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 book 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 catastrophes 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 Englightenment, and have recently received fresh impetus in attempts to create a natural language for artificial intelligence. The story Umberto Eco tells ranges widely, from the writings of Augustine, Dante, Descartes and Rousseau, arcane treaties on cabbalism and magic, to the history of the study of language and its origins. He demonstrates the intimate 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 languages as closest to the original. He also shows how the late 18th-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. Umberto Eco is the author of "The Name of the Rose", "A Theory of Semiotics", Foucault's Pendulum", "Travels in Hyperreality", "Interpretation and Overinterpretation" and "The Limits of Interpretation".
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Used availability for Umberto Eco's The Search for the Perfect Language
October 1995 : UK Hardback
July 1997 : UK Paperback
April 1997 : UK Paperback