How Language Began

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

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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.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 352 pages
  • 162 x 240 x 33mm | 660g
  • Profile Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • c. 60 half-tone and line printed in text
  • 1781253927
  • 9781781253922
  • 152,531

Review quote

Very few books on the biological and cultural origin of humanity can be ranked as classics. I believe that Daniel Everett's How Language Began will be one of them. -- Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University How Language Began occupies a rare literary space that explains complex issues clearly to general readers while being an original contribution to scholarship...the arguments he marshals and insights he provides are impressive...anyone interested in language would gain from reading this book. -- Oliver Kamm * Times * Ambitious...the subject-matter is completely enthralling...Everett is at the very top of his intellectual game. -- Harry Ritchie * Spectator * Important and fascinating -- Adrian Woolfson * Prospect * Everett is skilled at leavening an intellectually challenging treatise with humor ... A worthy book for general readers * Kirkus Reviews * Praise for Language: The Cultural Tool:
'A book whose importance is almost impossible to overstate. * Sunday Times * Revelatory. There is nothing about humans that is quite as astonishing as language. * Guardian * Impressively modest and reasoned. * Economist * The most important - and provocative - anthropological field work ever undertaken. -- Tom Wolfe Praise for Don't Sleep, There are Snakes:
'A worldwide bestseller that finds no competition from linguistic researchers. * New Scientist * A remarkable book. It is written with an immediacy even a Piraha might envy, and its conjunction of physical and intellectual adventure is irresistible. * Sunday Times *
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About Daniel Everett

Daniel Everett worked in the Amazon jungles of Brazil for over 30 years, among more than a dozen different tribal groups. He has published extensively on language and culture and is one of the world's most influential thinkers in both fields. His Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes was selected by Blackwell's bookstores as one of the best of 2009, was an 'editor's choice' of the Sunday Times and has been the subject of a film and a play. He is currently Dean of Arts and Sciences at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts.
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