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Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages Kindle Edition

77 customer reviews

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Length: 308 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews


The New York Times “Editor’s Choice”
The Economist “Best Books of 2010”
• Financial Times “Best Books of 2010”
Library Journal “Best Books of 2010”
“Fascinating reading.… Deutscher does not merely weave little-known facts into an absorbing story. He also takes account of the vast changes in our perceptions of other races and cultures over the past two centuries.”
— Derek Bickerton, The New York Times Book Review
“An informative, pleasurable read… A gifted writer, Deutscher picks his way nimbly past overblown arguments to a sensible compromise.”
—Amanda Katz, The Boston Globe
“A thrilling and challenging ride.”
— Christopher Schoppa, The Washington Post
“Brilliantly surveys the differences words and grammar make between cultures.”
—Carlin Romano, The Chronicle of Higher Education
“A most entertaining book, easy to read but packed with fascinating detail.”
—Michael Quinion, World Wide Words
Through The Language Glass is so robustly researched and wonderfully told that it is hard to put down… Deutscher brings together more than a century’s worth of captivating characters, incidents, and experiments that illuminate the relationship between words and mind… He makes a convincing case for the influence of language on thought, and in doing so he reveals as much about the way color words shape our perception as about the way that scientific dogma and fashion can blind us.”
— Christine Kenneally, New Scientist </...

About the Author

Guy Deutscher is the author of The Unfolding of Language: The Evolution of Mankind's Greatest Invention. Formerly a Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge, and of the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Languages in the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, he is an honorary Research Fellow at the School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures in the University of Manchester. Through the Language Glass is his third book. He lives in Oxford with his wife and two daughters.

Product Details

  • File Size: 955 KB
  • Print Length: 308 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0099505576
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books (August 31, 2010)
  • Publication Date: August 31, 2010
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00403MO0M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #307,207 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

121 of 128 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In some cultures, there is a single word that denotes both blue and green. The people in these cultures can see the difference between the colors as well as anyone else, but they don't consider blue and green different colors, just different shades of the same color. In Russian, there is a word for dark blue and another word for sky blue. We who did not grow up speaking Russian do not confuse dark blue and light blue any more than Russians do, even if we call them both "blue."

How a language deals with colors is just one of the ways that linguist Guy Deutscher examines the interplay between language and thought. For many years, it was THE controversy in linguistic circles. But even if the phrases "Sapir-Whorf" and "Chomskian grammar" do not make you see red or any other color, you will find Deutscher's investigations into how language affects thought and vice versa, fascinating and enlightening.

He discusses why, in the Iliad, Homer described both the sea and oxen as being "wine-colored." He describes a society in which the people use points of the compass to describe locations rather than "left" and "right," and how that affects their sense of place.

Through the Language Glass had me seriously questioning what I thought I knew about language. Deutscher challenges conventional linguistic theories and seems to have a great time doing it. Through the Language Glass is the kind of book that you want to share with everyone and find out what they think about it, too. Is Deutscher crazy? Is he brilliant? Both, probably.

Also recommended -- When Languages Die: The Extinction of the World's Languages and the Erosion of Human Knowledge by K. David Harrison, and Harrison's documentary, The Linguists.
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126 of 138 people found the following review helpful By David M. Giltinan on October 3, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The first foreign language I learned to complete fluency was German - after five years of high school German I spent a year at a German boys' boarding school. At the end of that year I was completely fluent, but noticed an odd phenomenon, that I felt like a slightly different person when I spoke German than when speaking English. Since then I've also learned Spanish to a high degree of fluency, and the same observation holds. In both cases, the main difference that I perceive has to do with humor, and the way the language I'm speaking affects my sense of humor. So I've always been interested in the extent to which language affects thought. The notion that it does is what linguists refer to as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Belief in Sapir-Whorf reached its peak in the first half of the 20th century, but since then the notion that language affects cognition has been discredited by almost all mainstream linguists.

In "Through the Language Glass" Guy Deutscher mounts a careful, very limited defence of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. He considers three major areas - the link between language and color perception, how different languages deal with spatial orientation, and the phenomenon of differences in noun genders across different languages. His examination of the link between language and color perception is extensive and thought-provoking - he traces the development of linguistic theory on color perception from British prime minister Gladstone's commentary on the relative paucity of color terms in Homer's work, through the Berlin-Kay model (stating essentially that languages all tend to split up the color spectrum in similar ways) through very recent experiments suggesting that the existence of a particular color distinction in a language (e.g.
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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful By West Sider on December 17, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Overall this is an excellent and informative discussion of how language influences thought, and I enjoyed reading it. Unfortunately for Kindle readers, Mr. Deutscher dedicates a significant portion of the analysis to the words and perceptions of color. There are numerous references to colors in charts and diagrams that are undoubtedly easily viewed in the printed version of the book, but are either recreated in black and white or totally absent from the Kindle version. (The Kindle for Mac view does not compensate.) Had I known this, I would have refrained from buying the e-reader edition, and would have purchased the hard cover book instead. I assign an average rating of three stars as a blended evaluation; the text itself I would rate five stars; the Kindle version gets one.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Lori Rodriguez on March 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
An exploration of the cultural influence of language on individual perception of the world--nurture versus nature through the lens of the mother tongue.

An interesting premise made more credible given today's (and tomorrow's) brain technology. Provides many jumping off points for further exploration. The author has the courage to explore an area 'too hot' for many and does an adequate job of showing a safe way forward. The book is at its best when the author provided fascinating examples of vocabulary and syntax from a variety of languages.

The book becomes a tedious read as the author repeats, repeats, repeats himself to ensure enough distance from Whorfianism to avoid a backlash from the "baggage of intellectual history". A lot of build-up to each finding with not enough fanfare when he finally gets to the point. No real summary of findings to pull it all together.

Because you may miss it in the book, here is the main finding: in most areas, causation between language and perception is unfounded; however, a compelling case can be made in three very specific areas:
~ Spatial thinking - p. 193
~ Gender - p. 214
~ Color (as in rainbow, not race) - p. 231

With potential causation in two additional areas:
~ Plurality - p 236
~ Evidentiality - p. 236
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