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Adam's Tongue: How Humans Made Language, How Language Made Humans ePub download

by Derek Bickerton

  • Author: Derek Bickerton
  • ISBN: 0809016478
  • ISBN13: 978-0809016471
  • ePub: 1629 kb | FB2: 1744 kb
  • Language: English
  • Category: Dramas & Plays
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; First edition (March 2, 2010)
  • Pages: 304
  • Rating: 4.3/5
  • Votes: 952
  • Format: rtf azw lrf mobi
Adam's Tongue: How Humans Made Language, How Language Made Humans ePub download

Distributed in Canada by Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.

A division of farrar, straus and giroux. Distributed in Canada by Douglas & McIntyre Ltd. Printed in the United States of America. 1st ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index.

In Adam's Tongue, Derek Bickerton―long a leading authority in this field―shows how and why previous attempts to solve that problem have fallen short. Taking cues from topics as diverse as the foraging strategies of ants.

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Derek Bickerton is an emeritus professor of linguistics at the University of Hawaii.

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How language evolved has been called "the hardest problem in science." In Adam's Tongue, Derek Bickerton―long a leading authority in this field―shows how and why previous attempts to solve that problem have fallen short. Taking cues from topics as diverse as the foraging strategies of ants, the distribution of large prehistoric herbivores, and the construction of ecological niches, Bickerton produces a dazzling new alternative to the conventional wisdom.

Language is unique to humans, but it isn't the only thing that sets us apart from other species―our cognitive powers are qualitatively different. So could there be two separate discontinuities between humans and the rest of nature? No, says Bickerton; he shows how the mere possession of symbolic units―words―automatically opened a new and different cognitive universe, one that yielded novel innovations ranging from barbed arrowheads to the Apollo spacecraft.

Written in Bickerton's lucid and irreverent style, this book is the first to thoroughly integrate the story of how language evolved with the story of how humans evolved. Sure to be controversial, it will make indispensable reading both for experts in the field and for every reader who has ever wondered how a species as remarkable as ours could have come into existence.'

Vuzahn
Several reviewers here complain about Bickerton's occasionally nasty tone in this book, particularly regarding the ideas of his colleagues. But I think he gives an unintentional clue to what lies ahead early on, when he says he didn't have to write this book. He could, he says, have simply laid out by the pool with a pitcher of margaritas and blown the days away. And that may be just what he did here. Imagine yourself sitting out by the pool with one of the world's top linguists. Let him get a little liquored up, then listen to him hold forth without reservation on a topic that he clearly loves. This is how people actually talk about their work before someone tells them they have to clean things up for tomorrow's PowerPoint presentation at the office. In this case, we get the dirty version. It may be annoying from time to time, but it is also perhaps more fun overall.

This book is a little flatulent, often repetitive, sometimes can't figure out what its target ought to be. There are interesting suppositions that could easily be right. There are other aspects where I am sure he is either quite wrong, or just looking for answers in the wrong place because those are the only places he knows to look. If you demand *the* definitive answer to the question of where language came from, this book isn't it. But neither is any other book you're likely to read in any current lifetime. It is a good run at at least some of an answer, which will probably lead to more of an answer later on. That's how science works.
Oparae
Adam's Tongue is an extraordinary book. It tackles one of the most fascinating questions in human evolution, challenging many widely-held assumptions along the way. Its author's enthusiasm is contagious, and his irreverent humor makes it one of the funniest science books ever. And it is also a detective story, in which an eighty-year-old linguist attempts to solve the mystery of how we became human.

Unless you are an expert in the field, prepare to be surprised by many of his ideas. Bickerton is an original thinker, and he makes a number of counterintuitive but well-supported arguments that will make you reconsider things you used to take for granted. But his most controversial claim is the book's thesis: selective pressures which caused our ancestors to invent language had to come from their external environment.

That view is radically different from other theories of language origins, which focus on intra-species pressures. It is also at odds with every popular account of human evolution, in that it implies that our pre-linguistic ancestors discovered an ecological niche that was more special than their big brains. Moreover, that niche had to be so unique that no other animal ever stumbled into it. It may sound absurd, but so does the idea of animals inventing language, yet we are a living proof that it happened. Drastic phenomena call for drastic explanations.

If you are curious as to what that ecological niche might have been, Bickerton offers an ingenious hypothesis which can be backed up by the fossil record. Even if it fails to convince you - and he is the first to admit that it won't be the last word on the subject - you have to appreciate its beauty and the power of imagination behind it. But this review is not the place to reveal it (and those that do should include spoiler alerts). Read the book and find out for yourself, it is absolutely worth it!
Nikobar
I found the arguments in this book about how language originate at all quite compelling. Most of the explanatory devices appealed to by other authors on the subject are, as the author states, things which would help select for language once it got going, but not things that would get it started. In the first section of the book he shows this, and re-examines many other flawed conceptions that previous researchers have used to find clues as to what got speech going (such as looking in our closest cousins who do not have language rather than looking at what set our ancestors apart from them). That said, the book is very much focused on what got something resembling language started in the first place, with only a few chapters dedicated to how this linguistic seed would have developed, and very little discussion into the particulars of how later iterations of what would become language would help people construct niches. (The book is firmly founded in niche construction theory, but provides background on such.) He ends on a really neat note comparing human and ant activities and discussing continuing evolution in the human species, but I really wish there had been one more chapter at the end.
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