Des, who is “far too busy with prinsessor for such trivia,” has tossed me a link to a Guardian story by Stephen Oppenheimer about, yes, the Origin of Language. I’m too enervated by the muggy weather even to do the kind of quick runthrough I did for my earlier entry on a similar NY Times story (also featuring Chomsky, chimps, and Dr. Michael Corballis, but with fewer skulls and more clicks), so I will simply join with Des in suggesting that “language was invented specifically to allow groundless speculation of how language developed.”

Oh, all right, here’s a quote: “The unique features of a language such as French clearly do not result from any biological aspect of being French but are the cultural possessions of the French-speaking community.” The cultural possessions of the French-speaking community! I make a manly effort to repress tears as the Marseillaise scene from Casablanca springs unbidden to my mind. And that in turn leads me to suggest that newspaper editors adopt Ilsa’s wise attitude when reporters start asking questions about How It All Started:

Rick: “Who are you really? And what were you before? What did you do and what did you think? Huh?”
Ilsa: “We said ‘no questions’.”


  1. Yes… closely related to “blogs were invented in order to discuss what blogs are”.
    I’m far too hot and grumpy.

  2. It was over a year ago that I publically tired of Origin Of Language stories (it was the NYT that time, too) and ever since then I have officially believed William S Burroughs’s theory that language was a pernicious mind-control virus deliberately spread by aliens. (“What scared you into time? Into body? Into shit? I will tell you: “the word.” Alien Word “the.” “Theword of Alien Enemy imprisons “thee” in Time. In Body, In Shit.)
    There’s a relatively sensible and scholarly (ie, totally inconclusive) article on the subject by Alistair Cholmondeley-McPostlethwaite (?) in the recentish Blackwell Handbook of Linguistics if you want something you can read without grinding your teeth, but really.
    (The prinsessor send their regards.)

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