Monday 4 October 2021

Book Review: The Language Game by Christiansen & Charter (Non-Fiction/Linguistics)

Title: The Language Game
Author: Christiansen & Charter
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication Date: 22 February 2022
Pages: 277
Format: eBook - EPUB
Genre: Non-Fiction/Linguistics
Source: ARC via NetGalley

Forget the language instinct—this is the story of how we make up language as we go 

Language is perhaps humanity’s most astonishing capacity—and one that remains poorly understood. In 
The Language Game, cognitive scientists Morten H. Christiansen and Nick Chater show us where generations of scientists seeking the rules of language got it wrong. Language isn’t about hardwired grammars but about near-total freedom, something like a game of charades, with the only requirement being a desire to understand and be understood. From this new vantage point, Christiansen and Chater find compelling solutions to major mysteries like the origins of languages and how language learning is possible, and to long-running debates such as whether having two words for “blue” changes what we see. In the end, they show that the only real constraint on communication is our imagination. 

I love learning languages, so I was intrigued to see what would unfold in The Language Game. Overall, it was an interesting and entertaining read that introduced a number of intriguing theories and examples. I thought the charades connection was particularly apt, and there was some fascinating information among the pages on how different aspects of vocabulary and grammar work in diverse languages around the globe. One or two sections felt a little dry here and there, but for the most part, I would say the book could be read and enjoyed by linguists and laypeople alike, since the concepts presented were generally well explained in easy terminology. If you are interested in the history of language and how we learn it, you will doubtless find The Language Game a worthwhile read. It gets a solid four stars from me.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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