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The Unfolding of Language


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« on: August 06, 2022, 11:18:13 am »

The Unfolding of Language, by Guy Deutscher (2006)
An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention

Language is a tool of extraordinary sophistication, yet based on an idea of ingenious simplicity: "this marvellous invention of composing out of twenty-five or thirty sounds that infinite variety of expressions which, whilst having in themselves no likeness to what is in our mind, allow us to disclose to others its whole secret, and to make known to those who cannot penetrate it all that we imagine, and all the various stirrings of our soul". This was how, in 1660, the renowned grammarians of the Port-Royal abbey near Versailles distilled the essence of language, and no one since has celebrated more eloquently the magnitude of its achievement. Even so, there is just one flaw in these hymns of praise, for the homage to language's unique accomplishment conceals a simple yet critical incongruity. Language is mankind's greatest invention - except, of course, that it was never invented.

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