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Through the Language Glass: How Words Colour Your World Hardcover – Jul 5 2010

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Heinemann (July 5 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 043401690X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0434016907
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.9 x 24 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 680 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,011,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"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 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.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I’ve probably mentioned before in some of my reviews, that it’s so rare to find a writer nowadays that skillfully walks the golden mean between two extreme sides of an issue. When achieved, this balanced approach to exploring an issues actually defined what it means to explore an issue, to understand the crux of the issue, and to clarify it for others. Deutscher does this in Through the language glass.

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a beautiful account of the evolution of a few intriguing questions that arise in the boundaries of linguistics and neuroscience. It discribes beautiful experiments and findings, and anyone interested in languages will enjoy it greatly.
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By Dave and Joe TOP 500 REVIEWER on Jan. 7 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Just got it, am already into the book - a completely engaging read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars 89 reviews
71 of 75 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kindle Users Beware!! Dec 17 2010
By West Sider - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Overall this is an excellent and informative discussion of how language influences thought, and I enjoyed reading it. Unfortunately for Kindle readers, Mr. Deutscher dedicates a significant portion of the analysis to the words and perceptions of color. There are numerous references to colors in charts and diagrams that are undoubtedly easily viewed in the printed version of the book, but are either recreated in black and white or totally absent from the Kindle version. (The Kindle for Mac view does not compensate.) Had I known this, I would have refrained from buying the e-reader edition, and would have purchased the hard cover book instead. I assign an average rating of three stars as a blended evaluation; the text itself I would rate five stars; the Kindle version gets one.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book, fun, know what to expect and what not Sept. 30 2016
By Dutiful son-in-law - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Thus is a good book and a "good read", well written. Sometimes one is excited to get to a conclusion from a set of experiments. I am glad I read it. It is so that some of the reviews promised too much. Language clearly does influence how people think, but as explained iin subtle ways not yet fully understood. Some of the research is in early stages and awaits technical advances. The author is very realistic about this. So one will not fine dramatic stories of why diplomatic negotiations failed because the participants did not understand what the different languages meant. But one will learn why some cultures think differently about color or spacial orientation and how language plays a key if not controlling role in that. Read it to learn and expand your horizons, but don't expect unrealistic conclusions or explanations beyond where the field stands.
137 of 149 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Four stars for content; minus one for Kindle deficiencies Oct. 3 2010
By David M. Giltinan - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The first foreign language I learned to complete fluency was German - after five years of high school German I spent a year at a German boys' boarding school. At the end of that year I was completely fluent, but noticed an odd phenomenon, that I felt like a slightly different person when I spoke German than when speaking English. Since then I've also learned Spanish to a high degree of fluency, and the same observation holds. In both cases, the main difference that I perceive has to do with humor, and the way the language I'm speaking affects my sense of humor. So I've always been interested in the extent to which language affects thought. The notion that it does is what linguists refer to as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Belief in Sapir-Whorf reached its peak in the first half of the 20th century, but since then the notion that language affects cognition has been discredited by almost all mainstream linguists.

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.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and informative read Oct. 3 2015
By Mark Evans - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A colorful account of the development of our understanding of how language, thought, and culture interact. Also a sobering account of how ignorant we still remain.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent .... Jan. 17 2016
By Deb - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
History and description of the state of the science of language and brain. Clearly written and engaging to the lay reader