Language: The Cultural Tool

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  1. Language: The Cultural Tool (Vintage);
  2. Daniel Everett.
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Views Total views. This is an intellectual cri de coeur and a profound celebration of human diversity A very rich but also very readable book. Controversial, driven by data from across the sciences, and leavened with wit - Language: The Cultural Tool is the book on language I have been waiting and waiting for.

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Language: The Cultural Tool

All that to get a ball down a hill, and I left out some tricky bits. These phantom leaps make sense only with ingrown justifications that, by the year, have less and less to do with developments in psychology, biology or genetics. It is the Chomskyan take on language that Daniel L. There must be a genetic program for learning language, which as a pan-human trait should be applicable to any language a child hears. Languages seem so vastly different from one another, but for Chomskyans this is a mere matter of word shapes; in terms of how we put the words together, languages are all minor variations on a single universal grammar — the one underlying that jumping-He-on-the-tree phenomenon.

Yet after almost 50 years, serious evidence for a universal grammar remains elusive.

‘Language: The Cultural Tool,’ by Daniel L. Everett

How humans learn language is much more easily accounted for by psychologists than the Chomskyans claim. Surely our brains and bodies have evolved to optimize our language abilities. View all New York Times newsletters. The quiet smile perfusing his writing is all the more admirable given the criticisms he has endured from linguists wedded to the He-jumping school of thought.

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This nonconfrontational quality has its disadvantages, though. This saps his argument of a certain force. Of course culture shapes language, and Everett nicely covers many of the ways it does.

Indigenous languages, for instance, often require specifying where things happen in relation to mountains and rivers, with a precision linked to the environment the language is spoken in.

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