Let me get personal for a minute.
Linguistics is my first love. There is some alternate universe out there where I became a really successful something or the other in some linguistics field, but in this world it didn’t work out. Part of the problem was that I find reading actual academic texts (scholarly articles) to be extremely boring. While doing my Master’s degree I was often told that my writing had far too much personality to it, and that I needed to make it more academic.
There are very likely other reasons why I would be a terrible academic. I also don’t particularly like the idea of specializing, and I tend to be far too abstract about things.
But I still find myself picking up books on linguistics of all levels and reading them. They always tend to fill me with a lot of joy and wonder for the subject, and while I myself don’t like to specialize, reading the end result of someone’s specialization is always great.
Daniel Everett’s ‘How Language Began’ is a specialization of the kind of topic I would have sucked at studying. The book propose a theory of why language is not an innate human property (as Chomsky proposed, but rather a human invention that grew out of culture (‘Chomsky is wrong’ may actually be a pretty good subtitle for this book, in fact. If you are very interested to know why Noam Chomsky is wrong, this is certainly a very good book.). While ‘invention may be an iffy word for what language is, the notion of human communication being the most advanced form of a ‘semiotic progression’ makes a lot of sense.
There is a certain ‘your millage may vary’ aspect to this review. While reading it, I could not help but have pretty mixed up feelings about what I was reading. On the one hand, large passages of it gave me a feeling of ‘hey wait is this grad school again?’. Considering that a lot of these were attached to the name Charles Sander Pierce, I don’t imagine that this sentiment will be universally held. This book reviewed a lot of the information I had gone over at that time (though not always in my classes), and I was pretty pleased to find how well I remember things I read about a decade ago. Then again, a lot of the research for this book involved the rather scientific and archaeological side of anthropology, and comparing us homo sapiens to the other homo species that we ultimately out-competed. While these sections were more challenging, I found them pretty accessible, which is a credit to the author.
I found the book to be overall rather accessible and interesting. But again, I am not sure to what extent this was informed by my education.