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

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  4,224 ratings  ·  575 reviews
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 o
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Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 31st 2010 by Metropolitan Books (first published 2010)
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3.90  · 
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 ·  4,224 ratings  ·  575 reviews


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David
Jul 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to David by: Betsy
This is a fascinating book about how culture shapes language, and how language shapes our view of reality. Guy Deutscher is a linguist, and he separates out in some detail, the facts of this subject from fiction.

Because, there is a lot of "fiction". Much of what we have heard about how language shapes our world-view is false. Nietzsche's line that "the limits of my language mean the limits of my world" is absolutely false. A true statement would be "Languages differ in what they must convey, not
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Margitte
Jun 03, 2015 rated it really liked it

BLURB
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
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Jan Rice
Oct 31, 2013 rated it really liked it

--from the BrainyQuote Facebook page

Nature or nurture?

In the mid-19th century, William Gladstone, eminent British statesman and, in view of how we think of politicians nowadays, improbable source of scientific erudition, noted through his Homeric studies that the ancients didn't see color as we do. Wine-dark sea! And not only that, but violet sea, violet wool on sheep, and violet iron. And green--chlôros--for yes, sprouts--but twigs? Cyclops' club? Honey?

Poetic license, scoffed his naysayers, bu
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David
The first foreign language I learned to complete fluency was German - after five years of high school German I spent a year at a German boys' boarding school. At the end of that year I was completely fluent, but noticed an odd phenomenon, that I felt like a slightly different person when I spoke German than when speaking English. Since then I've also learned Spanish to a high degree of fluency, and the same observation holds. In both cases, the main difference that I perceive has to do with humo ...more
·Karen·
Feb 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Language nerds
Shelves: non-fiction
This is what I call Having a Really Good Time. Yes, I know, but then some people go ice-fishing. For fun. So, if (like me) you are a language geek and have a fairly quiet life, then this might be your idea of a high old time too. Because Guy Deutscher manages that most demanding combination. On one hand, he is an academic linguist, which you might assume would mean he uses phrases like pro-drop parameter or boundary conditions or declarative sentences or funny words like morpheme or evidentialit ...more
Nikki
Jan 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can understand people who feel that Through the Language Glass didn't quite fulfill its promise. The subtitle might be more accurately, "does the world look different in other languages?" And the answer is yes, but in a limited way that won't be satisfying to those who want the answer to be an unequivocal yes. People feel that the world is different (for them) in different languages, and even that they are different in other languages, but there just isn't the scientific data to back those fee ...more
Jade
Dec 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
I suppose I hold linguists to a higher standard than civilians regarding their word choice and articulation of ideas. After all, if there's one category of people who should know about the power of words, it's this one. Which is why I'm so disappointed by this book.

The book is called Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages. When you're done with it, you would expect to know why, according to the author, the world... looks different... in other languages. And
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Madeleine
I finished this book, like, two weeks ago, right when my job's special breed of life-consuming crazy was bearing down on me with an animalistic rabidity. Let's see what I remembered about it, aside from the fact that it was generously packed with treats that made my inner word-nerd dance oh-so-whitely with joy.

First of all, the author's first language is Yiddish. Seeing as I know far more native-tongue butchers of English than I do folks who can finesse the language like they're trying to get in
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Betsy
Jul 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Betsy by: GR Science & Inquiry Group
I really enjoyed this book, even though, or maybe because, it was not at all what I expected. I was expecting a kind of language survey detailing the ways in which various languages differ from each other that might possibly be related to culture. For example, the rather overplayed number of different words Inuit has for snow. I did not expect a very well written argument against some of the widely accepted tenets of linguistic theory, such as the Chomsky/Pinker belief that language is an inborn ...more
Lena Tumasyan
Aug 06, 2011 rated it liked it
As a native Russian speaker, I always felt different from Americans. I've always wondered if the language i was brought up with altered my thinking in ways Americans weren't. I was hoping to get the answer in this book and I was really disappointed.

The book started out strong, showing how 3 different languages defined "culture" in different ways (French being most romantic and German being most brutal). But then once I started reading the book, it never really delved deeply into the subject of h
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Geoffrey Fox
Aug 02, 2011 rated it liked it
This digressive examination of whether and, if so, how a speaker's language structures his/her thoughts contains two interesting arguments bundled with amusing anecdotes about odd languages and linguists. Some of the descriptions of non-Western languages, and even of Western languages (English among them) at earlier stages of development, show truly surprising ways of putting together information, such as numbers of tenses, whether person and time of action are included in verb or noun or in sep ...more
Holly
Aug 14, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Deutscher's explanations were long-winded and redundant (and tautological), and his lowbrow jabs at linguistic scholars were off-putting to me. Planning to reading John McWhorter's The Language Hoax soon.
Cheryl
Oct 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Thorough, challenging, clearly written & relatively engaging, good science; I learned a lot... but in the end unsatisfying. Turns out the author argues only for potential differences in perceptions of:
1. space (if your MT is Guugu Yimithrr you're extremely unlikely to get lost or lose your car in a parking garage), 2. gender (if you speak a gendered language like German or Spanish you can have more fun with poetry and tv advertising that plays on the associations of, for example, a male pine
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Chris Miller
In college I majored in linguistics with a specialization in cognition, and minored in psychology. My favorite part of this language/brain area of study was linguistic relativity (A.K.A. the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis)--although I didn't have time then to do anything but scratch the surface. The premise is that the language(s) you speak affect the way you think/perceive reality, and that the way you think/perceive reality molds the language(s) you speak; creating a self-reinforcing cycle.

It's been
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Jan
Oct 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Another brilliant work of popular science from linguist Guy Deutscher. "Through the Language Glass" aims to bring the reader up to date on an easy-to-formulate but nearly impossible-to-answer question in linguistics: to what degree does one's language impact one's thought processes?

This exploration centers around a very specific phenomenon, which is that languages differ in their stock of words for colors, and why some languages (like English) have names for all the colors we would commonly plac
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Kim
A fascinating book on the links between language and culture that sets out to prove that language can impact on the way we think. There is quite a heavy emphasis on colour (some of which is difficult to comprehend as a colourblind person) but there's also sections on spacial orientation and gender.

The book is well written and manages to make what could be very dry become easily accessible without being patronising. There's a few humourous inserts throughout and I never felt overwhelmed with tech
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Biblio Curious
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: linguistics
Amazing!!! His writing is so engaging, enlightening, exquisite and even comedic! I must re-read this gem and give it a proper review. The coolest chapter is on Russians, naturally, right? He explains how different language speakers indicate colour categories differently on an artist's spectrum. I started his other book, "The Unfolding of Language." Also a great read.

His writing style is witty, fun and informative a bit similar to David Sacks, David Crystal or Oliver Sacks.
Christa
Feb 09, 2011 rated it did not like it
Why say in 2 pages what you can say in 200? Some interesting ideas, but overall Deutscher goes on and on and on and on.. I'd skip everything but chapters 5-6.
David
Sep 06, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-lang-lit
Warning for users of black-and-white-only ebook readers. Long stretches of this book are about how we perceive and express colors, which you might not immediately guess from its title and on-line description. It is difficult to understand these portions of the book without consulting the book-end photographic insert of color photographs and color samples. If my old-school black-and-white ebook reader were my only e-method of reading this book, I would have felt greatly cheated by this book. As i ...more
Louise
Sep 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: language-studies
In high school I learned that neither matter nor energy could be created nor destroyed. Any girl scout sitting around a campfire would know this not to be true, but it took 30 years later for text books to get on board. Guy Deutscher challenges the parallel linguistics axiom: “The fundamentals of language are coded in our genes and are the same across the human race… All languages share the same universal grammar, the same underlying concepts, same degree of systemic complexity” (p. 6).

Deutscher
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Rajaie Al-matrood
Feb 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was written just before I finished reading the book:

I'm close to finishing a book named Through The Language Glass, written by Guy Deutscher. Since the book actually deals with linguistics, I Thought it would be academic and not suitable for those not familiar with the field. It turned out, however, that the book is well-explained, simple and actually funny in some parts.
Basically, what the book is talking about is the relationship between the language and the person's pattern of thinking
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William Herschel
May 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Through the Language Glass starts on a hefty quest, to convince us that one's native tongue does in fact influence how one sees the world. You can tell the author is cautious. In fact, he spends the whole first half of the book detailing the history of people in the past trying to answer questions about how language develops (a result of nature or culture) and if people see the world differently because of their language so he can demonstrate the past errors in what people thought and avoid them ...more
Pep Bonet
Aug 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lingüística
Probably you must be mad at languages to read this book. I couldn't help telling my wife about this and that I had just read and she rolled her eyes wondering how on earth this could be interesting for anybody. But I swear, it is. Lots of words just to discuss two simple things: why do people see colour differently? Was Homer colour-blind? Why does he almost never mention the blue colour in the Odyssey, which happens mostly on the sea? and does the language you speak influence your thought?
The b
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Başar Atıcı
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A wonderful book and a translation triumph for Cemal Yardımcı (Turkish edition)
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
Oh, yes! Fellow linguist's ideas on how languages matter.
Fox
Apr 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
My interest in Through the Language Glass came from a conversation with a friend about how the color blue was relatively recent 'invention.' This was not that the color blue didn't exist in antiquity, but rather that it didn't go by that name. How then, did the ancients view blue? How did they view colors? Like most things, there's a book for that.

Through the Language Glass not only delves into the complicated world of how language and culture affects how we organize colors, and perhaps even h
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John
Nov 17, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: library_books
Such promise this premise held! Unfortunately, as has been noted in reviews, much of the book (first half) consists of color-description issues among (obscure) languages - a little of that went a long way! Later discussion of gender classification was better, but still rather dry. Not particularly recommended ... alas.
Sara M. Abudahab
unfortunately the translation is making it hard for me to enjoy this
Anne
I can't really review this book, because if I'd known anything about linguistics, I wouldn't have to read this in the first place. But I'll give it a try.

Through the Language Glass is a popular science book for people interested in how language and perception of reality work. It is easy to read (but not too easy) and Guy Deutscher uses interesting examples to show how differences between languages can cause (ever so tiny) differences in perception. He is quite critical of people jumping to concl
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Nurlan Imangaliyev
Dec 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read this year. The structure, the style, the language (pun intended) and just enough humor not to make it sound like comedy. Perfect 👌
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Science and Inquiry: * January 2015 - Through the Language Glass 14 90 Feb 06, 2015 06:11AM  

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

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 Language
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“And if Germans do have systematic minds, this is just as likely to be because their exceedingly erratic mother tongue has exhausted their brains' capacity to cope with any further irregularity” 19 likes
“Anyone who has tried to learn a foreign language knows only too dearly that languages can be full of pointless irregularities that increase complexity considerably without contributing much to the ability to express ideas. English, for instance, would have losed none of its expressive power if some of its verbs leaved their irregular past tense behind and becomed regular.” 16 likes
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