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Bastard Tongues: A Trail-Blazing Linguist…
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Bastard Tongues: A Trail-Blazing Linguist Finds Clues to Our Common… (vuoden 2009 painos)

– tekijä: Derek Bickerton (Tekijä)

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
1594130,780 (3.67)13
Why Do Isolated Creole Languages Tend to Have Similar Grammatical Structures? Bastard Tongues is an exciting, firsthand story of scientific discovery in an area of research close to the heart of what it means to be human--what language is, how it works, and how it passes from generation to generation, even where historical accidents have made normal transmission almost impossible. The story focuses on languages so low in the pecking order that many people don't regard them as languages at all--Creole languages spoken by descendants of slaves and indentured laborers in plantation colonies all over the world. The story is told by Derek Bickerton, who has spent more than thirty years researching these languages on four continents and developing a controversial theory that explains why they are so similar to one another. A published novelist, Bickerton (once described as part scholar, part swashbuckling man of action) does not present his findings in the usual dry academic manner. Instead, you become a companion on his journey of discovery. You learn things as he learned them, share his disappointments and triumphs, explore the exotic locales where he worked, and meet the colorful characters he encountered along the way. The result is a unique blend of memoir, travelogue, history, and linguistics primer, appealing to anyone who has ever wondered how languages grow or what it's like to search the world for new knowledge.… (lisätietoja)
Jäsen:micahammon
Teoksen nimi:Bastard Tongues: A Trail-Blazing Linguist Finds Clues to Our Common Humanity in the World's Lowliest Languages
Kirjailijat:Derek Bickerton (Tekijä)
Info:Hill & Wang Inc.,U.S. (2009), Edition: 1, 288 pages
Kokoelmat:Oma kirjasto
Arvio (tähdet):
Avainsanoja:to-read

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Bastard Tongues: A Trailblazing Linguist Finds Clues to Our Common Humanity in the World's Lowliest Languages (tekijä: Derek Bickerton)

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näyttää 4/4
It's generally much easier to learn something new when you haven't already decided that it's all wrong.

The premise of this book is that human beings have a built in "bioprogram" that they use to construct a language. To try to explain how this works, if groups of people who have no common language encounter each other, they at first speak to each other in a "pidgin" -- a system in which words from multiple source languages are used for various words. So a pidgin made by French and German speakers might call a dog a "hund" (German) but a cat a "chatte" (French). You've probably met pseudo-pidgins in TV shows about non-English speakers -- they will say something like "me go store" for "I am going to the store" -- but also for "Should I go to the store?" and "I went to the store" and "I will go to the store." Pidgins have little grammar and rarely allow nuanced communication, lacking, e.g., such things as details of time (usually determined by verb tense, which are an aspect of grammar, not vocabulary).

Because pidgins are so limited in their ability to communicate, some people (very often the children of the original pidgin speakers) gradually add a grammar to turn a pidgin into a creole -- a complete language. So far, so good; most linguists agree on this point. What's more, very many if not most agree that there is a bioprogram (that is, a built-in set of brain routines) for learning language -- it's how children pick them up. It is likely, although it has not been shown as far as I know, that this bioprogram only encompasses certain language features. (As support I note that crows and ravens have an amazingly complex set of vocalizations that clearly are designed to convey detailed information, but humans can't seem to figure out crow speech -- it requires a different bioprogram. What happens if we meet true aliens I don't know -- for all we know, they're trying to talk to us every day but we don't even realize that what they are doing is attempting to communicate.)

Author Bickerton goes beyond that basic bioprogram. In studying a series of creoles, he noted a series of common grammatical features -- features not found in the languages which were the source language of the creoles; they must have been added by those who made the creoles rather than coming from the source languages. He therefore argues that the grammar in the creoles was, in effect, inherent in the bioprogram. So, e.g., our brains are built so that we know and understand serial verbs (a series of verbs which have a collective meaning), verb tenses, and verb aspects (involving things such as whether an action takes place at a moment in time or over time, and whether it still continues). A creole, which forms in isolation, will involve these features.

That a creole can involve these aspects is certain; Bickerton's evidence is sufficient to prove that. But there is a huge problem which Bickerton merely waves his hand at: If our brains are designed to do grammar in a certain way, why are there so many languages that don't have them? Why doesn't English have an aorist tense (action that took place at a particular time)? Why is the subjunctive dying? And why, for pity's sake, is it so hard to learn a foreign language once one is past the age of four? I know an adequate vocabulary of about four or five languages. I speak one, because grammar is frankly really, really hard. If all these things are built into our brains, every language should use the same grammar and it should never degenerate! I simply find Bickerton's thesis completely incredible.

Of course, that doesn't make Bickerton wrong. He certainly knows more about language than I do. The problem is, he also knows more about language than there is to be known. This is a book written by someone who is certain he knows everything (about language, politics, and everything else), and it shows. He is incredibly sarcastic about those who disagree with him, showing no respect to conventional wisdom or those who came before him. It is (to me) extremely off-putting -- and, worse, it seems to imply a person who will ignore anything that goes contrary to his thesis. And there is a lot of evidence contrary to his thesis. Enough to destroy it? I don't know. I won't know until I can talk it over with someone who is willing to listen to those who disagree with him. In other words, not Derek Bickerton. ( )
4 ääni waltzmn | Jun 27, 2017 |
This book is GREAT! It's written in a quick-witted, casual style that is intelligent and doesn't simplify linguistic details too much for the sake of the lay-reader. It's an adventure story, a safari, a vacation, a dive into the linguistic 'bioprogram' we just may all have in our brains... ( )
  amaraduende | Mar 30, 2013 |
Derek Bickerton's story is fascinating for all of the things he never meant to do, all of the things he did on purpose, and the things he wanted to do but never did. He didn't set out to become a linguist, and once a linguist he didn't set out to debunk long-time linguistic theories. He did study Creole languages on purpose, but he never imagined that his studies would eventually lead him down the road that it did. After many years of study and scrutiny of Creoles across the continents, what he discovered diverged from all he had learned about language learning and language acquisition.

Bickerton's major theory rests on the assumption of a bioprogram for language. Rather than learning language strictly through the languages around you, bioprogramming provides language innately, a human condition. Studying Creoles, he found striking similarities among them that could not be fully explained by current theories of contact influence. Bioprogramming, however, could open the doors to a deeper understanding.

Children do learn languages from family and society, but what if family and society lack major underpinnings of grammar and syntax as they do when one people dominate or enslave another. Group A has a language, then group B comes in. Group A struggles to understand group B and vice versa. The language that arises from the merger of these two groups is pidgin and lacks many grammatical rules. However, the children of both group A and group B have a very different story. Their language is Creole, and this new language is full of grammatical rules, syntax, and structures that pidgin lacks.

How did these children create Creole? Bickerton suggests Creole is created through social vocabulary and bioprogramming. All humans are born with the ability and need to create a true language, not just a string of vocabulary words attempting to convey a message. Astoundingly, this need to communicate through the creation of Creole languages develops very similarly all over the world. Creole languages resemble each other in myriad ways with no direct influence of one on another. According to Bickerton, the only way this would happen is if it is innate in humans to do so.

The author is not only knowledgeable, but also witty and endearing. I almost gave up on this book because of the number of direct quote translations/interpretations, but I learned to appreciate his explanations and examples. His stories pushed me to read on and piqued my curiosity. I finished delighted to have learned all I had.
1 ääni Carlie | Mar 8, 2010 |
Bickerton certainly knows language. His discussion (or crusade) on creoles and pidgins is enlightening. I only wish that he had separated out his personal experiences. I think that would make an excellent book; they were the parts that made me really interested in this one! He had me lost with a lot of the actual information about the creoles and pidgins he has studied. Some more discussion on those topics would be nice for a book that has an otherwise-approachable writing style. ( )
  juliayoung | Oct 23, 2008 |
näyttää 4/4
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia

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Why Do Isolated Creole Languages Tend to Have Similar Grammatical Structures? Bastard Tongues is an exciting, firsthand story of scientific discovery in an area of research close to the heart of what it means to be human--what language is, how it works, and how it passes from generation to generation, even where historical accidents have made normal transmission almost impossible. The story focuses on languages so low in the pecking order that many people don't regard them as languages at all--Creole languages spoken by descendants of slaves and indentured laborers in plantation colonies all over the world. The story is told by Derek Bickerton, who has spent more than thirty years researching these languages on four continents and developing a controversial theory that explains why they are so similar to one another. A published novelist, Bickerton (once described as part scholar, part swashbuckling man of action) does not present his findings in the usual dry academic manner. Instead, you become a companion on his journey of discovery. You learn things as he learned them, share his disappointments and triumphs, explore the exotic locales where he worked, and meet the colorful characters he encountered along the way. The result is a unique blend of memoir, travelogue, history, and linguistics primer, appealing to anyone who has ever wondered how languages grow or what it's like to search the world for new knowledge.

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