Talk Talk Talk: Decoding the Mysteries of Speech

Jay Ingram, Author Anchor Books $19 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-47383-5
Chimpanzees may have opposable thumbs, dolphins may have large brains, but humans still have the distinct advantage of speech. According to some scientists, it was the placement of the Cro-Magnon larynx that allowed a greater variety of vowel sounds (and hence language) and gave our forebears a leg up over Neanderthals. Canadian radio personality Ingram ( The Science of Everyday Life ) traces the evolution of speech from its deepest roots, through the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language, to 19th-century Hawaiian pidgen. But even after humans finally had language, they continued to have trouble using it. Talk, in Ingram's entertaining survey, is not only speech but eye contact, gesture and, of course, sexual dynamics. Covering physiology, history, pathology, psychology and tangential subjects like auditory hallucinations, this is a fascinating beginning book, one sure to get readers thinking about their own verbal interactions and eager to find out more. To that end, it would have been helpful to include a less quirky reading list--the very short one here includes Jean Auel's The Clan of the Cave Bear ; Susan Curtiss's scholarly study of the modern wild child Genie; and several titles that Ingram notes are not readily available. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/04/1994
Release date: 07/01/1994
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