How Language Began: The Story of Humanity's Greatest Invention

Author: Daniel L. Everett

Publisher: Liveright Publishing

ISBN: 087140477X

Category: Science

Page: 384

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How Language Began revolutionizes our understanding of the one tool that has allowed us to become the "lords of the planet." Mankind has a distinct advantage over other terrestrial species: we talk to one another. But how did we acquire the most advanced form of communication on Earth? Daniel L. Everett, a “bombshell” linguist and “instant folk hero” (Tom Wolfe, Harper’s), provides in this sweeping history a comprehensive examination of the evolutionary story of language, from the earliest speaking attempts by hominids to the more than seven thousand languages that exist today. Although fossil hunters and linguists have brought us closer to unearthing the true origins of language, Daniel Everett’s discoveries have upended the contemporary linguistic world, reverberating far beyond academic circles. While conducting field research in the Amazonian rainforest, Everett came across an age-old language nestled amongst a tribe of hunter-gatherers. Challenging long-standing principles in the field, Everett now builds on the theory that language was not intrinsic to our species. In order to truly understand its origins, a more interdisciplinary approach is needed—one that accounts as much for our propensity for culture as it does our biological makeup. Language began, Everett theorizes, with Homo Erectus, who catalyzed words through culturally invented symbols. Early humans, as their brains grew larger, incorporated gestures and voice intonations to communicate, all of which built on each other for 60,000 generations. Tracing crucial shifts and developments across the ages, Everett breaks down every component of speech, from harnessing control of more than a hundred respiratory muscles in the larynx and diaphragm, to mastering the use of the tongue. Moving on from biology to execution, Everett explores why elements such as grammar and storytelling are not nearly as critical to language as one might suspect. In the book’s final section, Cultural Evolution of Language, Everett takes the ever-debated “language gap” to task, delving into the chasm that separates “us” from “the animals.” He approaches the subject from various disciplines, including anthropology, neuroscience, and archaeology, to reveal that it was social complexity, as well as cultural, physiological, and neurological superiority, that allowed humans—with our clawless hands, breakable bones, and soft skin—to become the apex predator. How Language Began ultimately explains what we know, what we’d like to know, and what we likely never will know about how humans went from mere communication to language. Based on nearly forty years of fieldwork, Everett debunks long-held theories by some of history’s greatest thinkers, from Plato to Chomsky. The result is an invaluable study of what makes us human.

How Language Began

The Story of Humanity S Greatest Invention

Author: Daniel Everett

Publisher: N.A

ISBN: 9781781253939

Category:

Page: 352

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In his groundbreaking new book Daniel Everett seeks answers to questions that have perplexed thinkers from Plato to Chomsky: when and how did language begin? What is it? And what is it for?Daniel Everett confounds the conventional wisdom that language originated with Homo sapiens 150,000 years ago and that we have a 'language instinct'. Drawing on evidence from a wide range of fields, including linguistics, archaeology, biology, anthropology and neuroscience, he shows that our ancient ancestors, Homo erectus, had the biological and mental equipment for speech one and half million years ago, and that their cultural and technological achievements (including building ocean-going boats) make it overwhelmingly likely they spoke some kind of language.How Language Began sheds new light on language and culture and what it means to be human and, as always, Daniel Everett spices his account with incident and anecdote. His book is convincing, arresting and entertaining.

How Language Began

The Story of Humanity’s Greatest Invention

Author: Daniel Everett

Publisher: Profile Books

ISBN: 1782831282

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 330

View: 572

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In his groundbreaking new book Daniel Everett seeks answers to questions that have perplexed thinkers from Plato to Chomsky: when and how did language begin? what is it? and what is it for? Daniel Everett confounds the conventional wisdom that language originated with Homo sapiens 150,000 years ago and that we have a 'language instinct'. Drawing on evidence from a wide range of fields, including linguistics, archaeology, biology, anthropology and neuroscience, he shows that our ancient ancestors, Homo erectus, had the biological and mental equipment for speech one and half million years ago, and that their cultural and technological achievements (including building ocean-going boats) make it overwhelmingly likely they spoke some kind of language. How Language Began sheds new light on language and culture and what it means to be human and, as always, Daniel Everett spices his account with incident and anecdote. His book is convincing, arresting and entertaining.

Don't Sleep, There are Snakes

Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle

Author: Daniel Everett

Publisher: Profile Books

ISBN: 1847651224

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 327

View: 7654

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Although Daniel Everett was a missionary, far from converting the Pirahs, they converted him. He shows the slow, meticulous steps by which he gradually mastered their language and his gradual realisation that its unusual nature closely reflected its speakers' startlingly original perceptions of the world. Everett describes how he began to realise that his discoveries about the Pirah language opened up a new way of understanding how language works in our minds and in our lives, and that this way was utterly at odds with Noam Chomsky's universally accepted linguistic theories. The perils of passionate academic opposition were then swiftly conjoined to those of the Amazon in a debate whose outcome has yet to be won. Everett's views are most recently discussed in Tom Wolfe's bestselling The Kingdom of Speech. Adventure, personal enlightenment and the makings of a scientific revolution proceed together in this vivid, funny and moving book.

How Language Began

Gesture and Speech in Human Evolution

Author: David McNeill

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

ISBN: 1139560913

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: N.A

View: 700

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Human language is not the same as human speech. We use gestures and signs to communicate alongside, or instead of, speaking. Yet gestures and speech are processed in the same areas of the human brain, and the study of how both have evolved is central to research on the origins of human communication. Written by one of the pioneers of the field, this is the first book to explain how speech and gesture evolved together into a system that all humans possess. Nearly all theorizing about the origins of language either ignores gesture, views it as an add-on or supposes that language began in gesture and was later replaced by speech. David McNeill challenges the popular 'gesture-first' theory that language first emerged in a gesture-only form and proposes a groundbreaking theory of the evolution of language which explains how speech and gesture became unified.

The Unfolding of Language

An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention

Author: Guy Deutscher

Publisher: Metropolitan Books

ISBN: 1466837837

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 368

View: 9924

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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.

Dark Matter of the Mind

The Culturally Articulated Unconscious

Author: Daniel L. Everett

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

ISBN: 022640143X

Category: Social Science

Page: 400

View: 2965

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Is it in our nature to be altruistic, or evil, to make art, use tools, or create language? Is it in our nature to think in any particular way? For Daniel L. Everett, the answer is a resounding no: it isn’t in our nature to do any of these things because human nature does not exist—at least not as we usually think of it. Flying in the face of major trends in Evolutionary Psychology and related fields, he offers a provocative and compelling argument in this book that the only thing humans are hardwired for is freedom: freedom from evolutionary instinct and freedom to adapt to a variety of environmental and cultural contexts. Everett sketches a blank-slate picture of human cognition that focuses not on what is in the mind but, rather, what the mind is in—namely, culture. He draws on years of field research among the Amazonian people of the Pirahã in order to carefully scrutinize various theories of cognitive instinct, including Noam Chomsky’s foundational concept of universal grammar, Freud’s notions of unconscious forces, Adolf Bastian’s psychic unity of mankind, and works on massive modularity by evolutionary psychologists such as Leda Cosmides, John Tooby, Jerry Fodor, and Steven Pinker. Illuminating unique characteristics of the Pirahã language, he demonstrates just how differently various cultures can make us think and how vital culture is to our cognitive flexibility. Outlining the ways culture and individual psychology operate symbiotically, he posits a Buddhist-like conception of the cultural self as a set of experiences united by various apperceptions, episodic memories, ranked values, knowledge structures, and social roles—and not, in any shape or form, biological instinct. The result is fascinating portrait of the “dark matter of the mind,” one that shows that our greatest evolutionary adaptation is adaptability itself.

Numbers and the Making of Us

Counting and the Course of Human Cultures

Author: Caleb Everett

Publisher: Harvard University Press

ISBN: 0674504437

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 312

View: 9400

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Number concepts are a human invention developed and refined over millennia. They allow us to grasp quantities precisely: recent research shows that most specific quantities are not perceived in the absence of a number system. Numbers are not innate or universal; yet without them, the world as we know it would not exist.

How We Talk

The Inner Workings of Conversation

Author: N. J. Enfield

Publisher: Basic Books

ISBN: 0465093760

Category: Science

Page: 272

View: 9855

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An expert guide to how conversation works, from how we know when to speak to why huh is a universal word We all had teachers who scolded us over the use of um, uh-huh, oh, like, and mm-hmm. But as linguist N. J. Enfield reveals in How We Talk, these "bad words" are fundamental to language.Whether we are speaking with the clerk at the store, our boss, or our spouse, language is dependent on things as commonplace as a rising tone of voice, an apparently meaningless word, or a glance--signals so small that we hardly pay them any conscious attention. Nevertheless, they are the essence of how we speak. From the traffic signals of speech to the importance of um, How We Talk revolutionizes our understanding of conversation. In the process, Enfield reveals what makes language universally--and uniquely--human.

The Theory That Changed Everything

"On the Origin of Species" as a Work in Progress

Author: Philip Lieberman

Publisher: Columbia University Press

ISBN: 0231545916

Category: Science

Page: 210

View: 2806

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Few people have done as much to change how we view the world as Charles Darwin. Yet On the Origin of Species is more cited than read, and parts of it are even considered outdated. In some ways, it has been consigned to the nineteenth century. In The Theory That Changed Everything, the renowned cognitive scientist Philip Lieberman demonstrates that there is no better guide to the world’s living—and still evolving—things than Darwin and that the phenomena he observed are still being explored at the frontiers of science. In an exploration that ranges from Darwin’s transformative trip aboard the Beagle to Lieberman’s own sojourns in the remotest regions of the Himalayas, this book relates fresh, contemporary findings to the major concepts of Darwinian theory, which transcends natural selection. Drawing on his own research into the evolution of human linguistic and cognitive abilities, Lieberman explains the paths that adapted human anatomy to language. He demystifies the role of recently identified transcriptional and epigenetic factors encoded in DNA, explaining how nineteenth-century Swedish famines alternating with years of plenty caused survivors’ grandchildren to die many years short of their life expectancy. Lieberman is equally at home decoding supermarket shelves and climbing with the Sherpas as he discusses how natural selection explains features from lactose tolerance to ease of breathing at Himalayan altitudes. With conversational clarity and memorable examples, Lieberman relates the insights that led to groundbreaking discoveries in both Darwin’s time and our own while asking provocative questions about what Darwin would have made of controversial issues today, such as GMOs, endangered species, and the God question.

Language

The Cultural Tool

Author: Daniel Leonard Everett

Publisher: Pantheon

ISBN: 0307378535

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 351

View: 6562

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Building on a controversial premise that refutes the opinions of most linguists to argue that language is a unique and essential cultural tool, an anthropological and psychological report contends that language is a human, societally driven invention that can be reinvented and lost.

Philology

The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities

Author: James Turner

Publisher: Princeton University Press

ISBN: 1400850150

Category: Philosophy

Page: 576

View: 9429

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Many today do not recognize the word, but "philology" was for centuries nearly synonymous with humanistic intellectual life, encompassing not only the study of Greek and Roman literature and the Bible but also all other studies of language and literature, as well as history, culture, art, and more. In short, philology was the queen of the human sciences. How did it become little more than an archaic word? In Philology, the first history of Western humanistic learning as a connected whole ever published in English, James Turner tells the fascinating, forgotten story of how the study of languages and texts led to the modern humanities and the modern university. The humanities today face a crisis of relevance, if not of meaning and purpose. Understanding their common origins—and what they still share—has never been more urgent.

Sapiens

A Brief History of Humankind

Author: Yuval Noah Harari

Publisher: Harper Collins

ISBN: 0062316109

Category: Science

Page: 464

View: 9356

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New York Times Bestseller A Summer Reading Pick for President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.” One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us? Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas. Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because over the last few decades humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us, but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become? Featuring 27 photographs, 6 maps, and 25 illustrations/diagrams, this provocative and insightful work is sure to spark debate and is essential reading for aficionados of Jared Diamond, James Gleick, Matt Ridley, Robert Wright, and Sharon Moalem.

Why Only Us

Language and Evolution

Author: Robert C. Berwick,Noam Chomsky

Publisher: MIT Press

ISBN: 0262034247

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 224

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Berwick and Chomsky draw on recent developments in linguistic theory to offer an evolutionary account of language and humans' remarkable, species-specific ability to acquire it.

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

The Stories in Our Genes

Author: Adam Rutherford

Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

ISBN: 9781780229072

Category:

Page: 432

View: 7600

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This is a story about you. It is the history of who you are and how you came to be. It is unique to you, as it is to each of the 100 billion modern humans who have ever drawn breath. But it is also our collective story, because in every one of our genomes we each carry the history of our species - births, deaths, disease, war, famine, migration and a lot of sex. In this captivating journey through the expanding landscape of genetics, Adam Rutherford reveals what our genes now tell us about human history, and what history can now tell us about our genes. From Neanderthals to murder, from redheads to race, dead kings to plague, evolution to epigenetics, this is a demystifying and illuminating new portrait of who we are and how we came to be.

Against the Grain

A Deep History of the Earliest States

Author: James C. Scott

Publisher: Yale University Press

ISBN: 0300231687

Category: History

Page: 336

View: 9234

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An account of all the new and surprising evidence now available for the beginnings of the earliest civilizations that contradict the standard narrative Why did humans abandon hunting and gathering for sedentary communities dependent on livestock and cereal grains, and governed by precursors of today’s states? Most people believe that plant and animal domestication allowed humans, finally, to settle down and form agricultural villages, towns, and states, which made possible civilization, law, public order, and a presumably secure way of living. But archaeological and historical evidence challenges this narrative. The first agrarian states, says James C. Scott, were born of accumulations of domestications: first fire, then plants, livestock, subjects of the state, captives, and finally women in the patriarchal family—all of which can be viewed as a way of gaining control over reproduction. Scott explores why we avoided sedentism and plow agriculture, the advantages of mobile subsistence, the unforeseeable disease epidemics arising from crowding plants, animals, and grain, and why all early states are based on millets and cereal grains and unfree labor. He also discusses the “barbarians” who long evaded state control, as a way of understanding continuing tension between states and nonsubject peoples.

The Language Myth

Why Language Is Not an Instinct

Author: Vyvyan Evans

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

ISBN: 1316123596

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: N.A

View: 7414

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Language is central to our lives, the cultural tool that arguably sets us apart from other species. Some scientists have argued that language is innate, a type of unique human 'instinct' pre-programmed in us from birth. In this book, Vyvyan Evans argues that this received wisdom is, in fact, a myth. Debunking the notion of a language 'instinct', Evans demonstrates that language is related to other animal forms of communication; that languages exhibit staggering diversity; that we learn our mother tongue drawing on general properties and abilities of the human mind, rather than an inborn 'universal' grammar; that language is not autonomous but is closely related to other aspects of our mental lives; and that, ultimately, language and the mind reflect and draw upon the way we interact with others in the world. Compellingly written and drawing on cutting-edge research, The Language Myth sets out a forceful alternative to the received wisdom, showing how language and the mind really work.

The Origin of Language

Tracing the Evolution of the Mother Tongue

Author: Merritt Ruhlen

Publisher: Wiley

ISBN: 9780471159636

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 256

View: 4752

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The Origin of Language A critically acclaimed journey back through time in search of the Mother Tongue and the roots of the human family "Invites the reader to learn and apply the common process used by linguists." —Science News "This book represents exactly the kind of thinking that is needed to pull historical linguistics out of its twentieth-century doldrums. . . . [W]ithout a doubt, a very readable book, well adapted to its popularizing aim." —LOS Forum "Believing that doing is learning, Ruhlen encourages his readers to try their hand (and eye) at classifying languages. This exercise helps us appreciate the challenges inherent in this fascinating and controversial science of comparative linguistics." —Booklist "Ruhlen is a leader in the new attempt to write the unified theory of language development and diffusion." —Library Journal "A powerful statement [and] also a wonderfully clear exposition of linguistic thinking about prehistory. . . . [Q]uite solid and very well presented." —Anthropological Science

The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time

Author: Keith Houston

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

ISBN: 0393244806

Category: History

Page: 400

View: 2781

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“Everybody who has ever read a book will benefit from the way Keith Houston explores the most powerful object of our time. And everybody who has read it will agree that reports of the book’s death have been greatly exaggerated.”—Erik Spiekermann, typographer We may love books, but do we know what lies behind them? In The Book, Keith Houston reveals that the paper, ink, thread, glue, and board from which a book is made tell as rich a story as the words on its pages—of civilizations, empires, human ingenuity, and madness. In an invitingly tactile history of this 2,000-year-old medium, Houston follows the development of writing, printing, the art of illustrations, and binding to show how we have moved from cuneiform tablets and papyrus scrolls to the hardcovers and paperbacks of today. Sure to delight book lovers of all stripes with its lush, full-color illustrations, The Book gives us the momentous and surprising history behind humanity’s most important—and universal—information technology.

Decoding Chomsky

Science and Revolutionary Politics

Author: Chris Knight

Publisher: Yale University Press

ISBN: 0300221460

Category: Philosophy

Page: 304

View: 1550

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A fresh and fascinating look at the philosophies, politics, and intellectual legacy of one of the twentieth century's most influential and controversial minds Occupying a pivotal position in postwar thought, Noam Chomsky is both the founder of modern linguistics and the world's most prominent political dissident. Chris Knight adopts an anthropologist's perspective on the twin output of this intellectual giant, acclaimed as much for his denunciations of US foreign policy as for his theories about language and mind. Knight explores the social and institutional context of Chomsky's thinking, showing how the tension between military funding and his role as linchpin of the political left pressured him to establish a disconnect between science on the one hand and politics on the other, deepening a split between mind and body characteristic of Western philosophy since the Enlightenment. Provocative, fearless, and engaging, this remarkable study explains the enigma of one of the greatest intellectuals of our time.