How do languages evolve? Why does language always change-and does it decline or does it progress? How did language ever become so complex? In The Unfolding of Language, Guy Deutscher responds to the big questions with big answers, along the way solving such mysteries as
- why German maidens are neuter but German
turnips are female
- how words manage to accomplish a complete
U-turn in their meaning over a relatively short
time-like the word "resent," which, in the
seventeenth century, meant "appreciate" or
"feel grateful for"
- why Islam, Muslim, and Solomon are all
variations on one Semitic root, s-l-m ("be at
- how the design of Sumerian (the language
spoken 5,000 years ago by the people who
kick-started history) is so sophisticated that even
a pause in the middle of a word can convey
- why we have feet and not foots
- how the French came to say "on the day of this day"
when they mean "today"
- why most of the world's languages don't have a verb for
"have"-and how one goes about expressing the notion
of possession without it
- why human intuition-as evidenced by all human
languages-discovered the connection between space
and time thousands of years before Einstein