I Speak, Therefore I Am

Seventeen Thoughts About Language

Andrea Moro. Translated by Ian Roberts

Columbia University Press

I Speak, Therefore I Am

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Pub Date: July 2016

ISBN: 9780231177412

96 Pages

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ISBN: 9780231177405

96 Pages

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I Speak, Therefore I Am

Seventeen Thoughts About Language

Andrea Moro. Translated by Ian Roberts

Columbia University Press

There are no men so dull and stupid, not even idiots, as to be incapable of joining together different words, and thereby constructing a declaration by which to make their thoughts understood.... On the other hand, there is no other animal, however perfect or happily circumstanced which can do the like.—Descartes

Language is more like a snowflake than a giraffe's neck. Its specific properties are determined by laws of nature, they have not developed through the accumulation of historical accidents.—Noam Chomsky

In I Speak, Therefore I Am, the Italian linguist and neuroscientist Andrea Moro composes an album of his favorite quotations from the history of linguistics, beginning with the Book of Genesis and the power of naming and concluding with Noam Chomsky's metaphor that language is a snowflake. Moro's seventeen linguistic thoughts and his commentary on them display the humanness of language: our need to name and interpret this world and create imaginary ones, to express and understand ourselves. This book is sure to delight anyone who enjoys the ineffable paradox that is human language.
Combining wide learning, sharp insight, and deft style, these enlightening and intriguing vignettes carry us through the ages to reach considerable understanding of the distinctive linguistic capacity that sets humans apart from the rest of the natural world. Noam Chomsky, author of What Kind of Creatures Are We?
There is much to find appealing in this pocket-size, readable historical panorama of important thinkers who have pondered the nature of language from the ancient Greeks to the present day. Nobody has drawn out the historical links in the story of language science in this way, and most nonspecialists would learn much from Moro's quite original observations. Robert C. Berwick, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
I Speak, Therefore I Am explores the intriguing connections between linguistics on the one hand and the sciences and philosophy on the other. The book is abundant with entertaining anecdotes of intellectual history that shed light on these connections. Moro plays the role of wise guide, and leads the reader through a remarkable journey. Robert Frank, Yale University
The author manages the considerable feat of making insightful remarks about a wide variety of figures in a very short space. Library Journal
Preface: Choice, Then Order, Then Chance, Finally Only Light
1. God
2. Plato
3. Aristotle
4. Marcus Terentius Varro
5. Roger Bacon
6. Descartes
7. Antoine Arnauld and Claude Lancelot
8. Sir William Jones
9. Hermann Osthoff and E. Karl Brugmann
10. Ferdinand de Saussure
11. Bertrand Russell
12. Martin Joos
13. Roman Jakobson
14. Joseph Greenberg
15. Eric H. Lenneberg
16. Niels Jerne
17. Noam Chomsky
Finale
Postscript
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography

About the Author

Andrea Moro is professor of general linguistics at the Scuola Universitaria Superiore (IUSS) in Pavia, Italy. His work has been published in Nature Neuroscience, Linguistic Inquiry, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and his books include The Raising of Predicates (1997), Dynamic Antisymmetry (2000), The Equilibrium of Human Syntax (2012), The Boundaries of Babel (2015), and Impossible Languages (2016).