stone, cut meat’, the verb ‘take’ would develop into a preposition: ‘with stone cut meat’. But in a language with the order ‘stone take, meat cut’, the same verb would turn into a postposition: ‘stone-with meat cut’.

- Languages have even developed specialized grammatical machinery for producing terms for abstract nouns on demand. Think of an English ending like -hood, which can take a flesh-and-blood thing-word like ‘maiden’ and turn it into an abstract concept ‘maidenhood’, meaning the condition of being a maiden.

- One factor which may contribute to more complex word-structures in smaller societies may be the lack of pressure for simplification that results from contact with strangers who speak different languages or dialects. Complex morphology, such as elaborate systems of endings, seems to be the most difficult thing to learn in a language other than one’s mothertongue.

- Another factor that may contribute to more complex word-structure is the absence of literacy. In fluent speech, there are no real ‘spaces’ between words, and so when two words frequently appear together they can easily fuse into one. In the written language, however, there are visible gaps between words, and this reinforces our perception of the border between them, and can thus hamper new fusions. This does not mean that in literate societies words can never fuse (just think of ‘gonna’, ‘won’t’, ‘let’s’, or ‘o’clock’). But it is likely that without literacy, such fusions would have been much more widespread and would have proceeded much more rapidly.
Profile Image for Manybooks.
3,128 reviews104 followers
November 9, 2021

So first and foremost, I have not all that much enjoyed my perusal of Guy Deutscher's introduction to his 2005 The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention, having found both his tone of narrative voice (in other words Deutscher's writing style) and his choice of descriptive vocabulary trivialising, sensationalist and using far too many words that I would deem rather warlike and exaggerated (terms based destruction, collapse, disintegration) and also with a few too many Biblical allusions to the Tower of Babel story for me to feel sufficiently comfortable reading The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention as a serious and academically based linguistic treatise. But well, after reading a goodly number of positive online reviews of The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention and realising that after his rather annoying and frustrating (see above) introduction, Guy Deutscher does rather seem to settle down and to provide for his readers an interesting, linguistically sound and no longer in any manner on the surface, overly dramatic and full of hyperbole main textual body, I was definitely looking forward to The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention and had also basically decided to simply and for the most part just ignore the introduction (which yes, I still do think is a major pain in the royal behind, and as such indeed almost unreadable with regard to Guy Deutscher providing an academic and linguistically adequate preamble).

However, after noticing and also being massively annoyed and frustrated with and by the rather vast amount of typos that inhabit and appear in the Kindle edition of The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention (especially so post the introduction) and to the point of utter distraction on my part, sorry, but I am not going to bother continuing with my perusal of this clearly substandard in format e-book (and will therefore be trying to obtain The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention in paperback, so that I can continue reading Guy Deutscher’s presented text without wanting to scream every few minutes).

And most definitely, I do consider my one star ranking for the Kindle edition of The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention both justifiable and necessary, since I am for one getting increasingly furious and impatient with the amount of typos and other similar issues in Kindle editions of academic tomes (n particular), and for two, considering that The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention is about language and linguistics, I personally and academically really do find these types of spelling gaffes quite unacceptable (and of course I also have to wonder why the author, why Guy Deutscher has seemingly not noticed the mistakes in the e-book version of The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention and to have insisted that they all be changed and rectified prior to release).
Profile Image for Eren Buğlalılar.
340 reviews119 followers
September 6, 2020
Brilliant. A strong reasoning combined with good research and a clear prose.

Deutscher explains the historical development of languages based on four dynamics:

i. Erosion. Every language has an innate tendency to distort the consonants, shorten the words, shed the suffixes, merge two or three words etc.
ii. Creation. Then, for expressive purposes languages once again introduce new words before or after the shortened words, strengthening their meaning.
iii. Metaphor. All our languages are graveyards of metaphors. Some metaphors are so dead that they can hide the fact that they were once alive and totally had different meanings. This is true even for the most seemingly irrelevant elements, the raw-materials of the language.
iv. Order. A series of tendencies in the human cognition continuesly tries to bring an order to the language based on principles like Ceasar's Principle, which means that the "order in which events are expressed in language mirrors the order in which they occur in reality."

His very good examples, interesting anecdotes and humour make the book a very good read indeed.
Profile Image for Jacqui.
Author 66 books183 followers
July 6, 2009
Dr. Deutscher has done a scholarly, thorough discussion on the roots of language, but I believe he started too late in time. I'm of the persuasion that language involves more than the spoken word. I find body language (which proponents argue communicate half of what we speak), facial expressions (think FACS, FBI, microexpressions), movement to be as telling of a person's intentions as words. Sometimes more so. Yet, he argues language was born when we could prove it was born--"...for how can anyone presume to know what went on in prehistoric times without indulging in make-believe?" "...impressive range of theories circulating for how the first words emerged: from shouts and calls; from hand gestures and sign language; from the ability to imitate...The point is that as long as there is no evidence, all these scenarios remain 'just so' stories." Or deductive reasoning. Something the modern brain excels at. This despite the fact that his cover includes the popular ape-man image.

Still, he adds humor and a highly intelligent discussion I thoroughly enjoyed.
Profile Image for Nauris Lukševics.
64 reviews18 followers
July 11, 2019
Viena no grāmatas labākajām fīčām ir autora brīdinājumi par to, ka "tūlīt nebūs baigi aizraujoši, ja gribi, vari pāršķirt uz nākamo nodaļu" vai "uztaisi stipru kafiju un nāc atpakaļ".

Tieši kad iet uz pēdējām nodaļām - jo īpaši - pēdējā nodaļā, sāk pāriet no populārzinātniskas uz tīri zinātnisku literatūru ar pēkšņām atsaucēm uz neskaitāmiem pielikumiem grāmatas beigās. Bet, ja rūpīgi seko līdzi iepriekšējām nodaļām, tad nekas baigi nav zaudēts, ja pēdējai nodaļai pārskrien pāri tā paviršāk. Diezgan skaisti viss izskaidrots un labi piemēri doti, neliekas kā tukša muldēšana.

Protams, ļoti daudz tiek skatīts tieši caur angļu valodas prizmu, bet hey, grāmata ir angliski. Extra pienesums tiem, kuri saprot franču un krievu valodas, tad var skaidrāk saprast daudzas valodu veidošanās nianses un alternatīvas opcijas autora piedāvātajām, bet piemēri ir arī japāņu un mazās afrikāņu mēlēs, tāpēc neviens jums tagad neliek skriet mācīties svešas mēles, lai tikai saprastu, par ko ir runa.
Profile Image for Anka Räubertochter.
912 reviews37 followers
June 26, 2020
Was wahrscheinlich ( oder besser gesagt hoffentlich - denn ansonsten wärt ihr alle echte Stalker) niemand von euch weiß, ist, dass ich nach dem Abi Anglistik und Germanistik studiert und erfolgreich abgebrochen habe. Stattdessen habe ich mich dann einem guten alten Brotberuf zugewandt, habe drei Jahre lang Steuerrecht studiert, habe vor zwei Jahren mein Diplom gemacht und arbeite seitdem.

Die Liebe für Sprache ist aber natürlich immer noch da. Und wann immer ich dieses Sachbuch zur Hand genommen habe, war ich fasziniert. Es gibt halt eben doch nichts, was ich so spannend finde wie Sprache und deren Entwicklung.

Ein populärwissenschaftliches Buch, das ich sicherlich noch öfter lesen werde.
Profile Image for Jan.
93 reviews16 followers
October 1, 2009
By far the best tour of linguistics for the layman, as pertaining to the development of language. Many books which delve into this meaty topic provide a lot of cute examples of etymology, without a really coherent exposition of the processes that have shaped the structure of language, and how linguists uncovered them.
Professor Deutscher does a lively job of bringing the general reader's attention to the tendencies that have shaped the development of language -- erosion, emphasis, and metaphor. A lesser popularizer of linguistics might again provide us with some whimsical just-so-stories of how certain words got that way (and indeed, Deutscher does it with an amiable sense of humor), but his true achievement is showing us how these forces may have made grammar the way it is (though skirting neurology and trying not to delve too unnecessarily into the story of "generative grammar"), as well as giving a pleasant taste of the massive dose of inspiration that 19th-century European linguists required to arrive at these insights (I'm looking at you, Saussure).

This brings us to the word "evolutionary" in the title. Having built the groundwork for understanding how sounds and sense might shift in our own sloppy present-day English, he presents an example of language structure that could only have been carefully planned out: the imposing edifice of Semitic verb structure, possessed of such elegance that it must have been handed down on stone tablets, right? Wrong. In any case, the arguments are sophisticated, but they follow along the same lines as less daunting aspects of our own familiar English. Meanwhile, the writing style ought to leave any lover of language feeling that they've just had a genial chat with a great conversationalist.
Profile Image for Andrew Breslin.
Author 3 books68 followers
March 3, 2019
This started out as a strong 4-star book, possibly going up to a 5, but as I slogged through the details on fricatives and declension and glottal stops and the structure of Semitic verbs, it steadily declined and by the end I was tempted to give it a 2. Rather than any indication of inconsistent effort and presentation on behalf of its skilled author, I think this simply reflects the fact that linguistics is fascinating from a distance and dreadfully dull up close.

I love etymology. I love tracing a word’s evolution over the course of centuries, and seeing how certain words are rooted in other words. Like how the word “lyrics” is actually derived from the word for that ancient stringed instrument, a “lyre.” Neat! You might think this sort of thing is what linguistics is all about, but you'd be wrong. No, linguists actually pay a lot more attention to things like the shape and position of the tongue in the mouth when forming specific sounds, and why some sounds tend to morph over time into different sounds, and how essentially arbitrary endings get attached to verbs and nouns and grammatical rules evolve and persist, adding complexity without utility.

These things aren’t nearly as interesting up close, in exhaustive detail, as they are from a distance in an overview. As an analogy: I love architecture. I can appreciate the beauty of a finely crafted building and both the creative vision and structural engineering involved. But I’m not particularly interested in the specific minutiae on how to put up drywall and mix concrete.

It’s still worth reading and gives some fascinating insights into how languages emerge and evolve. If you really want to learn all about how to mix that concrete, you’ll like it even more.
Profile Image for Leemaslibros.
90 reviews24 followers
August 30, 2012
Qué cosita más grande de libro. No puedo recomendarlo suficiente: para cualquiera que esté interesado en el lenguaje.
Y si lees esto en Goodreads, es más que posible que lo estés...
Profile Image for Simon Cleveland, PhD, EdD.
Author 7 books95 followers
June 8, 2009
A couple of days ago I finished reading 'The Unfolding of Language : An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention' by Guy Deutscher. Wow, it's exhausting just to say the name, imagine what it felt like to read the book. But, seriously the work is intellectually challenging and often provoked me to engage in thoughts on the ever changing state of human language. And yes, metaphors are the erodent of language (in case you were wondering). Many times I found myself reminiscing about the complexity of the ancestral expressions. By the way, anyone who thinks modern language is more intricate than say Latin or ancient Babylonian needs to pick up this book. Mr. Deutscher's analysis seemed logical enough to make me a believer that dead languages were a lot more eloquent than modern ones. But this is where interesting stops and tedious begins. I felt this book was geared toward students in linguistics as oppose to the average reader (my apologies to the author, but I'm a graduate in business). At times it seemed Mr. Deutscher couldn't make up his mind on what to include in the actual body of the book and what to leave in the Appendixes (and trust me, there is a lot that should've been left in the Appendixes). For example, consonances and grammatical rules of African languages did little to entice my eagerness to immerse myself in the constructs of language. Often I had to go back and reread some pages forcing myself to ascertain their usefulness and applicability in my daily life (unsuccessfully, if I may add). I expected the 'evolutionary tour' to include historical aspects of the human evolution, but...oh well. Unfortunately, I wouldn't recommend this book. Instead, for those readers interested in introductory material into the evolution of language (masterfully coupled with historical analysis) I recommend Genes, Peoples, and Languages by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza.
Profile Image for Betsy.
544 reviews189 followers
March 22, 2019
[22 Mar 2019]
This is not a good book for reading on a kindle or a phone, or even a small tablet. The problem is that the text is strewn with examples that the text discusses. These examples, which are often in languages other than English, are actually graphics so they do not expand when the main text expands and they started out as really small text. Mostly they are unreadable. If you have a touch screen it helps because you can expand the graphic a little bit, but it's annoying to have to select it to move it to different window, then expand until it's readable. And scroll around to read the whole thing.

That being said, I enjoyed this book for the most part. It's a short book, less than 300 pages, and is well written in an engaging, relaxed style. For the most part it is accessible to the lay reader, but probably only if you're a little knowledgeable about language and are very interested in how languages develop. The author does get into the weeds occasionally and sometimes seems to belabor a point that is obvious. However, as he explains, the reason such developments seem obvious is that we're used to our language containing those devices, but that doesn't explain how they came to be common. So, although I found myself occasionally glazing over, I faithfully read all of it (except the Appendices, which really get into the weeds).

The general point is that languages have never been consciously designed by a human agency, even those that are very complex and rule based. This book explains how even the most complex language features develop naturally though usage because of a few human impulses: erosion (laziness), the needs for more expressiveness, and the need for order, all of which occur without conscious intent.

It was interesting and I recommend it to languaphiles. It's not that you won't understand it if you're not especially interested in language, it's that you'd probably be rather bored.
Profile Image for Kathrin Schröder.
Author 9 books1 follower
September 4, 2018
Guy Deutscher Du Jane, Ich Goethe Eine Geschichte der Sprache

neu aufgelegt unter dem Titel:

Die Evolution der Sprache: Wie die Menschheit zu ihrer größten Erfindung kam bei DTV erscheint dort September 2018

Genre: Sachbuch Linguistik

Dieses Buch habe ich überwiegend mit Lust gelesen.

Guy Deutscher kannte ich von seinem Werk "Im Spiegel der Sprachen" in dem aus der Sicht eines Linguisten dargestellt wird, wie das unterschiedliche Denken in verschiedenen Sprachen die Sicht auf die Welt verändern.

Dieses Buch bildet die Basis: Was ist Sprache, wie verändert sie sich, wie ist sie entstanden? Er erzählt in anschaulichen Beispielen, nutzt Beispiele aus den unterschiedlichsten Sprachen der Welt und der Weltgeschichte, macht mal eben so das semitische Verbchaos einleuchtend und baut aus einer fragmentarischen Basisgeschichte aus dem Anfang der Sprache auf, wie sich diese nach und nach logisch entwickelt.

Gibt es Worte, deren Bedeutung sich im Laufe der Geschichte gewandelt oder sogar umgedreht hat, war Sprache irgendwann einmal strukturierter und logischer, also gab es irgendwann einen Idealzustand von Sprache? Warum können wir nicht ableiten, wie Sprache entstanden ist, aber sehr wohl herleiten, wie sie von 2-Wortsätzen (Stadium Ich-Tarzan) zu komplexen Strukturen gelangte? Dieses Buch ist von einem Autoren, der auf englisch schreibt und denkt, der Übersetzer hat die zentralen Beispiele und Erklärungen überall wo dies stimmig möglich war, vom Deutschen ausgehend formuliert. Wußten Sie z.B., dass Türkisch und Englisch in der Satzreihenfolge sich spiegeln und Deutsch eine Zwischenposition einnimmt?

Dabei ist das Buch gleichermaßen unterhaltend und fordernd. Es lohnt sich es mit einem wachen Geist zu lesen und viel Neues zu entdecken und Altes wiederzufinden.
Profile Image for Steve.
959 reviews44 followers
February 20, 2022
Intriguing exploration of how languages evolve, explaining how a super-simple primitive proto-language of basically just nouns and verbs could turn into the dizzyingly complex structures that all current languages have. As a side-benefit, he explains why people constantly (and for centuries) complain that language is being corrupted and weakened.

Lots of humor and interesting literary and historical references. Explanations are careful and pretty simple, but sometimes the reasoning is very long and involves long series of steps — a little hard for my addled brain to follow. So I skimmed over some bits. But I was left full of wonder about language and the linguists who study it.

Note: he does-not- attempt to explain how language first started: those first utterances of isolated words. He says there is no evidence to support any real theory about it. But based on what we know about how language has changed in the last 6000 years or so, he does have solid theories about how language could grow and become more complex. But if you’re hoping to learn how people first learned to speak at all, this is not the book. And he is saying, sadly, that there may never be a convincing explanation of how language first began.
Profile Image for Andre Correa.
27 reviews1 follower
March 28, 2017
I've learned a bunch of interesting things through this book, like how the forces of destruction and construction are continuously combined to shape language and the ubiquitous presence of metaphors all along. Another interesting aspect is the realization of mankind's inclination for doing more with less and the need for order reflected in the constant evolution of language. It's also worth noticing the highly complex framework of Semitic languages as well as how basic choices in the verb-object order can ultimately define the overall structure of an idiom (Turkish vs English).

The book demonstrates very well how complex and dynamic the edifice of language is.

With all that good stuff, however, I felt disengaged on the second half of the book and skipped some parts, due to the enormous amount of details devoted to certain topics and the author's desire to go to the bottom of some idea. I am pretty sure such aspects are very relevant to people closer to the realm, but it's too much information for someone simply "touring" through.
Profile Image for Karen.
272 reviews14 followers
July 18, 2010
This was a delightful and fascinating book. It's very readable and entertaining and I don't think that I will ever look at language quite the same way again. I wished, quite early on in the book, that I had read it(or had it to read) twenty years ago when I was teaching English in Japan. It made a lot of issues and problems that my students were facing much clearer to me, and if nothing else I wish I'd been able to explain to my students WHY English spelling is so screwy.

The author doesn't try to tackle how words evolved; he starts with what he refers to as the "Me Tarzan" stage, and shows how simply and easily more complex grammar evolved from there. And his chapters on how and why grammar and language devolves, how case endings for nouns got lost, pronunciation slips, and words change from one syntactic category to another are also both very clear and really fascinating.
Profile Image for Karen Chung.
389 reviews91 followers
October 9, 2015
This book in fact reflects many thoughts and ideas that I have had about language and language evolution over the years - but the author has actually developed them and presents them in a reader-friendly, even enjoyable form. I think this volume would be an excellent supplementary text for an introduction to linguistics course - and I may use it in this way next time I teach such a course. It was the most-often suggested book in the Bedtime Readings in Linguistics list that I updated for the LINGUIST list in 2015, and it receives my highest recommendation.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
9,331 reviews399 followers
Shelved as 'xx-dnf-skim-reference'
September 1, 2018
Couldn't get into it. I'm still curious to read theories about how language first started, but this promised to be a treatise on linguistic analysis, with a chapter at the end that goes back in time only as far as the 'me Tarzan' stage.
Profile Image for gage sugden.
124 reviews6 followers
January 23, 2020
Preface: I read this book as part of an English class assignment.

It's made me seriously consider pursuing an MA Linguistics. As in before reading this book I was excitedly looking forward to graduating with my BA English next year, and now I'm literally looking at grad schools to apply to.

If you've never read or learned about linguistics before (which I hadn't), this book will either bore you to tears or blow your mind. Deutscher absolutely gets into the nitty gritty of several elements, while self-admittedly totally glossing over others in order to keep the book laser focused - and he does so to tremendous effect. However, I have ended up with a list of nearly a dozen related topics that I want to find books about, so be warned, if this book does capture your attention it may suck you down a rabbit hole that you hadn't prepared yourself for! On the other hand, it's not going to hold your hand and simplify things like a Discovery Channel documentary or anything, so if you're not ready to put on your thinking cap and learn then you're going to have a bad time.

Beyond the subject matter itself, Deutscher's writing style is a blast! I found myself *literally* laughing out loud *literally* every couple pages. He certainly has a way with words and maintains a wonderful tone throughout, so that it never feels like a lecture or anything like that. It's not like academic writing whatsoever. Though while it is very approachable in that regard, the subject matter is highly complicated so don't think it's a casual read. What it is is a refreshing take on the genre that doesn't compromise on information but is also somehow buckets and buckets of fun.

Would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone with an interest in linguistics or the evolution of language in general. You don't need any background knowledge headed in except for an average/somewhat above average understanding of English grammar - high school or freshman English type stuff, nothing beyond that.
Profile Image for Liedzeit Liedzeit.
Author 1 book68 followers
March 20, 2021
This book does what the title expresses, it tells us how language developed. Deutscher does not try to explain how it originated. There is just not enough evidence. Everything about the origin is pure speculation. We do not even know whether language developed 20.000 years ago or 2 million years ago.

Deutscher also does not participate in the innateness debate. It is irrelevant for his story.
So he starts with language already in existence, but with only rudimentary vocabulary and no grammar. With only words for basic things and actions. He starts with what he calls the „Me, Tarzan“ stage. Which is interesting in itself because this is a kind of metaphor. The Burroughs-Tarzan was perfectly fluent, self-taught, when he met Jane, whereas the most famous incarnation the Weismuller Tarzan only uttered „Tarzan-Jane“. And yet we know exactly what Deutscher means when he speaks of „Me, Tarzan“. (By the way, when I read the Tarzan comics as a child I was fascinated when I learned that the apes in the story spoke a language. Unfortunately I only remember that Tarzan means white skin, and „bundolo“ means „I will kill you“. Sadly the fascination did not lead me to study linguistics.)

Everyone who thinks about language and especially anyone who had to learn Latin will ask herself why is it that language was so much better in the sense of better structured and more complicated in the past. With all these different cases. And the man who had an explanation for this was August Schleicher. He thought that language developed in pre-historic time and started to degenerate when humans entered the historic age. Presumably because they then had different things on their mind.

Deutscher first tells us that people always thought that language was on a decline. Even Cicero. And then goes on to explain that this is untrue. In reality language erodes and develops new features at the same time. And he has magnificent examples to prove this. Words lose endings, words change pronunciation and get shorter, but then words assimilate articles or propositions and get longer again. For example day in French started out as Latin hoc die (on this day) this eroded and fused into one word hodie. This „degenerated“ to hui. And then to give more emphasis they started using the expression au jour d’hui, literally ‚on the day of this day‘. And this fused into a single word again aujourd’hui. And now they very often say au jour d’aujourd’hui.

The ingenious case system in Latin that seems like it must have been designed by a brilliant (and evil) committee in the distant past is actually the result of erosion when e.g. the word for have was fused with verbs and ended up as an indicator for the past. And this process is still going on today. With lots of examples Deutscher follows the development of the literally use „going to“ as in I am going to the market, was very slowly sometimes used in a metaphorical way to indicate an intention. And today’s „gonna“ is not far away from becoming am auxiliary for future tense. A development that „will“, originally „want“ and still used in German like this or in archaic English already went through.
And so we can see that a word is used at the same time with different functions.

Erosion changes the language. But it can make the language more complicated as well as simpler. The next principle is metaphor. All abstract words originate from concrete terms. Even a word like „be“ comes from a word meaning flourish (not an example of Deutscher but of Jaynes). And still another principle is the „craving for unity“ which brings us to create new words or part of words by analogy. So the plural of Gast grew out of some erosions and ended up as Gäste. And by analogy the plural of Hals became Hälse. Although the reason (quite complicated but having to do with easier pronunciation) was absent in this case. And craving for unity leads to the new form of dove in analogy to drive-drove. Irregular verbs are created even today. Words change their meaning all the time. Words can have opposite meanings without seriously affecting our ability to understand. Deutscher’s example. Two old ladies coming out of a theatre saying „wicked“ two young girls saying the same probably mean that the play was terrific. A word that in this context had lost its original meaning. We all have followed the rise of the new meaning of the word „awesome“.

One final concerning gender. There are languages which do not map sex to words. An Australian language distinguishes Object by their being edible or not. When the word for airplane was introduced in their language it was seen as edible. The reason being that trees being plants were seen as edible, than canoos since they were made of wood, and than finally all objects of transportation.

There are some parts of the book that were not as mesmerizing, e.g. his discussion of templates in Semitic languages. But even here I followed him. Because I was thankful for all the new things I learned.

The last chapter puts all the pieces together and explains how out of a very simple language and a simple tale of a girl running away from a mammoth, the tale could get more and more complex. Quite excellent.

So is there no reason to lament the decline of our language? That seemed to have been the message of the book. But not completely. It seems that Schleicher was not totally wrong after all. While the process of getting simpler could reverse again it seems that in fact it really does not. And the reason is that we have written language. And while it still is possible for words to simplify it is much harder for them to fuse since written down we see that there are different words.

Can’t wait to read his other book.
Profile Image for Balachander.
164 reviews6 followers
March 28, 2018
Fabulous. Though I did get tired around the 80% mark. This book is especially for those who feel that the quality of modern language (be it English or otherwise) is deteriorating and is poorer than in the past. There was never a golden period where people spoke and wrote perfectly simply because there is no "pure" language. Language has always morphed and mutated due to people's need for economy, expressiveness and analogy. (read the book, I don't want to get into the details here).
I totally recommend this if you're curious
about how something as complex as modern language can evolve, quite naturally, from
some very primitive/simple beginnings.
Profile Image for Gavin.
Author 1 book283 followers
May 30, 2023
The clearest explanation I have ever read of how languages got to be this way: the conjugations, the irregularities, the sheer diversity of speech across the globe. They weren't invented, so how did genders happen? The Latin case system? Semitic verb templates? Why do languages always seem like they're collapsing in structure (gotta gonna wanna) rather than becoming more complex? Deutscher walks us through the eroding and regenerative processes of economy, expressiveness, and analogy, and peels away the layers so we can see where the creation is continually occurring.

Many case studies were mirthfully recounted, including the grand Chapter 7 which strolls through a hypothetical evolution from "Me Tarzan" to a full story with subordinate clauses, prepositions, and everything in between. I loved all the examples – this dude knows his Turkish! And man, this demonstration of how an English nuance of likelihood came into existence: seizing ('get me a beer') → possession ('he's got a car') → obligation ('I've gotta go') → likelihood ('she's gotta be there by now')... and they're all patterns of creation followed over and over again in nearly every documented language!

This was mind-blowing, cognition-enriching stuff, and I admit that Deutscher's got me firmly on his side of the invention vs. instinct debate, even after reading plenty of Steven Pinker's writing on the latter.

Profile Image for Perri.
1,283 reviews48 followers
August 16, 2021
I didn't know there are so many theories about how language has evolved. The main thing I learned is the fluidity of language through the ages, the growth and creation, erosion and destruction, and the human need for order and expression. I skimmed over some of the more technical parts, but overall this book will make word geeks happy.
98 reviews
September 27, 2020
A fantastic book about formation of languages. Very well-structure, coherent and full of interesting examples. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Serena.. Sery-ously?.
1,088 reviews177 followers
March 31, 2014
Disponibile una copia nuova per lo scambio causa errore nell'ordine su amazon!

Se la lingua e il linguaggio vi incuriosiscono, se qualche volta vi siete chiesti perché il verbo essere inglese è l'unico ad avere forme differenti al passato [was/were] o quali siano le forze scatenanti che modificano in continuazione una lingua.. Allora questo libro fa al caso vostro!!

Credo che in quasi cinque anni di carriera universitaria questo sia il libro che ho letto con più piacere in assoluto, quello che non è pesato come un macigno o come un onere inderogabile e anzi, mi ha addirittura divertito tantissimo!!
L'autore presenta con grande carisma un argomento complicato e intricato come lo sviluppo del linguaggio.. E' un libro adatto a tutti, sia quelli hanno alle spalle esami/letture di linguistica sia chi invece ne è completamente digiuno: tutto è spiegato con estrema chiarezza, ci sono numerosissimi esempi che vi permetteranno di comprendere i suoi ragionamenti e riportarli su un piano più "terreno" e legati all'esperienza quotidiana.
Tolte le nozioni "base" che già conoscevo (ma presentate sotto una luce diversa molto più coinvolgente, come ad esempio il fatto che i fratelli Grimm, oltre ad essere degli scrittori erano anche dei pezzi grossi di linguistica che hanno rivoluzionato quel mondo :D), alcune mi hanno davvero sorpreso, ho aggiornato il repertorio del "Ma lo sai perché..."... Sia mai mi risultasse utile per corteggiare qualcuno!! =P
Uno dei capitoli più interessanti è sicuramente quello sull'analisi della struttura consonantica delle lingue semitiche: poiché il linguaggio è un mezzo per esprimersi, perché mai un popolo dovrebbe usare solo consonanti nella scrittura?! Domanda che, da brava studiosa di arabo, non mi ero mai posta.. E invece mi si è aperto un mondo interessantissimo!!
Ho provato a coinvolgere mia mamma nel discorso e trasmetterle il mio entusiasmo per poter dire insieme "Ma che figata!", ma la sua risposta è stata: "Eh, sì.. Per me che non studio lingue semitiche tutto chiarissimo!" :D Ehm!!

Tra tutte le chicche che potrete trovare in questo volume, ce ne sono alcune davvero curiose..
Una di queste è appunto il verbo essere, l'unico che mantiene due forme distinte al passato: non è questo verbo ad essere l'eccezione ma gli altri verbi che hanno perso la distinzione! Nel passato infatti tutti i verbi inglesi avevano due forme al passato.. Il verbo "be" è rimasto così perché è quello più usato e quindi entrambe le forme venivano apprese e tramandate :)
Un'altra parte super interessante è la spiegazione degli errori dei bambini quando apprendono la lingua.. Quante volte abbiamo riso per un "Io piangio" o un "Io vadavo" dei cuginetti o fratellini più piccoli? In realtà la loro è pura e semplice genialità.. Perché tutto ciò che fanno è applicare uno schema che hanno imparato (Io mangio/io giocavo) a tutte le parole che imparano!
O ancora.. Quante volte avete detto/sentito che l'inglese non è una lingua come l'italiano perché non si legge come si scrive? In realtà ciò non è completamente esatto.. L'inglese infatti si scrive come si legge(va).. Nel XVI secolo!! :33

Se leggete in inglese il libro non vi darà problemi perché è davvero chiaro.. Se invece non leggete in inglese, niente paura!!
Ecco che Deutscher ha per voi una carta nascosta: "La lingua colora il mondo" un altro trattato di linguistica che è finito dritto dritto nella mia Wish list e che sono sicura riserverà altre sorprese linguistiche :3
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