January 19th, 2015

no Wanking!

The First Word, by Christine Kenneally - MLK Day

The Search for the Origins of Language

Like my search for a book about the origins of music, it seems my search for one about the origin of language may be long and difficult. Because this one was not fully satisfying. It started well, but the last half was tedious and uninformative. But you will, no doubt, be delighted to know that I took copious Kindle notes (in the interesting first half).

For me, this part of the story began in an introductory linguistics lecture in the early 1990s at the University of Melbourne. I can clearly remember my frustration when, after asking the lecturer about the origin of language, I was told that linguists don’t explore this topic: we don’t ask the question, because there is no definitive way to answer it.
The explanation given to me in a lecture hall in late-twentieth-century Australia had been handed down from teacher to student for the most part unchallenged since 1866, when the Société de Linguistique of Paris declared a moratorium on the topic.

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