In Praise of the Garrulous

Today we had a talk by the author and translator Allan Cameron on his new book ‘In Praise of the Garrulous‘.  In it, he sings the praise of ‘Garrulousness’ or talkativeness, and rejects the idea that human languages were initially homogeneous.  Indeed, he claimed that monolingualism is not our natural state, but we are designed to handle multiple languages, dialects and registers.

He also talked about the idea that there is a trade-off between linguistic diversity and the ability of a society to accumulate knowledge through technologies such as writing.  Although he did acknowledge that some systems (e.g. Chinese) protect linguistic diversity by transcending exact phonetic representation.

The talk was illustrated by a wide range of sources – literary and historical – including the role of the printing industry in Venice on the standardisation and spread of modern day Italian.  The book promises to be an  interesting approach to language evolution that takes into account many aspects that current scientific researchers leave out such as how power and war influence how languages change.

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