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The language game : how improvisation created language and changed the world / Morten H. Christiansen, Nick Chater.


"Think about the game charades. Its rules are simple: no talking, of course, and little else. Each time we play with a new group, we have to figure each other out, with our different styles, backgrounds, and senses of the world, as we struggle to connect how we would act out something (say, Christopher Columbus crossing the Atlantic) with how other people might understand it. But as we play, a lingo can develop-with time, an upheld hand, bobbing along, might not just come to represent the ship on the Santa Maria, but a vast range of possibilities, including both conceptual ones such as exploration or trade, actions like sailing, or even a place like India or Santo Domingo. Almost from nothing, the players can create something like a language. Such nearly rule-less games are a hallmark of the human species: testament not just to our intelligence, but our flexibility of mind as well as our desires to cooperate, to understand, and to be understood. In The Language Game, cognitive scientists Nick Chater and Morten Christiansen show games like charades reveal something more: where language comes from and how it works. Language is perhaps humanity's most astonishing traits, and one of its most studied, but as Chater and Christiansen, it has been our most poorly understood. Several generations of scientists sought to understand how the rules of language could be hardwired in the brain. It was a colossal mistake. Chater and Christiansen show that language is hardly about rules at all, let alone those welded into our brain by evolution, but rather about near-total freedom, where the only real constraints are our imaginations and our desire to be understood. And with that as the point of departure, they are able to find compelling solutions to old riddles and new puzzles, including why chimpanzees don't understand pointing fingers; whether having two words for "blue" changes what we see; why Danish is so much harder to learn than Norwegian; how words change meanings; and whether computers will ever truly understand a human. The Language Game will bewitch readers of classic books on mind and language, such as Douglas Hofstadter's Godel Escher Bach and John McWhorter's The Power of Babel, and find a welcome spot on the shelf of readers of Joseph Henrich's Weirdest People in the World and Frans de Waal's Mama's Last Hug. And like the game of charades, it will engage, amuse, and dazzle readers for years to come"-- Provided by publisher.

Record details

  • ISBN: 9781541674981
  • ISBN: 1541674987
  • Physical Description: vii, 291 pages : illustrations, map ; 25 cm
  • Edition: First edition.
  • Publisher: New York : Basic Books, 2022.

Content descriptions

Bibliography, etc. Note:
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Formatted Contents Note:
The Accidental Invention That Changed The World -- Language As Charades -- The Fleeting Nature Of Language -- The Unbearable Lightness Of Meaning -- Linguistic Order At The Edge Of Chaos -- Language Evolution Without Biological Evolution -- Following In Each Other's Footsteps -- Endless Forms Most Beautiful -- The Virtuous Circle: Brains, Culture, And Language -- Language Will Save Us From The Singularity.
Subject: Language and languages > Origin.
Language and languages > Philosophy.
Cognitive grammar.
Langage et langues > Origines.
Langage et langues > Philosophie.
Grammaire cognitive.
Cognitive grammar.
Language and languages > Origin.
Language and languages > Philosophy.

Available copies

  • 1 of 1 copy available at Homer Library. (Show)
  • 1 of 1 copy available at Homer Library System. (Show)
  • 1 of 1 copy available at Homer Public Library.


  • 0 current holds with 1 total copy.
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Location Call Number / Copy Notes Barcode Shelving Location Status Due Date
Homer Public Library 401 CHR (Text) 000164322 Nonfiction Available -

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