Robert McCrum is the associate editor of The Observer (London) and co-author of the bestseller The Story of English, a history of the English language, that went on to be adapted into an Emmy Award-winning nine-part PBS television series. He is the author of six works of fiction, including In the Secret State and Mainland. Among his nonfiction books are the acclaimed biography Wodehouse: A Life and the memoir My Year Off: Recovering Life after a Stroke. In Globish, McCrum argues, "that a seismic shift in the foundations of our lingua franca has transformed [British and American English] from an expression of Anglo-American cultural sovereignty into a supra-national phenomenon, with its own powerful inner dynamic." (recorded 6/10/2010)
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Humans evolved a brain with an extraordinary knack for language, but just how and when we began using language is still largely a mystery. Early human communication may have been in sign language or song, and scientists are studying other animals to learn how human language evolved.
The Irish language used to be a symbol of Catholic nationalism. But it’s gradually becoming de-politicized, morphing into just another minority language in need of saving.
For the Ariekei, who live on a distant planet in China Miéville’s latest novel Embassytown, speech is thought: “Without language for things that didn’t exist, they could hardly think them.”
In Miéville’s Ariekei language, there is no room for metaphor, no space between the thing – or the idea – and the word. As a result, the Ariekei have no concept of lying. Language is truth, rather than merely standing in for it. Quite the opposite of any human language.