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The Talking Ape: How Language Evolved [Paperback]

Robbins Burling

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Book Description

April 15 2007 0199214034 978-0199214037 1
In this mind-opening book, Robbins Burling presents the most convincing - and the most readable - account of the origins of language yet published. He sheds new light on how language affects the way we think, behave, and relate to each other, and he gives us a deeper understanding of the nature of language itself.



The author traces language back to its earliest origins among our distant ape-like forbears several million years ago. He offers a new account of the route by which we acquired our defining characteristic and explores the changing nature of language as it developed through the course of our evolution. He considers what the earliest forms of communication are likely to have been, how they worked, and why they were deployed. He examines the qualities of mind and brain needed to support the operations of language and the advantages they offered for survival and reproduction. He investigates the beginnings and prehistories of vocabulary and grammar; and connects workin fields extending from linguistics, sign languages, and psychology to palaeontology, evolutionary biology, and archaeology. And he does all this in a style that is crystal-clear, constantly enlivened by wit and humour.

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Review

`Review from previous edition Robbins Burling does a superb job of explaining just what language is and how it might have originated. This is one of those popular science books that just reads itself - although Burling does use a little jargon, he employs it sparingly, and with careful explanation. The text along the way is easy to follow and the arguments are absolutely fascinating... A delightful book for anyone interested in language or the development of the human mind. Popular Science' Popular Science

A great book ... one of the most approachable books on the development of human language available. Oxbow

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First Sentence
Few topics about which scholars have puzzled can be quite so intriguing and so tantalizing, but at the same time so frustrating, as the evolution of the human capacity for language. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Exquisite Conversation About Language April 4 2006
By mlund - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Simultaneously a study in evolution, language, the human psyche, and the challenges of intellectual rigor, this wonderful book is a thoughtful, thought-provoking, and even startling conversation about how we came to be the talking ape. While the book includes careful treatment (and frequent overturning) of competing theories and controversies within the discipline of linguistics, Burling moves deftly beyond them to work pragmatically at his subject for a general audience. He thinks crisply and writes enjoyably, and demonstrates fluency and fluidity handling a variety of topics in evolutionary theory. The topic overall, and this book in particular, offers much and will be a surprisingly rich exploration to the curious reader.
9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good book but...... July 21 2009
By J. R. Valery - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Burling's ideas about the evolution of language and his emphasis on meaning are very compelling.

A word of warning: His writing style is very dry, even by academic standards, so the book is actually very boring, though I recommend finishing it, as the ideas are good and relevant.

There is a major drawback in this book: It is unforgivable that, of all people, a linguist, misuses terminology such as "digital" and "analog" over and over again, to mean discreet and continuous. These terms come from electronics and mean, in order, "numerical" and "by analogy". Information is not digital unless it is described by numbers, unlike words; and not all analog systems and devices are continuous.

Go figure!
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