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The Kingdom of Speech

Tom Wolfe ä 0 Free download

A great entertaining ead Wolfe gets off some magnificent and irreverent lines aimed at the neo Darwinian hand wavers Moreover he is largely invulnerable to any counter attack from them because the one place he does his own hand waving is a place where none of them can go I hope to write about this later Tom Wolfe one day stumbled across a 2014 essay by eight heavyweight Evolutionists the famed linguist Noam Chomsky being notability among them and was startled by their conclusion that after 150 years of scientific esearch and academic speculation what we know about speech and language emains as mysterious as ever A poverty of evidence they wrote leaves us with no explanation of how and why our linguistic computations and epresentations evolvedWolfe looked askance at this conclusion noting first how odd it was for a group of experts to announce what abject failures they were but then wisely proceeded to uestion the essay s underlying assumption According to Chomsky et al the notion that language has evolved just like any other trait of living organisms was uncontroversial In the story which he presents Wolfe in his inimitable style as a eporter and storyteller challenges that assumption Why must language have evolvedThe story of evolution begins of course with Charles Darwin or as Wolfe eminds us with Alfred Russell Wallace 1823 1913 who virtually beat Darwin to the punch on biological evolution but ultimately uestioned Darwin s conclusion on the evolution of language The DarwinWallace ivalry told entertainingly by Wolfe is juxtaposed with the author s account of a modern ivalry concerning the origin of language one which pitted Chomsky s supposition of an inborn universal grammar against that theory s challenger Daniel L Everett Don t Sleep There Are Snakes Everett concluded after closely studying a tribe indigenous to a emote part of the that language did not evolve ather he posits it is an artifact created by mankindThe story ends with Wolfe choosing sides His solution to the mystery will no doubt be uickly added to the long list of unsubstantiated theories he cites Words create meaning Wolfe suggests Yet others beginning long before him have contended far convincingly just the opposite we create words to designate meaning while meaning is simply apprehended In short the origin of language has an essential side to it which to the eader s misfortune Wolfe never explored It is a view that has been with us since Aristotle walked the streets of Athens one which does not pre suppose a divinity but which consistent with Everett insists that language could not have evolved biologicallyThus in this significant way Wolfe s tour of the origin of language is incomplete Nevertheless his challenge to scientific authority has merit The eight evolutionists deserve credit for admitting what they do not know but to suggest their uest for an evolutionary basis of language is uncontroversial opened them up to the very entertaining smack down Wolfe has thoughtfully delivered in his The Kingdom of Speech Tom Wolfe tries to take down Charles Darwin and Noam Chomsky with baffling and terrible esults Alternate title The Wrong Stuff If you ever wanted to ead a book about a scientific field or two in Wolfe s trademark flamboyant prose that was utterly innocent of any understanding of science here s your chance This vapid piece of preening ignorance will stand as a POINTLESS LANDMARK OR BETTER YET SINK landmark or better yet sink a witless stone to sturm und drang self egard As an erstwhile colleague of mine put it in his eview of the book in the Washington Post here the book is unsullied by esearchYou don t have to be an evolutionary biologist or a linguist to find this book a piece of mean spirited ad hominem drivel The book is filled with incorrect assertions to take just one formal Chomskyan linguists don t just sit around in air conditioned ooms making theories many have spent their careers doing fieldwork and documenting the intricacies of the grammars of languages all over the planet and the est do the same on languages they don t need to travel much to study including their own native ones Without in depth careful observations about the grammars of human languages formal linguists wouldn t have anything to analyze To suggest anything else is a idiculous lie Wolfe s imputation that lab scientists aren t eal scientists because they don t spend their lives in the field would be laughable coming from anyone else From Wolfe it s just sad When getting my Master s degree in English I discovered the fascinating world of linguistics With my emphasis in English as a Second Language I took classes in Psycholinguistics which is the physical and neurological aspects of language acuisition I was especially intrigued by how language functions similarly to the genetic code and I loved Modern Grammar which can be used with any language using the principles of Universal Grammar Universal Grammar postulates Noam Chomsky the founder and king of modern linguistic theory is innate in all human beings over all languages are similarly constructed of verbs adjectives and nouns what i didn t ealize until i What I didn t ealize until I Tom Wolfe s superb book The Kingdom of Speech was that Chomsky had been toppled from his position of linguistic demi Godhood by a elative newcomer Daniel Everett In The Kingdom of Speech Tom Wolfe not only takes down Chomsky in his usual sharp yet languid manner but Charles Darwin and his Just so stories on the evolution of man also undergo a much needed examination What ties Darwin Chomsky Everett and this book together is the uest to solve mystery of the origin of language Darwin guessed that language evolved from humans imitating bird speech Chomsky believed that language ability evolved within an as yet unknown brainnervous system organ However a elative newcomer in the world of linguistics Daniel Everett Moody Bible College graduate and former missionary to a emote ian tribe called the Piraha throws a monkey wrench into established Chomskyan linguistics What Everett discovers in this ian tribe is a people who do not have all of the Universal Grammar elements in their langua. The maestro storyteller and eporter provocatively argues that what we think we know about speech and human evolution is wrongTom Wolfe whose legend began in journalism takes us on an eye opening journey that is sure to arouse widespread debate The Kingdom of Speech. ,
Ge Further they have no words for colors or numbers and they have no language for the past or future as they live in a state of eternal now Everett says that the uniueness of the Piraha language because it does not prescribe to Chomsky s Universal Grammar proves that language ability is not innate but actually an artifact created by humans to live in community In other words language is a tool a sophisticated tool somehow devised by humans over time I have a number of problems with Everett s ideas which Tom Wolfe by the way seems to totally embrace Everett see the Piraha as an example of the earliest humans They have embraced very little from other cultures in the ainforest because of their belief that anything outside of their culture is inferior and should be dismissed The Piraha s language although extremely difficult to learn is a very limited language in complexity sociological constructs and vocabulary This tribe can not even be counted as stone age in their technological development since they don t have stone tools Their only tools are very udimentary bows and arrows They live in lean to s that are easily disposed of Having no concept for the future limits their desire or need perhaps to prepare for it Obviously such a people will leave few traces of their existence however I see no eason to view them as something from which stone age and present day humans have evolved Of course I am not a macro evolutionists and what I am about to say is terribly politically incorrect but could it not be eually true that this tribe is an example of devolution Cannot change change and evolution are synonyms happen in both directions For example present day humans have smaller brains and weaker physiues than Cro Magnon people I would be very interested to see a DNA analysis of this 300 or so person tribe I would not be surprised if they all have a common ancestor that broke off a few hundred or so years ago from another ian tribe Are they eally a separate and distinct people as their language seems to imply I could speculate as to why their progenitors were not using a native language Could they have been feral children who have little experience of human language What kind of language would such a pair or of ferals create And although the extreme conditions of the ainforest make it seem unlikely for a child to survive without adults perhaps this is the case for the origins of the Pirahas Perhaps the progenitors were deafmutes I assume the tribe has no legends of their beginnings since they have little concept of the past so why or how they came to be will emain a mystery However the magnitude of Everett s claim has not been thoroughly examined it seems to me He is saying the Piraha s language is akin to a prima lingua If this is true it should be easily proven by the Piraha tribe having a separate and distinct DNA lineage because as we have seen throughout history when different people groups intermingle their languages also intermingle Everett is claiming by using them as an example of a prima indigenous people that this tiny tribe has somehow stayed intact separate an unchanged for what 10000 100000 1 million years It is hard to say because evolutionists throw out numbers for humanity s beginnings as easily as strippers throw off clothes All that is needed is a simple DNA test to prove if the Piraha are truly a separate indigenous people group In other words to make a whole new case for the origins of language based on one tiny tribe of people seems ludicrous I suppose my true colors as a Chomskyite are being exposed I do believe in an innate language ability that is wired into our brainsnervous system I only disagree with the evolutionary as in macro evolutionary origin of speech I would Say That We Are Endowed By Our Creator With The that we are endowed by our creator with the to use speech and to understand language In Genesis the very first task that Adam was given was to name the animals And in the Gospel of John in the New Testament it states that In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God Language is divine It was especially interesting to me that Everett the former missionary turned away from Christ to follow the God of Anthropology and Evolution Interesting but hardly surprising There is no uicker way to derail and uin a career in academia than to be a Christian Any theory of anything that is based on Intelligent Design ather than evolution is dismissed out of hand in this "very small and narrow world Unfortunately the evolutionary worldview limits scholars to new hypotheses and possibilities as to the "small and narrow world Unfortunately the evolutionary worldview limits scholars to new hypotheses and possibilities as to the and development of languageIf you are interested in language or in understanding the philosophical trendsetters in the last 150 years I highly ecommend The Kingdom of Speech Wolfe makes the journey in this 185 page book not only educational but enjoyable I normally enjoy Tom Wolfe but this takedown of modern linguistics is simply a ant His new journalism style was completely unsuited to persuading me of the validity
Of Some Of His 
some of his specious scientific arguments Despite the fairly copious footnotes there was little evidence that Wolfe s understanding of either evolution or linguistics had any depth Not having ead any Tom Wolfe before I was iveted by the prose style of this book with its ellipses collouial asides and multiple exclamation marks I am sure it is possible to write a great book with this techniue and perhaps Tom Wolfe has already done it but this one is unfortunately a complete messI say unfortunately because as a matter of fact I agree with his basic position What Wolfe is trying to do is summarise the internecine fighting of the linguistics world that followed Daniel Everett s work on the Pirah language which attacked Noam Chomsky s idea of a universal grammar I ve written lots about all this in my eview of Everett s Language The Cultural Tool suffice to say here that UG had become of an ideology than an academic theory an aggressively enforced orthodoxy that had never produced any very interesting esults or been proved even slightly to eflect physiological or neurological ealityWolfe sees this as a David Is a captivating paradigm shifting argument that speech not evolution is esponsible for humanity's complex societies and achievementsFrom Alfred Russel Wallace the Englishman who beat Darwin to the theory of natural selection but later enounced it and through the ,
Goliath story plucky little Dan Everett taking on the mean old dictator Chomsky and in his telling the characters and the arguments are so simplified as to become cartoons Further the first half of the book for some eason is about Charles Darwin and Charles Lyell a diversion that is at best irrelevant and at worst misleading the main effect on me was of exhausting my patience with Wolfe s cavalier approach to historical incident Oh Charlie Charlie Charliesaid Lyell When we finally get on to the main event Wolfe simply lifts anecdotes wholesale from Everett s Don t Sleep There Are Snakes and etells them It s impossible not to feel that you d ather just be eading Everett first hand More dangerously Wolfe gives the impression that the debate over language origins has now been solved by Everett which is very far from the case Everett s main contribution w After Wolfe s death I looked for books he authored that I hadn t ead This is oneThe Kingdom of Speech is short 170 pages and leans on esearch than eporting However like all Tom Wolfe books it is a fun ead extremely clear and non obvious as he dissects the way in which human language has been treated in evolutionary theory by among others Darwin Chomsky and Everett Wolfe s discussion of Everett s field work with the Piraha is not to be missedWhile The Kingdom of Speech is not one of Wolfe s big books it offers the welcome familiar pleasure of his analysis and description of a meaningful subject Maybe Tom Wolfe should be commended for diving headfirst into a complicated even esoteric debate aging inside linguistics and exposing it to a far larger audience than ever before But praise for this book should eally end there As someone with some formal training in linguistics and extensive exploration of the field as a hobby I ead Wolfe s prose in the voice of a supremely confident almost entirely uninformed brat In dealing with the fraught hotly debated uestion of the origin of language Wolfe cannot esist engaging in gross simplifications and exaggerations which turned me off entirely and eally limited his credibility as a narrator As an example he epeatedly boils long winded highly technical series of academic comments ie criticisms and their subseuent ebuttals into Facebook style clickbait headlines Everett et al DEMOLISH Chomsky and His Ilk Not once does he actually engage with the academic materials he eferences likely because he does not know how Wolfe is very obviously invested in a simple David and Goliath narrative one in which a humble soft spoken newcomer Dr Daniel Everett takes on the academic establishment and wins in esounding fashion In fact the matter in uestion is far far from settled and the thuggish intimidating Goliath in this case Noam Chomsky is mostly conjured out of thin air Perhaps most irritatingly Wolfe is not at all interested in grappling with the actual content of the academic debate he simply declares a winner and evels in the drama of his unlikely victoryWhen Wolfe does get around to positing where he thinks language came from or ather what he thinks Dr Everett thinks his summation is laughably simple even crude After epeatedly mocking some of the great minds of all time eg Darwin Chomsky for failing to construct an effective explanation for language s origins he puts Forth An Unbelievable Almost Comical Theory That an unbelievable almost comical theory that spends all of two pages expounding Charles Darwin it turns out is no match for Tom WolfeThe whole thing is smug pretentious and frankly insulting Maybe worst of all Tom Wolfe abuses ellipses No seriously you will not believe the number of pointless ellipses he uses This book forms a loose trilogy with The Painted Word Wolfe s dissection of art and art criticism and From Bauhaus to Our House his similar evisceration of architectural theory This book is different in that Wolfe has ventured into scientific theory or actually holy writ ie Darwinian evolutionary theory Those two books also dealt with a smaller topic the conflict between American independent thought and the a smaller topic the conflict between American independent thought and the of American intellectuals to follow European isms one of Wolfe s particular bugaboos But even though this book deals with science you see the same themes as Wolfe s earlier works the importance of cultural and class distinctions in how thoughts gain social currency the need for human beings to group themselves off into hostile tribes even within civilization the capacity of intellectuals to accept large concepts for largely non intellectual easons and the importance of personality in shaping what are supposed to be impersonal concepts that shape how we live our lives Wolfe likes to toss these occasional grenades into the ether and watch people shrink in horror when they see their various sacred cows in art science or politics threatened Like those earlier works Wolfe does some eporting but largely elies on previously published work into which he injects his own distinctive style One need only look at the eviews to see some of his suspicions confirmed How dare this mere journalist uestion the accepted logic of scientists What could he possibly know of science All sounding strangely enough like offended clergymen confronted with The Origin of the Species There are various stories within the story and Wolfe enjoys showing Darwin as not so much a big brain but as a man with maladies and pride and vanity much in the same vein as Noam Chomsky and others This drives home his point that our intellectual heroes are not always so much concerned with truth as their own jealously guarded eputations Keeping in mind this is a 169 page book with footnotes Wolfe isn t interested in a big takedown of evolutionary theory as much as a window on how human beings digest thought One gets a sense of the vast acreage of how much we don t eally know about areas we pretend we completely understand and how much of what we think is unshakeable scientific fact may be esting on foundations of educated guesses making us no different than the ancestors we look down upon The effect perhaps isn t so much that we should mistrust what we know as we should never be afraid to uestion any part of it. Ontroversial work of modern day anthropologist Daniel Everett who defies the current wisdom that language is hard wired in humans Wolfe examines the solemn long faced laugh out loud zig zags of Darwinism old and Neo and finds it irrelevant here in the Kingdom of Spee.

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