The Origin of Language: Tracing the Evolution of the Mother Tongue. Merritt Ruhlen. John Wiley & Sons.

The Origin of Language: Tracing the Evolution of the Mother Tongue Book Cover The Origin of Language: Tracing the Evolution of the Mother Tongue
Merritt Ruhlen
John Wiley & Sons

Just as archaeologists study fossils and ancient artifacts for clues about mankind’s origins, linguistic researchers today are sifting through word roots and grammatical conventions and coming up with some startling revelations about our beginnings. In The Origin of Language noted linguist Merritt Ruhlen takes you on a fascinating journey of discovery back through nearly 100,000 years of human history and prehistory in pursuit of the language from which all modern tongues derive.

Requiring no prior familiarity with linguistics, The Origin of Language is the first book to explain, in layman’s terms, the controversial process by which linguists are tracing the development of the vast range of human speech, sweeping aside many traditional assumptions about the spread of language and the roots of the human family. In addition to acquainting you with the manner in which such diverse languages as English and Chinese can be compared, Dr. Ruhlen introduces you to the brilliant mavericks whose linguistic theories are at last gaining worldwide acceptance. He also discusses the exciting new work being done in genetics and archaeology that corroborates much of the controversial linguistic evidence.

But more than simply describing his and his colleague’s theories, Dr. Ruhlen invites you to share in the joys of discovery. He arms you with the linguist’s basic toolkit and lets you work through the evidence for yourself and draw your own conclusions. You’ll classify languages and language families, and trace language family trees, and even reconstruct some of the basic vocabulary used by our most distant ancestors. Also, based on clues provided by your research, you’ll plot the land and sea routes most likely taken by early humans in their diaspora out of Africa and to the four corners of the world.

While The Origin of Language is an incomparable introduction to some of the most exciting linguistic research now being conducted by researchers around the globe, it is also much more. It is an inspiring invitation to join the quest for human roots and to hear the echoes of the Mother Tongue.

Merritt Ruhlen, Ph.D. is one of the world’s foremost linguists and his work has been featured in nearly every recent major article on the history of language. He has been praised for writing clearly on complex linguistic subjects for the layman. Of his book, A Guide to the World’s Languages, The Atlantic Monthly said, “[It is] easily the most accessible book of its kind.”

Dr. Ruhlen received his PhD in linguistics from Stanford University. He also studied linguistics at the University of Paris, the University of Bucharest, and the University of Illinois. He speaks both French and Romanian fluently and reads Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Latin. Dr. Ruhlen has published more than forty articles, monographs, and books on various topics in linguistics, and lectured in recent years at numerous universities in the U.S. and abroad.