A Myriad of Tongues: How Languages Reveal Differences in How We Think

Harvard Univ. Sept. 2023. 288p. ISBN 9780674976580. $27.95. LANG
Everett (anthropology and psychology, Univ. of Miami; Numbers and the Making of Us) offers readers a tantalizing glimpse into the wide variety of human speech patterns evident in the world today. His book examines the diversity of contemporary languages of non-WEIRD cultures—that is to say, non-Western, non-educated, non-industrialized, non-rich, non-democratic. The author considers what these differences might mean for people of various communities. Combining anthropology and linguistics, the book teases out examples of variant patterns, including expressions and conceptions related to the passage of time, giving directions, kinship meanings, color perceptions, physical environmental sensations, gesture usage, vocal sounding, and the learning of speech patterns that defy the tidy dictionary-and-grammar model familiar to many. The book also explains how linguistic research now makes use of personal fieldwork, big-data computational analysis, and interdisciplinarity. Everett’s support and recognition of new forms of emerging linguistic knowledge is constrained, however, by his concern with the disappearance of many Indigenous languages due to the small number of people who speak them.
VERDICT Highly recommended for all collections that support higher education, particularly in the areas of linguistics, anthropology, and language education.
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