The Search for the Perfect Language

Umberto Eco, Author, Eco, Author, Jacques Le Goff, Editor Wiley-Blackwell $97.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-631-17465-3
Before the bewildering Babel of tongues described in Genesis, humanity had just one perfect language, originating in the Garden of Eden, or so theologians and philosophers believed from the early Dark Ages to the Renaissance. In this erudite study, which will be heavy going for most readers, famed Italian novelist and linguist Eco mines a wealth of esoteric lore as he investigates a neglected chapter in the history of ideas. He begins with Dante's proposal for a universal vernacular in place of Latin, and Catalan friar Raymond Lull's combinatorial system of letters and symbols designed to explore metaphysical connections. He goes on to examine the Kabbalistic search for hidden messages in sacred Hebrew texts, the Rosicrucian society's symbolic writing in 17th-century Germany and French Enlightenment thinkers' invention of philosophical languages organized around fundamental categories of knowledge. He also surveys the search for a primordial language assumed by Augustine to be Hebrew and by later mother tongue-seekers to be Aramaic or various other languages. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 11/06/1995
Release date: 11/01/1995
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 385 pages - 978-0-00-686378-6
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-631-20510-4
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