The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language

Christine Kenneally, Author . Viking $26.95 (357p) ISBN 978-0-670-03490-1

T his book grows out of Kenneally's conviction that “investigating the evolution of language is a good and worthwhile pursuit”—a stance that most in the field of linguistics disparaged until about 20 years ago. The result is a book that is as much about evolutionary biology as it is about linguistics. We read about work with chimpanzees, bonobos, parrots and even robots that are being programmed to develop language evolutionarily. Kenneally, who has written about language, science and culture for the New Yorker and Discover among others, has a breezily journalistic style that is occasionally witty but more often pragmatic, as she tries to distill academic and scientific discourses into terms the casual reader will understand. She introduces the major players in the field of linguistics and behavioral studies—Noam Chomsky, Steven Pinker, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and Philip Lieberman—as well as countless other anthropologists, biologists and linguists. Kenneally's insistence upon seeing human capacity for speech on an evolutionary continuum of communication that includes all other animal species provides a respite from ideological declamations about human supremacy, but the book will appeal mainly to those who are drawn to the nuts and bolts of scientific inquiry into language. (July 23)

Reviewed on: 05/14/2007
Release date: 08/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 978-1-4295-4122-0
Paperback - 357 pages - 978-0-14-311374-4
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 978-1-4295-4123-7
Open Ebook - 368 pages - 978-1-101-20239-5
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