The Seeds of Speech: Language Origin and Evolution

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'We must be grateful to Jean Aitchison for so very readably assembling a good deal of recent work that might seem to hint at how language began ... liberally peppered with fetching quotations from all manner of sources, ranging from the cartoon character Charlie Brown through Lewis Carroll to Jonathan Swift's satirical novel Gulliver's Travels ... the author goes out of her way to offer a restful read to all comers.' The Times

'... communicate[s] often quite complex ideas about language in a straightforward, intelligible, and often witty way ... can be recommended to anyone with a curiosity about their language, where it came from, and how it reached its present state.' Child Language Teaching and Therapy

'She [Aitchison] carries her learning lightly and writes in a most comprehensible and often amusing way ... I wished I had been able to ask the many questions that the book raised in my mind but that is an indication of Professor Aitchison's ability to make the reader think.' The Expository Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521785716
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2012
  • Series: Canto Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 5.43 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface; Part I. Puzzles: 1. A natural curiosity: how did language begin?; 2. A peculiar habit: what is language for?; 3. The bother at Babel: why do languages differ so much?; 4. Distinct duties: is language an independent skill?; Part II. Origin: 5. The family tree: the evolutionary background; 6. A devious mind: the basic requirements; 7. Broken air: inherited ingredients; 8. Small beginnings: first steps; Part III. Evolution: 9. The secong word: the emergence of rules; 10. The tower of speech: expansion; 11. Time travelling: extra attachments; 12. Rebuilding on the high seas: keeping going; Part IV. Diffusion: 13. The widening circle: moving outwards; 14. The hidden core: the hunt for universals; 15. The real magician: ruling the rules; 16. Unweaving the rainbow: separating the strands; 17. The endless stair: past and future; Symbols used in the text; Notes and suggestions for further reading; References; Index.

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