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The Story of Human Language

By: John McWhorter,The Great Courses
Narrated by: John McWhorter
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Publisher's Summary

Language defines us as a species, placing humans head and shoulders above even the most proficient animal communicators. But it also beguiles us with its endless mysteries, allowing us to ponder why different languages emerged, why there isn't simply a single language, how languages change over time and whether that's good or bad, and how languages die out and become extinct. Now you can explore all of these questions and more in an in-depth series of 36 lectures from one of America's leading linguists.

You'll be witness to the development of human language, learning how a single tongue spoken 150,000 years ago evolved into the estimated 6,000 languages used around the world today and gaining an appreciation of the remarkable ways in which one language sheds light on another.

The many fascinating topics you examine in these lectures include: the intriguing evidence that links a specific gene to the ability to use language; the specific mechanisms responsible for language change; language families and the heated debate over the first language; the phenomenon of language mixture; why some languages develop more grammatical machinery than they actually need; the famous hypothesis that says our grammars channel how we think; artificial languages, including Esperanto and sign languages for the deaf; and how word histories reflect the phenomena of language change and mixture worldwide.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2004 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2004 The Great Courses

What listeners say about The Story of Human Language

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This is from 2005

These lectures are good but who knows how research has progressed since. Unfortunately The Great Courses leave out the date the lectures were given from their description, and its a little misleading that its stated they were “released” in 2013. So FYI this is from 2005.

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33 people found this helpful

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Brilliant

Excellent lecturer, excellent content and well presented. A linguistic course that almost never used technical jargon, I don't think I heard the words 'fricative' or 'plosive' once in the whole series.

Interesting, approachable and detailed

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5 people found this helpful

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An amazing course highly recommend

An amazing course. The presneterl is fantastic, knowledgeable and funny. Defintely worth the time to listen and look at langauge in a different way.

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3 people found this helpful

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Outstanding

Well worth a listen. Amazing teacher, funny and informative.
Learnt a lot about history in general

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2 people found this helpful

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Fascinating, narration got a bit annoying

Thought this was a great introduction to how languages develop and related to each other. Really accessible for all.

Only issue was the narrator went on too much. Used really strange examples to try and explain his points which went off on tangents too much. Also, found some of the ways he described other languages a bit patronising in parts, which I found quite strange from someone who is a linguist. I understand he was trying to engage the listener but thought it did detract from what is a fascinating topic.

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2 people found this helpful

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Exceptional

I've listened to many great courses, but this is a standout and a real pleasure to hear.

McWhorter brings the subject to live and breathe in front of you. We need more of him.

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5 stars

Throughly enjoyable and very interesting. I enjoyed the little quips and quirky jokes. Thank you.

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Superb in every way!

This is a fascinating tour de force about the natural history, quirkiness, diversity, and commonalities of language. It is rich with humor and insight and humanity. McWhorter is exceptionally good! His own spoken language, full of deft idioms and spontaneity and brilliance, provides a running mirror that illustrates the potential of human beings to communicate complex ideas verbally in a seemingly effortless way, and to tell us stories that keep us transfixed.

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Well Structured Lectures

Very well sequenced lectures, and a fascinating subject delivered beautifully by a passionate and engaging speaker.

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Jaw dropping.

I know nothing of linguistics, so this first taste has changed my life. I've recommended it to everyone I can, keen to listen to other stuff by John

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