Bookmas Series: 13th December 2016
A review by Emily Pite
Through the Language Glass - Guy Deutscher (Non-Fiction)
The book begins by discussing the issue of colour and how the writer Homer saw the sea as “wine dark” and sheep with “violet wool”, this intriguing observation of colour in Ancient Greece is presented by Guy Deutscher as he explains William Gladstone’s argument (the politician and a linguist on the side) that our ability to see colour has developed from a limited palette. Deutscher explains why there is such a difference in colour then compared to now (spoiler alert: it’s not because our sight got better). Deutscher poses three main questions in his book: Does language reflect the culture of a society? Do we perceive the world different because of our first language? And can different languages lead their speakers to different thoughts?
I enjoyed the book as it posed interesting questions and made me consider certainties that I had always presumed to be evident. With easy to follow explanations of topics that would otherwise only make sense to a linguist this book gives full answers with examples of languages from French to Higi (a language where there is no reference to time). However the book is frustrating as the questions posed are enticing but he mocks the theories that suggest the world changes according to what language you speak even though the title suggests there may be an explanation within the book as to why it ‘Looks Different in Other Languages’.
It’s 3am: You’re laying in darkness counting your 300th sheep. Your mom told you to get an early night, to be in bed by 10pm; but your thoughts have been running unchained in your tired mind for a while now, making insomnia your new best friend. Your heart beat is knocking eagerly at the door of your ribcage, signaling your mind that there’s no need for it to be thinking this hard. The moonlight creates patterned shadows on the walls of your small room; you count the details of every line, hoping that maybe you’ll get tired and fall asleep. But the thoughts you see, they get extracted from your mind and get presented to you like a movie you’re forced to watch. You shut your eyes, hoping to escape it all. A 100kg weight of stress gets placed on your 10kg carrying back and you try and you try to push it all away for another day. Your cheeks feel wet, but you’re not sure if you’ve been crying or if its the chilly wind of the morning air coming to breathe life into your tired body. Insomnia sweeps you off your feet and unconsciously takes you to the kitchen, where you gulp down calming pills to help you fall asleep. You get back into bed and close your eyes once again, and as you begin to drift into sleep, the sun kisses your lips and reminds you that it’s time to get up.
Eternity, too stretches, elongates the prolonged breath, time takes between our meeting, knitting dreams, of you that are just an echo of an unrequited want, The plasticity of soundlessness till I hear your voice bends and contorts, erodes, the shine from the stars, And all my nights are a range of darkness, with the faintest glimmer of you.