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Bastard Tongues: A Trailblazing Linguist Finds Clues to Our Common Humanity in the World's Lowliest Languages (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 24. April 2009


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"One of the field's old lions, he has spent the last four decades studying pidgins and Creoles and writing a few novels on the side. A self-described macho "street linguist" for whom fieldwork is part pub crawl, Bickerton has a penchant for big ideas and a "total lack of respect for the respectable" that, judging from his new memoir, has put him at odds with bureaucrats and colleagues. "Bastard Tongues" is gossipy, vain and pugilistic--in other words, all the juicy things an academic memoir should be but too rarely is." --"The New York Times Book Review" "Bickerton has made transformative discoveries about the way we acquire language... The book is part memoir, part intellectual detective story and part linguistics primer. Bickerton is a spirited, clever writer, and the tripartite nature of the narrative suits him." --"The Los Angeles Times" "His intellectual enthusiasm is so contagious that many readers will find themselves sharing his indignation...the rebel in you can't help but warm to him." --"New Scientist" "Derek Bickerton is anything but your average P.hD.-toting scholar. His new book, "Bastard Tongues," is anything but the typical work of academic non-fiction. Much too personal to be a strictly scholarly enterprise and steeped in theoretical jargon unusual for the quintessential memoir, "Bastard Tongues" is as uniquely brilliant as the mind that created it.... a fun and enjoyable read that can enrich your mind as well as fulfill your hunger for excitement and adventure." --"The Daily Texan" "Advancing a radical new linguistic theory, Bickerton detects in creoles not the dynamics of language transmission but rather the wellspring of language creation.... Bickerton's account of his travels fuses the excitement of travel literature with the substance of groundbreaking linguistics. A bold new perspective on human speech." --"Booklist" "Bickerton writes appealingly about his immersion into trying to figure out the initially baffling phrases scavenged from the various languages that contributed to the creoles he worked on." --"The Chronicle of Higher Education" "An intellectual journey." --"The Honolulu Star" "Passionate. . . Part memoir, part detective story and part adventure, this book is a journey into Derek Bickerton's life work studying creole languages spoken by descendants of slaves and indentured laborers in plantation colonies." --"The Post & Courier" (Charleston) "Derek Bickerton turns the tale of his life's work--the study of Creole languages--into a gripping adventure story. Language lovers will exult in his linguistic insights, but everyone will delight in the surprising twists and turns of his global quest for the answer to why Creoles are all so much alike." --Deborah Tannen, author of "You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation" and "You're Wearing THAT?: Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation""Bickerton bar-hops through some of the world's most exotic locations and languages, and somehow along the way he manages to crack one of the deepest mysteries of language itself. A fantastic and frank account of research in the real world." --Christine Keneally, author of "The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language""Derek Bickerton is one of the great modern contributors to our understanding of language, and "Bastard Tongues" combines an intellectual detective story, a disarmingly frank autobiography, and a tale of adventures in exotic places. If you're curious about the origins of pidgins, Creoles, or indeed language itself, start here. If you already know Bickerton's ideas and want to know where they came from, this book is for you, too." --Melvin Konner, author of "The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit," revised edition"Open the book at almost any page and you'll be drawn in by the exotic places, interesting people, and the unfolding detective story about how a new language gets started. There is nothing dry about linguistics when Derek is telling the story. It's a delight to read."--William H. Calvin, author of "Global Fever: How to Treat Climate Change""A fascinating memoir from one of the most innovative and literate linguists of our age." --Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of ""The Language Instinct, Words and Rules"," and ""The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature""""

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Derek Bickerton is a professor emeritus of linguistics at the University of Hawaii. His book "Adam's Tongue" was published by Hill and Wang in March 2009.

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6 von 7 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Pidgin, Creole, and Much More 5. April 2009
Von G. B. Talovich - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
A dozen years ago I read Bickerton's Language and Human Behavior. I was impressed, if not always thoroughly convinced. Bastard Tongues maintains the same high standards, if not the same tone.

This book is very autobiographical and highly entertaining. He weaves the story of his life into the story of his linguistic research, and adds shards of history and other information. Did you know that the Dutch traded New York for a patch of South America? Bickerton shows how slavery and sugar plantations laid the foundations for our modern, mechanized life. All this, and fascinating information about pidgin, creole, and the human bioprogram for language acquisition.

There are some details I would change. I do not consider myself very Politically Correct, but I practically jumped out of my seat when I opened Chapter 13 and read, "History's mostly written by white folks." On my bookshelves I have thousands of pages of history written in Chinese, certainly not by any white folks. Bickerton should have added some qualifiers to that sentence.

For that matter, before he wrote that nonwhite immigrants anywhere are poor and underprivileged, he should have gone to Orange County CA and seen the nonwhite immigrant mansions in places like Diamond Bar. Maybe he was writing for shock value, but it's a bit shoddy.

Overall, though, the book is excellent. It is informative, thought-provoking, and a lot of fun. If you are interested in creole, how languages form, or human language ability, you will want to read this book. Even if you aren't interested, I suggest you read it, because you will be pleasantly surprised.
4 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Witty, brilliant, and fun! 17. Mai 2011
Von D. Schmitz - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
Bickerton has a witty, breezy style that combines the best of academic thought and language with his travels, observations, theories, and beers with the locals. The linguistic terms were not too difficult for a layperson, and I'm reading some of his recommended references with as much pleasure as I read his work. I hope to read more of Bickerton's writing.
7 von 9 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Tale of an "Intellectual Infatuation" 16. Mai 2009
Von Geoff Puterbaugh - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
"Intellectual infatuations," says Bickerton, are basically love affairs without sex.

So I must, as a postjudiced reader of Bickerton, admit that I look forward to reading ANYTHING written by him. His book, "Language and Species," caused this "intellectual infatuation." Make no mistake about it, "Language and Species" is not an easy read. In my own case, I had to go back again and again, but finally a "new world" opened before me. I understood stuff which I had never understood before.

And, if Bickerton were interested in becoming a millionaire (which I don't think he is, much) he could be working hand-in-glove with companies trying to develop artificial intelligence.

His new (for me) book, "Bastard Tongues," is endlessly fascinating. His amazing life journey kind of reminds me of my own. And all the time he was searching for answers to some extremely important questions about people and language.

One of his key insights here is that language is basically a miracle happening right under our noses, yet we take it for granted --- in fact, 99% of us never even think about it. We learn language and we don't remember how we learned it, because human memory only starts around age 2 years, by which time language is already in place. NOBODY remembers "how I learned language." And yet, language is completely automatic, like digestion, or hunger: we may worry about what to say to our boss, but we NEVER worry about whether a noun or a noun phrase would work better. It's just like an automatic transmission: press the pedal and you go.

I will go out on a limb here, and predict that the concepts of Bickerton will prove enduring (even immortal), while those of Chomsky will largely be tossed into the trash-can.

By the way, for anyone trying to make computers speak English (or another language) --- ignoring Derek Bickerton is a Fatal Mistake.

---- Edited review ------
In the original review, I failed to state Bickerton's main thesis, which I think is now almost universally accepted. A "pidgin" is the pseudo-language which arises among people who do not share a common language. We can also call it a "proto-language." ME TALKEE YOU LISTEN NOW SHUT UP might be a sample of a pidgin. "DAYS HOW MANY, ME YOU PAY?" might be another.

But that's all unimportant. What is completely fascinating (!) is that when two people speaking a pidgin get married and have children, their children turn that pidgin into a "real language," with a grammar and a syntax. It's no longer something that is spoken slowly, and with hesitation. It's a real language, and that language is called a "creole." The earlier Pidgin ME TALKEE YOU LISTEN NOW SHUT UP would be transformed into something like "me a talk an you a listen mo betta you a shutup." In this example, the word "a" is not something English at all, but an indicator of present, ongoing action.

The big question is: how could children do this? Aren't little kids supposed to learn language from their parents? In the pidgin/creole world, we can find children teaching their parents how to speak!!

Note: the Thai language, and apparently many other Asian languages, share (apparently) all the markers of creole languages. I suspect that this is NOT the result of plantations and slave labor, but that's just a suspicion. Another suspicion is that Asian languages are just "what comes naturally" --- but that raises the question of how highly-inflected languages (such as Greek and Latin) came into being.
1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Insight into own langauge 5. Februar 2012
Von Tom Smedley - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
"One of the differences between linguists and people is that people like words better than grammar and linguists like grammar better than words--they're looking for systems, and words just aren't systematic." Also sprach Bickerton on page 29, as he launches into a rollicking quixotic quest through the world's denigrated languages.

After I read this book, the light went on. The English language I love and speak, this charming shotgun wedding of Germanic and Romantic roots, is itself a creole.
A Stellar And Humane Memoir 12. Mai 2014
Von Nathan Albright - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
I happened across this book while wandering through my local library branch and thought it looked to be of great interest given my interest in languages as well as the issues of honor and legitimacy. Admittedly, these interests may be somewhat unusual, but all the same this is an interesting and humorous and poignant enough work that even those who do not have the same level of interest that I have in technical aspects of language (namely, grammar and structure) will find much to interest them here whether their interests are more intellectual or personal. Bickerton is a sufficiently fluent writer, even if I have not had any other experience with his writings or research, that even someone unfamiliar with linguistics will find much to make themselves feel at home with his work and perspective.

This particular book is the first half to a planned two-part memoir about the two-act academic career of the author [2]. This novel deals with the first half of that career, which focused on the issue of Creole languages. The second part, which focused on the issue of language evolution (so-called), is thankfully only discussed here in passing, mainly as the direction that the author’s studies led him as he began to wrestle with questions of origin and change over time. These later interests provide a certain structure on the book, namely in viewing the author’s interest in Creole languages as a past matter that was over and done with, as well as in providing a context by which the author’s larger interests in how babies learn language at all, with its potential for there existing an internal program by which human beings have an innate ability to design languages during the first part of their lives given sufficient input from the outside world, namely at least one other person to talk to and an atmosphere where communication is necessary.

There are a few elements which are immensely appealing on a personal level about this book. For one, the author is generally humane and populist (in a good way), focused on the lives and goals of people as they are rather than having some sort of political ideology that he wishes to force others into. This general bottom-up interest in exploring and appreciating people as they are, with a special interest in the linguistic capability of children. There are lots of accounts of papers hurriedly written, of the debates and arguments between intellectuals, of enjoyable travel experiences and occasional archival research (the author does not appear to a library rat who lives pouring through data, preferring to outsource that to graduate assistants), and of the usefulness of taxi drivers as a source of information. Those who love travel and appreciate the intellectual capability of small children will find much to enjoy with this particular book.

On an intellectual level, this book has a lot to offer as well. For one, the author speaks a great deal about the debates between different schools of thought within linguistics, and gives some striking evidence for the existence of a language program within mankind as a result of a comparative study of various creole languages around the world. In the aftermath of the exploitation that results from such horrors as slavery and imperialism, the author finds that the common human response has been to create languages that allow for common communication on a local and specific level that show the common humanity of others. For those who have a belief, or openness, to the existence of an innate program for language that is given to children as a way of helping them to learn language (and even create language), which suggests a way that language was divided among human beings in the first place, this book is a very useful one from an intellectual perspective.

Of particular historical interest is the fact that having a keen knowledge of history as well as archival data has led to a generally profound knowledge of the common programmatic development of Creole languages despite their immense diversity in terms of the linguistic melange that goes into the creation of these languages, which historically often occurred in a single generation. By grounding his research in the hard data of archives and in the realism of people all over the world, many of them from humble and marginalized groups whose mere existence has been denied by the nations in which they reside, and whose legitimacy has generally been dubious as well, the author manages to be both humane and compassionate towards others as well as rigorously empirical in his approach towards his field of study (which, as he humorously relates, was quite accidental and even providential). In the humblest of languages, Bickerton finds an area of communality between human beings and shows himself to be an immensely humane fellow to boot.
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