This is a groundbreaking and controversial new theory about how we talk. Like other tools, language was invented, can be reinvented or lost, and shows significant variation across cultures. It's as essential to survival as fire - and, like fire, is found in all human societies. "Language" presents the bold and controversial idea that language is ...
This is a groundbreaking and controversial new theory about how we talk. Like other tools, language was invented, can be reinvented or lost, and shows significant variation across cultures. It's as essential to survival as fire - and, like fire, is found in all human societies. "Language" presents the bold and controversial idea that language is not an innate component of the brain as has been famously argued by Chomsky and Pinker. Rather, it's a cultural tool which varies much more across different societies than the innateness view suggests. Fusing adventure, anthropology, linguistics and psychology, and drawing on Everett's pioneering research with the Amazonian Pirahas, "Language" argues that language is embedded within - and is inseparable from - its specific culture. This book is like a fire that will generate much light. And much heat.
Publishers Weekly, 2012-01-09 Is language a genetically programmed instinct or something we pick up from the culture around us? This central controversy in linguistics and philosophy is roiled in this unfocused but stimulating treatise. Challenging Noam Chomsky, Steven Pinker, and other partisans of "nativism," which holds that certain kinds of knowledge are hard-wired into us (e.g., Chomsky's "universal grammar" underlying all languages), linguist Everett (Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes) argues that language is a practical tool for communicating and social bonding, determined by cultural needs and the practicalities of information sharing, that children learn through general intelligence. His sketchy, disorganized treatment touches on neuroscience, linguistics, and information theory; most tellingly, he spotlights nativists' failure to demonstrate that any meaningful universal grammar exists. Along the way, Everett regales readers with the quirks of the Amazonian Indian languages and cultures he studies-some have no words for numbers or colors-in anecdotes that are sometimes cogent but often just colorful. Everett's rambling, overstuffed exposition often loses its thread, and his discussion of cultural influences on language can be more truistic than incisive. Still, readers who hack through the undergrowth will find a compelling riposte to the reigning orthodoxies in linguistics. Photos. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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