New Book: THE UNFOLDING OF LANGUAGE by Guy Deutscher (fwd)

Funknet List Admin funkadmn at
Fri May 20 19:33:06 UTC 2005

I have been asked to forward the following book announcement, which will
undoubtedly be of interest to many Funknet list members.  Please address
any further queries or replies to the original sender, not to the Funknet
Admin address.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 20 May 2005 15:15:53 -0400
From: Richard Rhorer <richard.rhorer at>
Subject: New Book:  THE UNFOLDING OF LANGUAGE by Guy Deutscher

Book Notice:

Metropolitan Books is pleased to announce the publication of The Unfolding
of Language : an evolutionary tour of mankind's greatest invention, by Guy

Publication date: June 1, 2005 (US); May 5, 2005 (UK)
Publisher: Metropolitan (Henry Holt, US), Heinemann (Random House, UK)

Book URL: <>
Publisher URL:

Author: Guy Deutscher, University of Leiden

Hardback (US): ISBN: 0805079076, Pages: 360 pp, Price: $ 26.00
Hardback (UK): ISBN: 043401155X, Pages: 360 pp, Price: ₤ 20.00


“Language is mankind’s greatest invention – except of course, that it was
never invented.” So begins Guy Deutscher’s investigation into the evolution
of language.  No one believes that the Roman Senate sat down one day to
design Latin grammar, and few believe, these days, in the literal truth of
the story of the Tower of Babel. But then how did there come to be so many
languages of such elaborate design? If we started off with rudimentary
utterances on the level of “man throw spear,” how did we end up with
sophisticated grammars, enormous vocabularies, and intricately nuanced
shades of meaning? Drawing on recent discoveries in modern linguistics, The
Unfolding of Language exposes the elusive forces of creation at work in
human communication. The emergence of linguistic complexity is reconstructed
from an imaginary “Me Tarzan” stage to the expressive power of languages
today. Arguing that destruction and creation in language are intimately
entwined, Deutscher shows how these processes are continuously in operation,
generating new words, new structures, and new meanings. From the written
records of lost civilizations to the spoken idiom of today’s streets, we
move from ancient Babylonian through medieval French to the English of the
present. We marvel at the triumph of design that is the Semitic verb, puzzle
over single words that can express highly elaborate sentiments, such as the
Turkish sehirlilestiremediklerimizdensiniz (“you are one of those whom we
couldn’t turn into a town-dweller”), and observe how great changes of
pronunciation may result from an age old human habit - simple laziness.
Through the dramatic story of The Unfolding of Language, we discover the
genius behind a uniquely human faculty.

Advance praise:

"Exciting, witty, and a masterpiece of contemporary scholarship." -
Elizabeth Closs Traugott, Stanford University.

"At last, an entertaining and readable book that presents the most current
views on language and its evolution. Deutscher recreates for his readers the
joy of discovery that many of the forces that created language for the first
time are still in action today.” - Joan Bybee, University of New Mexico.

"Thoroughly enjoyable... Guy Deutscher is an erudite and entertaining guide
through the paradoxes and complexities of language evolution." - Gene Gragg,
University of Chicago


Introduction:'This marvellous invention’

Chapter 1: A Castle in the Air

Chapter 2: Perpetual Motion

Chapter 3: The Forces of Destruction

Chapter 4: A Reef of Dead Metaphors

Chapter 5: The Forces of Creation

Chapter 6: Craving for Order

Chapter 7: The Unfolding of Language


Appendix A: Flipping Categories

Appendix B: Laryngeals Again?

Appendix C: The Devil in the Detail

Appendix D: The Cook’s Counterpoint

Appendix E: The Turkish Mirror


Richard Rhorer

Director of Marketing

Henry Holt and Company

The Henry Holt offices have moved.  Please note my new mailing address and
phone number.

175 Fifth Avenue

New York, NY 10010


More information about the Funknet mailing list