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.
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).
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