Guy Deutscher, Through the Language Glass (New York Time's book review by Derek Bickerton)

wings

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
    • Posts: 72550
    • Gender:Female
  • Vicky Papaprodromou
Words Cannot Express

By Derek Bickerton
Published: September 3, 2010

Is language first and foremost an artifact of culture? Or is it largely determined by human biology? This issue has been argued back and forth for a couple of centuries with no clear resolution in sight. Guy Deutscher’s 2005 book “The Unfolding of Language” placed him firmly in the pro-culture camp. Now, in his new book, “Through the Language Glass,” he examines some idiosyncratic aspects of particular languages that, in his opinion, cast further doubt on biologically based theories of language.

Deutscher starts with the puzzling fact that many languages lack words for what (to English speakers) seem to be basic colors. For anyone interested in the development of ideas, Deutscher’s first four chapters make fascinating reading. Did you know that the British statesman William Gladstone was also an accomplished Greek scholar who, noting among other things the surprising absence of any term for “blue” in classical Greek texts, theorized that full-color vision had not yet developed in humans when those texts were composed? Or that a little-known 19th-century philologist named Lazarus Geiger made profound and surprising discoveries about how languages in general divide up the color spectrum, only to have his discoveries ignored and forgotten and then rediscovered a century later? Did you know that Siegfried Sassoon’s World War I psychiatrist, William Rivers, carried out the earliest psychological experiments to test the precise relationship between the colors people could name and the colors they actually saw?

[...]


Full article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/05/books/review/Bickerton-t.html?_r=1&nl=books&emc=booksupdateema3
Ο λόγος είναι μεγάλη ανάγκη της ψυχής. (Γιώργος Ιωάννου)


 

Search Tools