- Taschenbuch: 400 Seiten
- Verlag: Wiley-Blackwell; Auflage: Reprint (8. April 1997)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 0631205101
- ISBN-13: 978-0631205104
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 15,2 x 2,5 x 22,9 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 2 Kundenrezensionen
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 272.445 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
- Komplettes Inhaltsverzeichnis ansehen
The Search for the Perfect Language (The Making of Europe) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 8. April 1997
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"This is as much a history of the study of language and its origins as it is a tour de force pursuit using scholarly detection and cultural interpretation, thus providing a series of original perspectives on two thousand years of European history." The Medieval Review
-This is as much a history of the study of language and its origins as it is a tour de force pursuit using scholarly detection and cultural interpretation, thus providing a series of original perspectives on two thousand years of European history.- The Medieval Review
The idea that there once existed a language which perfectly and unambiguously expressed the essence of all possible things and concepts has occupied the minds of philosophers, theologians, mystics and others for at least two millennia. This is an investigation into the history of that idea and of its profound influence on European thought, culture and history. From the early Dark Ages to the Renaissance it was widely believed that the language spoken in the Garden of Eden was just such a language, and that all current languages were its decadent descendants from the catastrophe of the Fall and at Babel. The recovery of that language would, for theologians, express the nature of divinity, for cabbalists allow access to hidden knowledge and power, and for philosophers reveal the nature of truth. Versions of these ideas remained current in the Enlightenment, and have recently received fresh impetus in attempts to create a natural language for artificial intelligence. The story that Umberto Eco tells ranges widely from the writings of Augustine, Dante, Descartes and Rousseau, arcane treatises on cabbalism and magic, to the history of the study of language and its origins.He demonstrates the initimate relation between language and identity and describes, for example, how and why the Irish, English, Germans and Swedes - one of whom presented God talking in Swedish to Adam, who replied in Danish, while the serpent tempted Eve in French - have variously claimed their language as closest to the original. He also shows how the late eighteenth-century discovery of a proto-language (Indo-European) for the Aryan peoples was perverted to support notions of racial superiority. To this subtle exposition of a history of extraordinary complexity, Umberto Eco links the associated history of the manner in which the sounds of language and concepts have been written and symbolized. Lucidly and wittily written, the book is, in sum, a tour de force of scholarly detection and cultural interpretation, providing a series of original perspectives on two thousand years of European History. The paperback edition of this book is not available through Blackwell outside of North America. Alle Produktbeschreibungen
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The prose is very clear and straightforward, and the subject full of interesting nooks and crannies.
The book is most valuable in that, once you've read it, you will start recognizing the "perfect language" idea popping up everywhere -- the idea that if we just stick to a really rigid formalism (which we're /almost/ finished coming up with!), then we can get everything right. This idea appears in everything from formalist linguistics ("since the framework is perfect, you just plug in the right parameters for your language, and it works!"), to the voodoo equations of quantitative political science ("and this formula /explains/ why the Sino-Japanese war happened!"), to American law ("I don't care if this law is just -- I'm talking about whether, formally, it's Constitutional; because that's what really matters!"), to the endless wars over which is the best programming language ("Python is better than Perl because it's based on objects, and if you don't understand why that's important, you need to learn more lambda calculus, and indent your code more /correctly/!").
It'll make you think twice about anything that needlessly uses a formalism for expressing what could be said just fine in one of these mundane languages we speak!
The book, in short, has the power to provoke thought on so many subjects it has to read more than once.
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When I first started reading linguistics (triggered by an SF novel by Sam Delany called 'Babel 7') I soon learned that the origins of language were taboo. Linguists had decided the topic had been subject to so much questionable and unsuccessful research that they would concentrate their work elsewhere. But in this book Mr Eco explores these early searches for the pre-Adamic language that all human kind were supposed to have evolved with (provided evolution was allowed anyway). Of course Hebrew was THE candidate in the West, but even Chinese was considered by some.
When this line of investigation petered out the philosophers tried to develop generic languages that could be understood by all people and to do this they had to think carefully about the logic of naming things and the logic of the grammar that connects ideas. The categories of knowledge and the development of encyclopedias were triggered by these endeavours. As I read this book, gradually I could see forming in the corners of my mind just what these people were doing, just what they were trying to create. And I suspect it could be successful if we were taught with it, grew up with it. But it is such a daunting task and always the expressiveness of natural language - what we have grown up with and what has grown with us as need has required - makes it seem a thankless task.
I guess this type of perfect language - unambiguous and universal - has never cemeted itself in anyone's mind - it has always been a dimly glowing ideal on the periphery of understanding. Perhaps we are not genetically equipped for this type of language. I value the effort Mr Eco has put into sharing these ideas with us, and value the time I have spent trying to grasp them.
The felt need to transcend the frustrations of the world's great multiplicity of languages is clear, even in this age of on-line dictionaries, instant Google translations, etc. How much greater than need must have felt two or three centuries ago!
Eco painstakingly explores the strengths and weaknesses (with the latter usually prevailing) of the many attempts made to devise a much improved, if not perfect, langauge. It is quite amazing to contemplate the enormous efforts put into this project!
Successive attempts progressively elucidated the nature of the problems that had to be overcome, and ultimately the impossibility of the task, at least where one is envisaging a language to be used by the population at large. A major reason for this is the evolutionary and uncontrollable nature of a common language (which the French have sought to control in vain).
A most enjoyable read!