The Linguist

The Linguist 57,1 – February/March 2018

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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Page 26 of 35 FEBRUARY/MARCH The Linguist 27 SECTION HEADER REVIEWS In this remarkable piece of personal reflection, the distinguished translator Mireille Gansel looks back on a life in which she was exposed, at an early stage, to different linguistic flows and traditions, growing up in a Europe that was destined to be fought over, occupied and re-structured during much of the 20th century. Her early experiences of listening to older relatives speaking Hungarian in a nostalgic fashion, or speaking a variety of German that reflected the world of Rilke and Schiller more than that of Goebbels and Streicher, have given her a profound sense of the journey through life that languages can bring. From here comes the idea of translation as transhumance, reflecting not only the enforced movement of people across Europe, but also the impact on their thought processes and development as individual people. From the detritus of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the calamity of the Holocaust, Gansel moves on to the complexities of the Vietnam War, which she witnessed first-hand as a neutral holder of a French passport. During her time in Hanoi, she saw the impact of American bombing on ordinary lives. She made contact with local people who wrote poetry to make sense of their experiences of fighting for the de-colonisation and independence of Indo-China over a long period. Her work even took her to the remoter parts of the region, where she came into contact with indigenous peoples whose attachment to their own little-known languages made an indelible impression. More than a book with chapters, this is a series of reflections, which neatly encapsulate Les Fugitives 2017, 128pp; ISBN: 978- 0993009334 Paperback £10 Gansel's thoughts arising from each particular period or episode of her life and, indeed, the process of transhumance which lies at the heart of this book. Some noted highlights include the passages: She spoke almost in a whisper. In that language of memory, language of the mind, language without a home. Language in exile. Translation is also about taking the byways that lead to distant places. The ultimate refuge: poetry as the language of survival, of unassailable liberty. Translation then has become part of the translator's identity and the way in which they can reach out to the world. Sensitively translated by Ros Schwartz, this is a deeply thoughtful and reflective work, which casts light on the mindset of one individual translator, and raises issues for anyone involved in the process of translation. Professor Tim Connell, CIOL Vice-President Mireille Gansel will be speaking at Jewish Book Week in London on 4 March. Translation as Transhumance Mireille Gansel; tran Ros Schwartz In his new book, the American linguist and anthropologist Daniel Everett seeks to answer a question that, for centuries, has fascinated linguists and non-linguists alike: how did human language first develop? Mainstream scholarly opinion places the origin of language somewhere between 200,000 and 50,000 BCE, coinciding with the rise of Homo sapiens and a discernible leap forward in human cultural output. Everett disagrees: he reckons that humans were using a means of communication recognisable as language in the times of Homo sapiens' predecessor, Homo erectus, thus pushing back the potential starting date for the emergence of language to almost 2 million years ago. In his opinion, conventional thinking in this area is erroneous for two main reasons. First, he rejects the idea (championed by Noam Chomsky) that the human language capacity appeared virtually overnight some 50 millennia ago due to a genetic mutation affecting the human brain. Everett is well- known for his opposition to the Universal Grammar and Language Instinct schools; in his view, our linguistic ability does not rely on any innate language-learning capacity. Rather, he believes that language followed a process of gradual evolution in line with, and interacting with, other cognitive capacities. Second, he considers that even though early human's linguistic communication may have been grammatically very simple, it was still "true language". He rejects the idea that communications between pre-sapiens hominins should be classed as crude "protolanguage". Everett feels that modern theoretical linguists overemphasise the importance of grammatical complexity to the detriment of semiotic and epistemic factors. A given community's language can be relatively simple in grammatical terms yet still contain the elements required to fulfil its cultural and communicative needs. He supports this assertion by drawing on his extensive fieldwork among Amazonian peoples whose languages are grammatically unsophisticated but phonologically highly complex. Everett also explains the existing palaeontological and evolutionary evidence for early hominins' culture-related behaviour and ability to implement complex collective ventures, which in his view must have required specific linguistic interaction. As he concludes: "Only language is able to explain the Homo erectus cognitive revolution." How Language Began: The story of humanity's greatest invention provides a lively account of the various issues involved in language evolution, as well as Everett's own controversial and potentially paradigm- shifting theory on this engrossing subject. Ross Smith MCIL How Language Began Daniel Everett Profile Books 2017, 352 pp; ISBN: 978- 1781253922 Hardback £25 E-book £19.99

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