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The Dawn of Language

By: Sverker Johansson,Frank Perry - translator
Narrated by: Richard Burnip
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Summary

An erudite, tightly woven and beautifully written account of one of humanity's greatest mysteries - the origins of language.

Who was 'the first speaker' and what was their first message?

Drawing on evidence from many fields, including archaeology, anthropology, neurology and linguistics, Sverker Johansson weaves these disparate threads together to show how our human ancestors evolved into language users. The Dawn of Language provides a fascinating survey of how grammar came into being and the differences or similarities between languages spoken around the world, before exploring how language eventually emerged in the very remote human past.

Our intellectual and physiological changes through the process of evolution both have a bearing on our ability to acquire language. But to what extent is the evolution of language dependent on genes or on environment? How has language evolved further, and how is it changing now, in the process of globalisation? And which aspects of language ensure that robots are not yet intelligent enough to reconstruct how language has evolved?

Johansson's far-reaching, authoritative and research-based approach to language is brought to life through dozens of astonishing examples, both human and animal, in a fascinatingly erudite and entertaining volume for anyone who has ever contemplated not just why we speak the way we do, but why we speak at all.

Sverker Johansson's claim to fame otherwise is to have invented the LSJBot, which has written eight per cent of all articles on Swedish Wikipedia. He is also a physicist, has conducted research at CERN and participated in EVOLANG, a leading international research conference on language.

Translated from Swedish by Frank Perry. 

©2019 Sverker Johansson (P)2019 Quercus Editions Limited

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Fascinating.

This comprehensive book has me enthralled from beginning to end. The sheer detail the author goes into is just amazing.

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Boring

Couldn’t get to the end. Many more interesting linguistics audiobooks to explore but steer clear of this unless you want to fall asleep at the wheel

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Amazing book

This book is like a detective investigation into a very difficult mystery. It is one of the best books I have listened to and will be watching out for more works by the same author or narrated by the same person. I cannot recommend it enough!

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Very interesting book!

I really enjoyed the subject matter of this book and the way the author talks through all of the different research areas that contribute to the discussion.

At the start I felt like the author was rather smug telling us all about his achievements, but I guess that's a cultural difference! I got over it, mostly.

By mid way through I got rather frustrated by the author not coming to any conclusions but rather just talking through the different theories. it became clear in the last chapter that this was on purpose - he does conclude on his own opinions there.

And a special note to commend the Audible narrator on his excellent paragraph of Proto Indo-European. A whole paragraph! I still remember a lecture by Torsten Meissner back at university when he did this, and that was only a sentence!

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Fascinating

I can't believe there aren't more reviews for this. It's excellent. A fascinating review of all the research into the evolution of language.

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  • Helen
  • 15-09-21

Pan Narrans

Sverker, you probably won't read this, but Terry Pratchett's collaboration in his science books includes a theory about what he calls the hominid 'Pan Narrans' - the story telling ape.