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Ideophones and the Evolution of Language


  • Date Published: January 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107069602

£ 95.00

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About the Authors
  • Ideophones have been recognized in modern linguistics at least since 1935, but they still lie far outside the concerns of mainstream (Western) linguistic debate, in part because they are most richly attested in relatively unstudied (often unwritten) languages. The evolution of language, on the other hand, has recently become a fashionable topic, but all speculations so far have been almost totally data-free. Without disputing the tenet that there are no primitive languages, this book argues that ideophones may be an atavistic throwback to an earlier stage of communication, where sounds and gestures were paired in what can justifiably be called a 'prelinguistic' fashion. The structure of ideophones may also provide answers to deeper questions, among them how communicative gestures may themselves have emerged from practical actions. Moreover, their current distribution and behaviour provide hints as to how they may have become conventional words in languages with conventional rules.

    • Provides a comprehensive examination of the evolution of language, utilizing actual data from real languages
    • Prior stages of evolution are discussed, and readers will be able to relate the genesis of human language to the genesis of communication in other animals
    • The examination of the transition from ideophones to conventional words enables readers to relate these changes to relatively well-known diachronic processes in language
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This is a splendid book - lively and stimulating, presenting the ideophone as a source in language phylogenesis and a new role for play in fostering the distinction between 'doing' and 'showing' at the origin. Haiman's style, erudition, and provocative hypothesis invite one into a joyful discussion.' David McNeill, University of Chicago

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2018
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107069602
    • length: 390 pages
    • dimensions: 241 x 164 x 24 mm
    • weight: 0.68kg
    • contains: 7 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The gestural origin theory of language genesis
    2. What are ideophones?
    3. Lexical origins of ideophones
    4. Suiting the word to the action: oral charades
    5. Ideophones as a possible solution to the ritualization problem
    6. Taming ideophones: from showing to telling
    7. Repetition in the genesis of signs, art, and ideophones.

  • Author

    John Haiman, Macalester College, Minnesota
    John Haiman is the author of Hua: A Papuan Language of the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea (1980), The Rhaeto-Romance Languages (with Paola Beninca, 1992) and Cambodian: Khmer (2011). He pioneered the resurgence of interest in iconicity in language with Natural Syntax (Cambridge, 1985), and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship 1989 for the study of sarcasm, which resulted in his book Talk Is Cheap (1998).

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