- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Arrow (3 Feb. 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0099505576
- ISBN-13: 978-0099505570
- Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 2.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Through the Language Glass: Why The World Looks Different In Other Languages Paperback – 3 Feb 2011
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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)
"Fabulously interesting ... a remarkably rich, provocative and intelligent work of pop science" (Sunday Times)
"Brilliant [and] beautifully written" (Financial Times)
"So robustly researched and wonderfully told that it is hard to put down" (New Scientist)
"A delight to read" (Spectator)
A brilliant and provocative exploration of how the cultures we live in affect the languages we speak and how we think of the world around us.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
One issue seems rather dry and academic, but turns out to be anything but - names for colours and their development over time, starting with a book about Homer, by Gladstone (yes, the Victorian PM), which drew conclusions about colour perception by the Ancient Greeks from descriptions like "wine-dark sea". Similar discredited notions are ideas like speakers of languages with complex sets of tenses having a more highly-developed notion of time than those who use fewer tenses or none at all. Deutscher shows how the desire to get rid of silly nonsense has resulted in some equally silly nonsense, like the tenet that all languages are "equally complex" whether they belong to an 'advanced' Western civilisation or a 'primitive' aboriginal group. Far more acceptable of course than the notion that the 'primitive' language reflects racial inferiority, but still nonsense, because we have no way of measuring how complex a language is - we may as well say that all languages are equally green.
The other dodgy old notion is that your mother tongue affects the way you think. Deutscher shows that in a few ways, it actually does.Read more ›
How a language deals with colors is just one of the ways that linguist Guy Deutscher examines the interplay between language and thought. For many years, it was THE controversy in linguistic circles. But even if the phrases "Sapir-Whorf" and "Chomskian grammar" do not make you see red or any other color, you will find Deutscher's investigations into how language affects thought and vice versa, fascinating and enlightening.
He discusses why, in the Iliad, Homer described both the sea and oxen as being "wine-colored." He describes a society in which the people use points of the compass to describe locations rather than "left" and "right," and how that affects their sense of place.
Through the Language Glass had me seriously questioning what I thought I knew about language. Deutscher challenges conventional linguistic theories and seems to have a great time doing it. Through the Language Glass is the kind of book that you want to share with everyone and find out what they think about it, too. Is Deutscher crazy? Is he brilliant? Both, probably.
Also recommended -- When Languages Die: The Extinction of the World's Languages and the Erosion of Human Knowledge by K. David Harrison, and Harrison's documentary, The Linguists.
The author has an elegant classical writing style and I bought the book at his Wandsworth Arts Festival presentation last autumn.
Deutscher gives a fascinating introductory tour d'horizon of linguistics and its history. He shows how views have veered from stressing the commonality of languages to Whorf's ideas on different languages defining radically different perceptions of reality in different tribes and peoples.
But the author's style is more that of a populariser rather than a scientist, and the book alludes to studies and evidence rather than originating anything new. In my view, his conclusions are rather tame and (as he would no doubt admit) need further evidential backing.
Deutscher's bold hypothesis is that in important ways language can affect not just how we describe the world, but how we actually perceive it (although he rejects Whorf's extreme views.) If this were the case in terms of eg major intellectual and cognitive concepts then it would be revolutionary. However his conclusions in three areas seem rather more marginal and perhaps disappointing given the build-up:-
- Colour perception Gladstone (yes the 19th c. P.M.) made a study in which he claimed the classical Greeks described the sea or sky as black or wine coloured. Deutscher claims modern studies show differences in colour perception in different nationalities, but the quoted examples merely show subtle differences in analysing shades of green, blue and grey ie. close neighbours on the colour spectrum . But this is hardly the same as someone describing a red apple as green and it could be pointed out that there are sometimes arguments within a language as to how to describe a colour in say, a specific picture.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Just as good as his first book.
Read it together with Jackendoff, "A User's Guide to Thought and Meaning", which I also recommend. Read more
This is the best kind of popular language book, both trying to shake the academic tree a little bit and welcoming any old reader in. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Merget
A fascinating book that was very well written and clearly thoroughly researched. Deutscher's humorous and eloquent tone prevent it from becoming a heavily academic book, but rather... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Anna