Through the Language Glass: How Words Colour Your World Hardcover – Jul 5 2010
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"Jaw-droppingly wonderful... A marvellous and surprising book which left me breathless and dizzy with delight. The ironic, playful tone at the beginning gradates into something serious that is never pompous, intellectually and historically complex and yet always pellucidly laid out. Plus I learned the word plaidoyer which I shall do my utmost to use every day..." Stephen Fry "This fabulously interesting book describes an area of intellectual history replete with brilliant leaps of intuition and crazy dead ends. Guy Deutscher, who combines enthusiasm with scholarly pugnacity...is a vigorous and engaging guide to it...a remarkably rich, provocative and intelligent work of pop science." -- Sam Leith Sunday Times "brilliant... As befits a book about language, this inspiring amalgam of cultural history and science is beautifully written." -- Clive Cookson Financial Times "so robustly researched and wonderfully told that it is hard to put down...Deutscher...brings together more than a century's worth of captivating characters, incidents and experiments that illuminate the relationship between words and mind" New Scientist "A delight to read" Spectator
About the Author
Guy Deutscher is the author of The Unfolding of Language: The Evolution of Mankind's Greatest Invention. Formerly a Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge, and of the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Languages in the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, he is an honorary Research Fellow at the School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures in the University of Manchester. Through the Language Glass is his third book. He lives in Oxford with his wife and two daughters.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Books about language, even the best of them, often get bogged down with explorations of grammar and structure concepts. In TtLG, the topic of color is the danger that seems to be lurking around corners, ready to bore the reader with expanse and detail. Not so, however. Deutscher provides a historical background to the revealing topic of color and language, revealing that contemporary discourse on the subject goes back nearly 200 years.
There are several insights related to color and language in the book, the most profound one for me is that languages differ by what they must convey, not by what they can convey. This is a great, simplistic way of understanding language, and all media. This of how it applied today in understanding the differences in the mediums that we choose to communicate: mediums are distinguished by the information that we are obliged to communicate when used.
Deutscher provides a great running commentary of the debate on whether language shapes thinking – he stresses that contrary to popular though , it can and does, while at the same time welcoming both sides of the issue. I love how he presents his thoughts, and feel that this approach (freedom within constraints) to understanding a difficult issue can be effectively applied to many contexts that are bogged down by dichotomic thinking, and writing.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In "Through the Language Glass" Guy Deutscher mounts a careful, very limited defence of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. He considers three major areas - the link between language and color perception, how different languages deal with spatial orientation, and the phenomenon of differences in noun genders across different languages. His examination of the link between language and color perception is extensive and thought-provoking - he traces the development of linguistic theory on color perception from British prime minister Gladstone's commentary on the relative paucity of color terms in Homer's work, through the Berlin-Kay model (stating essentially that languages all tend to split up the color spectrum in similar ways) through very recent experiments suggesting that the existence of a particular color distinction in a language (e.g. the existence of separate terms in Russian for light and dark blue) affects the brain's ability to perceive that distinction. Deutscher's account of the evolution of linguistic theory about color perception is a tour de force of scientific writing for a general audience - it is both crystal clear and a pleasure to read.
Two factors contributed to my eventual disappointment with this book. The first is that, even after Deutscher's careful, eloquent, persuasive analysis, one's final reaction has to be a regretful "So what?" In the end, it all seems to amount to little of practical importance.
The second disappointment pertained only to the experience of reading this book on an Amazon Kindle. Reference is made throughout to a "color insert" which evidently contained several color wheels as well as up to a dozen color illustrations. This feature was completely absent from the Kindle edition, which had a severe adverse effect on the overall experience of reading this book. Obviously, this point is relevant only if you are contemplating reading the Kindle version - DON'T!
If it hadn't been for the lack of availability of key illustrations on the Kindle, I would have given the book 4 stars, but I feel obliged to deduct one because of the Kindle-related deficiencies.