Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Language Puzzle: Piecing Together the Six-Million-Year Story of How Words Evolved

The Language Puzzle is a fascinating layman accessible monograph on the development of communication, speech, and language systems throughout human history by anthropologist Dr. Steven Mithen. Due out 18th June 2024 from Hachette on their nonfiction Basic Books imprint, it's 544 pages and will be available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout.

Big reveal to start with: the question of when and where actual language developed in humans is unanswerable, and this book doesn't come to any jaw-dropping new revelations. That being said, the author does a good job of covering a fairly astounding number of ancillary subjects, some quite complex, and does so in a manner which is (mostly) free of jargon or devolving into stilted inaccessible academic language. 

It is, admittedly, a niche book but will definitely appeal to readers interested in cultural anthropology, language, and prehistory. This would make a good support text for classroom or library acquisition, for cultural anthropology and allied subjects, as well as a superlative read for those who are particularly interested in history, culture, and the arts. 

The book is fully annotated throughout, and the chapter notes and bibliography will provide readers with many hours of further reading.

Four and a half stars. Deeply researched and engaging.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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