Bastard Tongues by Derek Bickerton
A Trail-Blazing Linguist Finds Clues to Our Common Humanity in the World's Lowliest Languages

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Synopsis

Why Do Isolated Creole Languages Tend to Have Similar Grammatical Structures?
 
Bastard Tongues is an exciting, firsthand story of scientific discovery in an area of research close to the heart of what it means to be human--what language is, how it works, and how it passes from generation to generation, even where historical accidents have made normal transmission almost impossible. The story focuses on languages so low in the pecking order that many people don't regard them as languages at all--Creole languages spoken by descendants of slaves and indentured laborers in plantation colonies all over the world. The story is told by Derek Bickerton, who has spent more than thirty years researching these languages on four continents and developing a controversial theory that explains why they are so similar to one another. A published novelist, Bickerton (once described as "part scholar, part swashbuckling man of action") does not present his findings in the usual dry academic manner. Instead, you become a companion on his journey of discovery. You learn things as he learned them, share his disappointments and triumphs, explore the exotic locales where he worked, and meet the colorful characters he encountered along the way. The result is a unique blend of memoir, travelogue, history, and linguistics primer, appealing to anyone who has ever wondered how languages grow or what it's like to search the world for new knowledge.
 

About Derek Bickerton

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Derek Bickerton is Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the University of Hawaii. He is the author of two books on Creole languages (Dynamics of a Creole System and Roots of Language), three on the origin and evolution of language, and four novels.
 
Published March 4, 2008 by Hill and Wang. 292 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

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Creoles all over the world appear to be quite similar in their deep structures, causing Bickerton to argue for the presence in all of us of an inherent language-generational capacity he calls a “bioprogram.” (He notes the obvious connections to Noam Chomsky’s theories.) To test his notion, the au...

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The New York Times

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Bickerton proposed marooning six couples speaking six different languages along with children too young to have learned their parents’ language on a Pacific island for a year, to see what language the adults might figure out and how the kids might alter it.

Mar 30 2008 | Read Full Review of Bastard Tongues: A Trail-Blaz...

Bookmarks Magazine

The story focuses on languages so low in the pecking order that many people don't regard them as languages at all--Creole languages spoken by descendants of slaves and indentured laborers in plantation colonies all over the world.

Apr 10 2008 | Read Full Review of Bastard Tongues: A Trail-Blaz...

New Scientist

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Mar 22 2008 | Read Full Review of Bastard Tongues: A Trail-Blaz...

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