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


Product Details

Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publish Date
6.2 X 1.4 X 9.3 inches | 1.27 pounds
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About the Author

Daniel L. Everett is Dean of Arts and Sciences at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts.


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
[Everett] mixes esoteric scholarly inquiry with approachable anecdotal interludes to surmise how humans developed written and spoken language and why it became vital for survival and dominance. As in his previous books, Everett energetically attacks the long-accepted theory of Noam Chomsky that humans are born with the language instinct, including innate rules of structure....That Everett is skilled at leavening an intellectually challenging treatise with humor is evident on the first page of the introduction.
Moving far outside historical linguistics, Everett credits Homo erectus with having invented language nearly two million years ago. This communicative invention came not--in Everett's view--in one revolutionary breakthrough but, instead, at the slow pace typical of evolution, as early hominids gradually organized themselves in ever-more-complex social groupings, eventually learning to fashion culturally weighted symbols and then to manipulate such symbols in communicative strings, so setting the evolutionary stage for the planet's only loquacious species: Homo sapiens. . . . Certain to spark that liveliest form of language--debate!--Bryce Christensen
Provocative and ambitious. . . . Applying semantics, linguistic theory, cultural history, and popular culture, [Everett] makes a convincing case for the multimodal nature of language--a phenomenon that engages 'the whole person--intellectual emotions, hands, mouth, tongue, brain.' . . . This volume will be of interest to linguists, cultural critics, and anthropologists as well as informed readers interested in the evolution of language.--Herbert E. Shapiro
Ambitious...the subject-matter is completely enthralling...Everett is at the very top of his intellectual game.--Harry Ritchie
Important and fascinating.--Adrian Woolfson
An ambitious text.... Everett's amiable tone, and especially his captivating anecdotes from his field studies in the Amazonian rain forests, will help the neophyte get along. It's worth it in the end to get a glimpse of conversation through his eyes, as humanity's most impressive collective invention.--Melissa Dahl, New York Times Book Review