The Language Game overturns established thought, showing how our language derives from the chaos of improvisation rather than from a built-in grammar or language instinct Drawing on wonderfully entertaining and persuasive examples from across the world it explains how culture has evolved, and what this means in a future of globalization, fake news and AI.
What is language? Why do we have it? Where does it come from? Why does that matter?
Upending centuries of scholarship (including, most recently, Chomsky and Pinker) and challenging our common sense view of language and, by extension, thought itself, The Language Game shows how people learn to talk not by acquiring fixed meanings and rules, but by picking up, reusing, and recombining countless linguistic fragments in novel ways. Talking is verbal charades- an improvisational game of spinning intricate patterns of words to get the message across. Each improvisation builds on the last, creating the richly layered patterns that comprise a language. The patterns in language are not wired into our brains or our genes- the spontaneous emergence of linguistic order turns out to be a story as remarkable as the emergence of life itself.
- Drawing on wonderfully entertaining and persuasive examples from across the world the book explains
- How we can understand each other given the speed of speech, the deluge of sounds and how short-lived our memory is.
- Why it is that language is such a challenge for linguists but learnt effortlessly by toddlers.
- Why we don’t all speak the same language and why language is so varied.
- What it is about our brains that makes language possible for us and why chimps don’t talk.
- Which languages are most difficult and why.
- And how language has shaped thought, rather than the other way around.