'A highly original study of the evolution of language... A brilliant solution to a quandary that has puzzled people for many centuries... If [the] decay and simplification [of language] are constant and universal...how did...regular and complex languages come to exist in the first place? Deutscher's chosen task is to unravel that paradox, and he does so brilliantly, withholding the secret with great skill. If I told you how it works, you wouldn't buy the book. Suffice to say his explanation is both clever and convincing' Independent on Sunday
'Language is mankind's greatest invention - except of course, that it was never invented.'So begins Guy Deutscher's enthralling investigation into the evolution of language.No one believes that the Roman Senate sat down one day to design the complex system that is Latin grammar, and few believe, these days, in the literal truth of the story of the Tower of Babel. But then how did there come to be so many languages, and of such elaborate design?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 shades of meaning?
Drawing on recent, groundbreaking discoveries in modern linguistics, Deutscher exposes the elusive forces of creation at work in human communication. We learn why German maidens are neuter while German turnips are female, why we have feet not foots, and how great changes of pronunciation may result from simple laziness...
'He really ought to be read...by anyone who persists in complaining that the English language is going to the dogs... Interesting and substantial' Sunday Telegraphshow more