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The Seeds of Speech: Language Origin and Evolution

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Human language is a weird communication system: it has more in common with birdsong than with the calls of other primates. Jean Aitchison explores the origins of human language and how it has evolved. She likens the search to a vast prehistoric jigsaw puzzle, in which numerous fragments of evidence must be assembled. Such evidence is pieced together from a mixture of lingu Human language is a weird communication system: it has more in common with birdsong than with the calls of other primates. Jean Aitchison explores the origins of human language and how it has evolved. She likens the search to a vast prehistoric jigsaw puzzle, in which numerous fragments of evidence must be assembled. Such evidence is pieced together from a mixture of linguistic and nonlinguistic sources such as evolution theory, archaeology, psychology, and anthropology. This is an accessible and wide-ranging introduction to the origins and evolution of human language.


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Human language is a weird communication system: it has more in common with birdsong than with the calls of other primates. Jean Aitchison explores the origins of human language and how it has evolved. She likens the search to a vast prehistoric jigsaw puzzle, in which numerous fragments of evidence must be assembled. Such evidence is pieced together from a mixture of lingu Human language is a weird communication system: it has more in common with birdsong than with the calls of other primates. Jean Aitchison explores the origins of human language and how it has evolved. She likens the search to a vast prehistoric jigsaw puzzle, in which numerous fragments of evidence must be assembled. Such evidence is pieced together from a mixture of linguistic and nonlinguistic sources such as evolution theory, archaeology, psychology, and anthropology. This is an accessible and wide-ranging introduction to the origins and evolution of human language.

30 review for The Seeds of Speech: Language Origin and Evolution

  1. 5 out of 5

    Judyta Szaciłło

    I got this book as a follow-up read after Guy Deutscher's The Unfolding Of Language. Aitchison is no match to Deutscher's skillful writing, I must say. The narrative doesn't flow as nicely; one of the reasons being that there are too many quotes and, therefore, the text as a whole lacks consistency in style. Having said that, it is a very informative introduction to various linguistic theories on the beginnings of human language, though in some aspects it's probably dated as the book was publish I got this book as a follow-up read after Guy Deutscher's The Unfolding Of Language. Aitchison is no match to Deutscher's skillful writing, I must say. The narrative doesn't flow as nicely; one of the reasons being that there are too many quotes and, therefore, the text as a whole lacks consistency in style. Having said that, it is a very informative introduction to various linguistic theories on the beginnings of human language, though in some aspects it's probably dated as the book was published in late 1990s.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Aram

    This book is a pleasure to read for almost anyone with any level of background knowledge that they have. I found this book to be a brilliant introduction to some contemporary discussions albeit rather outdated in some aspects. The best feature of this book is its accessible language and its numerous citations of interesting and informative researches. After reading the second chapter I thought there is too much repetition of what has already been said but this is probably the reason why I could This book is a pleasure to read for almost anyone with any level of background knowledge that they have. I found this book to be a brilliant introduction to some contemporary discussions albeit rather outdated in some aspects. The best feature of this book is its accessible language and its numerous citations of interesting and informative researches. After reading the second chapter I thought there is too much repetition of what has already been said but this is probably the reason why I could recall a big part of what I had read so easily. all in all this is a very basic but useful intro to linguistics for those who are only beginning their journey in language.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Stephanos Paliakidis

    A simply gorgeous book, simply describing basic linguistic topics, even for a person that doesn't have the appropriate knowledge. A great introduction to the world of linguistics. A simply gorgeous book, simply describing basic linguistic topics, even for a person that doesn't have the appropriate knowledge. A great introduction to the world of linguistics.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Moetanabbi

    Dit boek las ik in de Nederlandse vertaling : De sprekende aap : Over oorsprong en evolutie van de menselijke taal. De auteur was me reeds bekend van de Reith Lecture Series 1996 : The language web. Het is een onderwerp dat me geweldig interesseert en ik heb er al redelijk wat populariserende boeken over gelezen, maar in dit boek ik heb heel wat teruggevonden, waarover ik nog nooit iets gelezen had. Ze slaagt erin voorbeelden te geven van fenomenen die in onze taal eerder als randverschijnsel opt Dit boek las ik in de Nederlandse vertaling : De sprekende aap : Over oorsprong en evolutie van de menselijke taal. De auteur was me reeds bekend van de Reith Lecture Series 1996 : The language web. Het is een onderwerp dat me geweldig interesseert en ik heb er al redelijk wat populariserende boeken over gelezen, maar in dit boek ik heb heel wat teruggevonden, waarover ik nog nooit iets gelezen had. Ze slaagt erin voorbeelden te geven van fenomenen die in onze taal eerder als randverschijnsel optreden, maar in andere talen waar ik me voor interesseer wel prominenter aanwezig zijn. Zo is er bijvoorbeeld het onderscheid bezield/niet bezield (levend/niet levend), waarbij het levende wezen voorrang geniet op het niet levende (in het Russisch is er de zogenaamde accusatief-genitief, waarbij voor bezielde wezens een genitief wordt gebruikt, in het Arabisch is er een speciale werkwoordsvorm voor kleuren of voor eigenschappen van mensen, zoals bijvoorbeeld doof of blind zijn). Ik had er nooit bij stil gestaan dat dit leven/ niet leven onderscheid blijkbaar iets universeels is en ik wist al helemaal niet dat het ook in het Nederlands voorkomt. Het boek behandelt vele thema's en men kan dus geen geweldige diepgang verwachten. De samenvattingen aan het eind van elk hoofdstuk laten toe om het materiaal beter te verteren, maar dit is een stevige brok. Een pluim voor de vertaler, dit lijkt me geen doordeweekse opgave. Ik ga het boek zeker nog eens lezen, verplicht materiaal voor elke amateur taalliefhebber, waartoe ik mezelf reken.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Roberta

    This is an excellent and very well-researched book on the origin of language as a human phenomenon. The writer is widely read, and has referenced studies from anthropology, psychology and history, as well as linguistics, and literature sources that support the views. A book to own and refer to regularly for language enthusiasts and students of linguistics.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ariane

    Really interesting book. Sometimes, I got a bit lost because a section was heavy in linguistics, but for the most part, I think the average person interested in linguistics would find this book very palatable. The author uses great examples.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Vicki Johnson

    Informative and written for the non-linguist, however I just couldn't get past the use of quotes from novels, children's books and Roman philosophers. Fiction and archaic literature cannot provide serious support for non-fiction writing. Informative and written for the non-linguist, however I just couldn't get past the use of quotes from novels, children's books and Roman philosophers. Fiction and archaic literature cannot provide serious support for non-fiction writing.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Matthias

    Interesting in some chapters, but a pity that the interesting parts are so concise. Also, I guess more than half of the book is filled with irrelevant quotes from writers, poets and politicians...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kees IJzerman

  10. 4 out of 5

    Boštjan

  11. 5 out of 5

    Raquel

  12. 5 out of 5

    AdmiljanD

  13. 5 out of 5

    possum-mom

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

  15. 5 out of 5

    Faruk Rana

  16. 5 out of 5

    Abby

  17. 4 out of 5

    Annika

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anya Konecki

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rossdavidh

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hibben

  21. 4 out of 5

    a.y.w

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shandra

  23. 4 out of 5

    berns

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bre

  25. 4 out of 5

    Heather Davis

  26. 5 out of 5

    Guto

  27. 4 out of 5

    Michał Gajewski

  28. 5 out of 5

    Danny Housley

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mya

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tiago Kreusch

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