*Read Epub ⚣ The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language ç eBook or Kindle ePUB free
*Read Epub ⛄ The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language Ø A Compelling Look At The Quest For The Origins Of Human Language From An Accomplished Linguist Language Is A Distinctly Human Gift However, Because It Leaves No Permanent Trace, Its Evolution Has Long Been A Mystery, And It Is Only In The Last Fifteen Years That We Have Begun To Understand How Language Came Into Being The First Word Is The Compelling Story Of The Quest For The Origins Of Human Language The Book Follows Two Intertwined Narratives The First Is An Account Of How Language Developed How The Random And Layered Processes Of Evolution Wound Together To Produce A Talking Animal Us The Second Addresses Why Scientists Are At Last Able To Explore The Subject For Than A Hundred Years, Language Evolution Was Considered A Scientific Taboo Kenneally Focuses On Figures Like Noam Chomsky And Steven Pinker, Along With Cognitive Scientists, Biologists, Geneticists, And Animal Researchers, In Order To Answer The Fundamental Question Is Language A Uniquely Human Phenomenon The First Word Is The First Book Of Its Kind Written For A General Audience Sure To Appeal To Fans Of Steven Pinker S The Language Instinct And Jared Diamond S Guns, Germs, And Steel, Kenneally S Book Is Set To Join Them As A Seminal Account Of Human History His theories accepted as gospel, Noam Chomsky dominates linguistics, for better or worse, and because Chomsky considers language evolution unimportant, most linguists ignore the subject reflexively Christine Kenneally, however, goes where other linguists fear to tread she ponders the evolution of language, its implications, and why it matters.Kenneally introduces research I never learned in school, research I find fascinating now Still, I would have liked substantive data much of the research is presented as anecdotes, the finer details glossed over or omitted For example, some say language affects how we view in the world, that without words for things numbers or colors, for example , we cannot see them If this is true, someone must explain how language creeps into the eyes and selectively bends light there This hardly seems possible.The book is well written and its bibliography is complete Whatever questions the book fails to address, I can find their answers elsewhere. Split into two parts, because of length The First Word , Christine Kenneally s search for the origins of language comes with its share of celebrity endorsements The back cover contains laudatory blurbs from both Steven Pinker a clear and splendidly written account and author of The Ghost Map , Steven Johnson, a rare and delightful mix Then there is the following gem on the inside jacket cover The First Word is not only a compelling historical account of our greatest intellectual faculty but a provocative consideration of what it means, finally, to be human.Well, it seems hardly fair to hold an author accountable for whatever silliness her publishers might assemble on a book s exterior in the interest of boosting sales Let s just say that this book is ambitious in its scope and that the author is obviously academically well qualified My own formal qualifications in the field of linguistics are non existent, so this review is from the point of view of a non specialist with a keen amateur interest in the topic.An obvious question is this a book for the non specialist I think that the publishers would like to market it as such, and that Dr Kenneally possibly thinks of it that way But, much as I wanted to like this book, if it is meant to be accessible to the general reader, I think it falls well short of the mark This is not to say it s not interesting there are parts which I found fascinating But it gives the distinct impression that the author did not have a well defined audience in mind, or if she meant it to be accessible to the general reader she has not mastered the ability to write effectively for a non specialist audience The problems manifest themselves in two main areas First, the question of scope and organization There is a definite sense that the author wants this to be a totally comprehensive account of the current state of knowledge This is fine, but ultimately greatly increases the indigestibility of the book The book s structure is unwieldy to the point where one wonders whether Viking actually had an editor read it A prelude , followed by an introduction , leading in to a prologue What were they thinking The sixteen chapters of the book follow an equally awkward organizational structure Four are devoted to specific linguists Chomsky, Pinker Bloom Seven discuss specific features of human language, such as words and syntax, but are clumsily titled For example, grouped under the blanket heading If you have human language are the chapters You have something to talk about You have words You have gestures You have a human brain The next three chapters are grouped under the heading What evolves , and are titled Species evolve Culture evolves Why things evolve That the author finds it necessary to remind us that a human brain is a prerequisite for human language, or does not appear to recognize that why things evolve does not answer the question what evolves are, of course, minor details Nonetheless, these potentially distracting irritants could have been avoided, given a little aggressive intervention by a professional editor.
I picked this up because I wanted to see what happened to evolutionary linguistics after Pinker s Language Instinct The main thing I learned from this book is that not all evolutionary linguists share Steven Pinker s disdain for chimpanzee sign language experiments Kenneally is strongly attached to the view that human language skills are not particularly unique in the animal world Consequently, she paints Noam Chomsky as a villain who, with his focus on complex human syntax and universal grammar and by implication human uniqueness , has led evolutionary linguistics into fruitless controversy and blind paths I m willing to be persuaded about this, but the evidence she presents doesn t establish her case Her writing lacks the charm of Pinker s In some spots, the material was too dumbed down In too many others, it seemed a dry recitation of the literature For non linguists, I suggest waiting for Pinker s next book, despite his biases, rather than reading this one. If you ve ever wondered how different you and your cat are or if Noam Chomsky might be an asshole, you should read this book It doesn t actually say that Noam Chomsky is an asshole, quite the opposite actually, that s just me.The author writes with great objectivity and keeps thing moving along with an interesting but unobtrusive voice.