EBOOK/PDF [The Kingdom of Speech]
Not having read any Tom Wolfe before I was riveted 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 reat 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 rammar I ve written lots about all this in my review #universal rammar I ve written lots about all this in my review 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 results or been proved even slightly to reflect physiological or neurological realityWolfe sees this as a David v 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 reason 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 PMS get on to the main event Wolfe simply lifts anecdotes wholesale from Everett s Don t Sleep There Are Snakes and retells them It s impossible not to feel that you d rather just be reading Everett first hand More dangerously Wolfeives 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 was to puncture the Chomskyan hegemony his own explanation that language didn t evolve but rather was invented like a bow and arrow is interesting but a hell of a long way from conclusiveThat matters because we already The Two of Swords get too many writers making assumptions about where language came from and when it developed and what it was for whereas the truth is that no one has the slightest idea nothing about that has changed and nor does it seem likely to not that you d know it from Wolfe s strange and breathless polemic Areat entertaining read Wolfe Sinfully Damaged (Master Mistress, 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 cano I hope to write about this later When etting 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 enetic code and I loved Modern Grammar language acuisition I was especially intrigued by how language functions similarly to the Ēna genetic code and I loved Modern Grammar 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 realize until I read Tom Wolfe s superb book The Kingdom of Speech was that Chomsky had been toppled from his position of linguistic demi Godhood by a relative 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 Darwinuessed that language evolved from humans imitating bird speech Chomsky believed that language ability evolved within an as yet unknown brainnervous system organ However a relative newcomer in the world of linguistics Daniel Everett Moody Bible College raduate and former missionary to a remote 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 language 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 sop. The maestro storyteller and reporter 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. .
Some formal training in linguistics and extensive exploration of the field as a hobby I read 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 resist engaging in ross simplifications and exaggerations which turned me off entirely and really limited his credibility as a narrator As an example he repeatedly boils long winded highly technical series of academic comments ie criticisms and their subseuent rebuttals into Facebook style clickbait headlines Everett et al DEMOLISH Chomsky and His Ilk Not once does he actually engage with the academic materials he references 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 resounding 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 Kentucky Grandmothers grappling with the actual content of the academic debate he simply declares a winner and revels in the drama of his unlikely victoryWhen Wolfe doeset around to positing where he thinks language came from or rather what he thinks Dr Everett thinks his summation is laughably simple even crude After repeatedly mocking some of the reat 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 he 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 #ellipses No seriously you will not believe number of pointless ellipses he uses Tom Wolfe tries to take down Charles Darwin and Noam Chomsky with baffling and terrible results Alternate title The Wrong Stuff If you ever wanted to read 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 like a witless stone to sturm und drang self regard As an erstwhile colleague of mine put it in his review of the book in the Washington Post here the book is unsullied by researchYou don t have to be an evolutionary biologist or a linguist to find this book a piece of mean spirited ad an evolutionary biologist or a linguist to find this book a piece of mean spirited ad drivel The book is filled with incorrect assertions to take just one formal Chomskyan linguists don t just sit around in air conditioned rooms making theories many have spent their careers doing fieldwork and documenting the intricacies of the rammars of languages all over the planet an After Wolfe s death I looked for books he authored that I hadn t read This is oneThe Kingdom of Speech is short 170 pages and leans on research than reporting However like all Tom Wolfe books it is a fun read 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 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 research and academic speculation what we k I normally enjoy Tom Wolfe but this takedown of modern linguistics is simply a rant His new journalism style was completely unsuited to persuading me of the validity of some of his rather specious scientific arguments Despite the fairly copious footnotes there was little evidence that Wolfe s understanding of either evolution or linguistics had any depth 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 tendency 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 them. 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.
Tom Wolfe í 4 SummaryHisticated 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 rainforest 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 doncounted as stone age in their technological development since they don have stone tools Their only tools are very rudimentary 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 reason 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 #surprised if they all have a common ancestor that broke off a few hundred or so years ago another ian tribe Are they really 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 What kind of language would such a pair or of ferals create And although the extreme of the rainforest 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 remain 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 The Blackmailed Secretary 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 peopleroup 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 ability to use speech and to understand language In Genesis the very first task that Adam was If the Magic Fits (100 Dresses, 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 ruin a career in academia than to be a Christian Any theory of anything that is based on Intelligent Design rather 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 origin and development of languageIf you are interested in language or in understanding the philosophical trendsetters in the last 150 years I highly recommend The Kingdom of Speech Wolfe makes the journey in this 185 page book not only educational but enjoyable Maybe Tom Wolfe should be commended for diving headfirst into a complicated even esoteric debate raging inside linguistics and exposing it to a far larger audience than ever before But praise for this book should really end there As someone with. Is a captivating paradigm shifting argument that speech not evolution is responsible for humanity's complex societies and achievementsFrom Alfred Russel Wallace the Englishman who beat Darwin to the theory of natural selection but later renounced it and through the