Cover image for A history of language
A history of language
Fischer, Steven R.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London : Reaktion Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
240 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library P140 .F57 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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It is tempting to take the tremendous rate of contemporary linguistic change for granted. What is required, in fact, is a radical reinterpretation of what language is. Steven Roger Fischer begins his book with an examination of the modes of communication used by dolphins, birds and primates as the first contexts in which the concept of "language" might be applied. As he charts the history of language from the times of Homo erectus, Neanderthal humans and Homo sapiens through to the nineteenth century, when the science of linguistics was developed, Fischer analyses the emergence of language as a science and its development as a written form. He considers the rise of pidgin, creole, jargon and slang, as well as the effects radio and television, propaganda, advertising and the media are having on language today. Looking to the future, he shows how electronic media will continue to reshape and re-invent the ways in which we communicate.

"[a] delightful and unexpectedly accessible book ... a virtuoso tour of the linguistic world."-- The Economist

"... few who read this remarkable study will regard language in quite the same way again."-- The Good Book Guide

Author Notes

Steven Roger Fischer is Director of the Institute of Polynesian Languages and Literatures in Auckland, New Zealand. He is the author of Glyph-breaker (1997). A History of Language is part of Fischer's trilogy for Reaktion, which also includes A History of Writing and A History of Reading .

Table of Contents

1 Animal Communication and 'Language'
2 Talking Apes
3 First Families
4 Written Language
5 Lineages
6 Towards a Science of Language
7 Society and Language
8 Future Indicative
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