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The Search for the Perfect Language by Umberto Eco
  

The Search for the Perfect Language

Part of the Making of Europe Series

RRP £27.50

Synopsis

The Search for the Perfect Language by Umberto Eco

The idea that there once existed a language which perfectly and unambiguously expressed the essence of all possible things and concepts has occupied the minds of philosophers, theologians, mystics and others for at least two millennia. This is an investigation into the history of that idea and of its profound influence on European thought, culture and history. From the early Dark Ages to the Renaissance it was widely believed that the language spoken in the Garden of Eden was just such a language, and that all current languages were its decadent descendants from the catastrophe of the Fall and at Babel. The recovery of that language would, for theologians, express the nature of divinity, for cabbalists allow access to hidden knowledge and power, and for philosophers reveal the nature of truth. Versions of these ideas remained current in the Enlightenment, and have recently received fresh impetus in attempts to create a natural language for artificial intelligence. The story that Umberto Eco tells ranges widely from the writings of Augustine, Dante, Descartes and Rousseau, arcane treatises on cabbalism and magic, to the history of the study of language and its origins. He demonstrates the initimate relation between language and identity and describes, for example, how and why the Irish, English, Germans and Swedes - one of whom presented God talking in Swedish to Adam, who replied in Danish, while the serpent tempted Eve in French - have variously claimed their language as closest to the original. He also shows how the late eighteenth-century discovery of a proto-language (Indo-European) for the Aryan peoples was perverted to support notions of racial superiority. To this subtle exposition of a history of extraordinary complexity, Umberto Eco links the associated history of the manner in which the sounds of language and concepts have been written and symbolized. Lucidly and wittily written, the book is, in sum, a tour de force of scholarly detection and cultural interpretation, providing a series of original perspectives on two thousand years of European History. The paperback edition of this book is not available through Blackwell outside of North America.

Reviews

This is as much a history of the study of language and its origins as it is a tour de force pursuit using scholarly detection and cultural interpretation, thus providing a series of original perspectives on two thousand years of European history.

The Medieval Review


About the Author

Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco has written works of fiction, literary criticism and philosophy. His first novel, The Name of the Rose, was a major international bestseller. His other works include Foucault's Pendulum, The Island of the Day Before, Baudolino, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana and The Prague Cemetery, along with many brilliant collections of essays. He died in February 2016.

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Book Info

Publication date

15th July 1997

Author

Umberto Eco

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Author's Website

www.umbertoeco.com/_

Publisher

Blackwell Publishers an imprint of John Wiley and Sons Ltd

Format

Paperback
400 pages

Categories

Western philosophy: Medieval & Renaissance, c 500 to c 1600
Philosophy of language
Historical & comparative linguistics

ISBN

9780631205104

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