Every Word Is a Bird We Teach to Sing: Encounters with the Mysteries and Meanings of Language by Daniel Tammet

Every Word Is a Bird We Teach to Sing: Encounters with the Mysteries and Meanings of Language

A mind-expanding, deeply humane tour of language by the bestselling author of Born on a Blue Day and Thinking in Numbers.Is vocabulary destiny? Why do clocks "talk" to the Nahua people of Mexico? Will A.I. researchers ever produce true human-machine dialogue? In this mesmerizing collection of essays, Daniel Tammet answers these and many other questions about the intricacy...

Title:Every Word Is a Bird We Teach to Sing: Encounters with the Mysteries and Meanings of Language
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Edition Language:English

Every Word Is a Bird We Teach to Sing: Encounters with the Mysteries and Meanings of Language Reviews

  • Amelia Smith

    full review on agreybox:

    -

    by Daniel Tammet is a non-fiction piece that focuses on our relationship as beings possessing the ability to communicate through language. This relationship isn’t always tended to—how many of us on a daily basis think about the words and the words others use to communicate, especially not just what they m

    full review on agreybox:

    -

    by Daniel Tammet is a non-fiction piece that focuses on our relationship as beings possessing the ability to communicate through language. This relationship isn’t always tended to—how many of us on a daily basis think about the words and the words others use to communicate, especially not just what they mean but how they sound, look and feel? In many ways, I felt as though this book asked of me to slow down and find pleasure in the way in which humans communicate.

    Though it is a book about linguistics,

    doesn’t require a previous knowledge or interest in the subject. Not bogged down with linguistic jargon, and thoroughly explained with the jargon arises,

    tells stories about language that are accessible and will appeal to a wide audience, which is its strength. Through personal stories and interviews, Tammet weaves together a tapestry on the beauty and frustrations of language, at once a method of connection and a barrier of understanding. It’s a love letter, laden with hopes, fears, frustrations, and the triumph of connection.

    Tammet’s personal relationship with language is the first subject in his book and it is a necessary beginning as the author experiences language in a way that many people don’t. Identifying on the high end of the spectrum of autism, Tammet’s first experience with language was one that no one else understood. Numbers were his chosen way to communicate and Tammet describes this system and his tumultuous relationship with using English to express himself.

    The rest of

    journeys through many topics, all related to language. Tammet captures the paradox of language in discussing the utopian dream of an easy-to-learn global language of Esperanto and the tragedy (to some more than others) of the disappearance of languages due to cultural imperialism. Here too he delves into the politics of the language of repression and the efforts of native speakers of suppressed languages, like those in Africa, to publish works in their mother tongue. He takes us on a trip to cultures obsessively dedicated with preserving the sanctity of their language in an effort that is both admirable and fool-hardy.

    I felt that these subjects were handled with respect. Even when Tammet’s position on the topic shows through his writing, he isn’t dismissive of the other side of the arguments presented. With many of these political issues, there’s strong arguments on both sides and I liked that Tammet expressed his own doubts and beliefs without pressuring the reader to agree with him.

    This is a book for people who love language and for those who don’t already to fall in love with it.

  • Margaret Sankey

    Tammet, as a person with high functioning autism, defied conventional expectations and turned the workings of his mind to a field in which he could find great advantage--sociolinguistics. Although primarily a novelist, this is a set of essays in which he engages global language: the onomatopoetic words of Nahua in Mexico, the only Englishman in the French Academy, the Icelandic personal names committee, the challenge of translating the Bible for a Pacific tribe that has never seen milk or honey,

    Tammet, as a person with high functioning autism, defied conventional expectations and turned the workings of his mind to a field in which he could find great advantage--sociolinguistics. Although primarily a novelist, this is a set of essays in which he engages global language: the onomatopoetic words of Nahua in Mexico, the only Englishman in the French Academy, the Icelandic personal names committee, the challenge of translating the Bible for a Pacific tribe that has never seen milk or honey, the dialects of sign language (and its French roots), attempts to keep the Manx language alive, and teaching business English to Lithuanian women in the 1990s.

  • Auderoy Lin

    :

    The world was made up of words. But I thought and felt and sometimes dreamed in a private language of numbers.

    Sixty-one two two two two eleven

    One hundred and thirty-one forty-nine

    As sounds and social currency, words could not yet hold me.

    All literature, I finally realized with a jolt, amounted to an act of translation: a condensing, a sifting, a realignment of the author’s thought-world into words.

    I had more than one book in me. And each of my subsequent books...was different. Each ta

    :

    The world was made up of words. But I thought and felt and sometimes dreamed in a private language of numbers.

    Sixty-one two two two two eleven

    One hundred and thirty-one forty-nine

    As sounds and social currency, words could not yet hold me.

    All literature, I finally realized with a jolt, amounted to an act of translation: a condensing, a sifting, a realignment of the author’s thought-world into words.

    I had more than one book in me. And each of my subsequent books...was different. Each taught me what my limits weren’t. I could do this. And this. And this as well.

    Enthusiastic students don’t make good dunces.

    For the director, poetry was only a side effect of language, peripheral; for me it was essential.

    Grammar and memory come from playing with words, rubbing them on the fingers and on the tongue, experiencing the various meanings they give off.

    Assurance rejuvenated them, made their skin shine. I had never seen the women look as beautiful as they did then.

    Every voice carries certain personality traits—the tongue-tiedness of one; of another, the overreaching vowels. Every voice, in preferring

    to

    , or in pronouncing

    as

    , betrays traces of its past. But vocabulary is not destiny. Words, regardless of their pedigree, make only as much sense as we choose to give them. We are the teachers, not they. To possess fluency, or “verbal intelligence,” is to animate words with our imagination. Every word is a bird we teach to sing.

    Reality responds to language. Reality is polyglot.

    Humans in conversation update and modify social reality from moment to moment.

  • Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum

    is a collection of essays by Daniel Tammet. Daniel is an autistic savant with synaesthesia and his love of language and words intrigued me enough to pick up this book and find out more. What I learned quickly was that Daniel Tammet is a little out of my league. His collection of essays takes an almost academic look at language and meaning, and I wasn't prepared for just how many languages he would refe

    is a collection of essays by Daniel Tammet. Daniel is an autistic savant with synaesthesia and his love of language and words intrigued me enough to pick up this book and find out more. What I learned quickly was that Daniel Tammet is a little out of my league. His collection of essays takes an almost academic look at language and meaning, and I wasn't prepared for just how many languages he would reference; narrowly thinking this book would be primarily about the English language. I later learned Tammet is a polyglot and has mastered 10 languages: English, Finnish, French, German, Lithuanian, Esperanto, Spanish, Romanian, Icelandic, and Welsh, the majority of which are referred to in this book.

    An Englishman at L'Academie Francaise was about the group of people assigned the task of refining the French dictionary. This felt like a glimpse into another century, so to discover this is still happening today was a thrill.

    My favourite essay was Talking Hands, which was essentially about ASL. I didn't know that the persons's stance - leaning forward, leaning back or to the left/right - also added meaning to sign language and I just loved this essay.

    I enjoyed A Grammar of the Telephone, which was all about how the emerging technology of the time inspired a new way for people to begin a conversation and talk to each other without the cues of body language.

    Translating Faithfully was about translating the Old Testament and Conversational Human looked at whether chatbots will ever sound truly like 'us'.

    OuLiPo is the essay title, but also a

    (Wikipedia) While writing about these writers, Tammet does so without ever using the letter 'e'. It was amusing and easily the most impressive piece of writing in the collection.

    I recommend this book to those with an interest in linguistics. Those with a love of the English language might find themselves a little out of their depth in some of the essays but there's no reason why you can't pick and choose which essays to read. It will be well worth the effort.

    * Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

  • Katie/Doing Dewey

    I thought it was offensive that some critics thought this author’s earlier memoir might be a one-off ‘disability memoir’. However, I have to admit that part of what made me think he would have something interesting to say is the belief that someone with autism might have a different perspective on the world. To an extent, this was true. The way the author associates concepts with numbers (in part due to his synesthesia) was fascinating and his descriptions were beautiful, poetic in a way delight

    I thought it was offensive that some critics thought this author’s earlier memoir might be a one-off ‘disability memoir’. However, I have to admit that part of what made me think he would have something interesting to say is the belief that someone with autism might have a different perspective on the world. To an extent, this was true. The way the author associates concepts with numbers (in part due to his synesthesia) was fascinating and his descriptions were beautiful, poetic in a way delightfully rooted in math. However, I also felt like his passion for words tapped into a common feeling, something I’ve felt from many authors. The way he analyzes words may or may not be unique (he’s certainly more thoughtful and more knowledgeable in his appreciation for language than I am!), but the passion driving his analysis is something I think any reader or writer will enjoy relating to. Lovely read, highly recommended.

    This review first published on

  • Emma Sea

    Requested via library

  • Breakaway Reviewers

    A stunning depiction of the depth of human language

    Daniel Tammett is an autistic savant, rated at 15th in a poll of the Top 100 geniuses in 2007.

    By the excellent writing which characterises this book, one would never guess that he views the English Language with discomfort, where synesthesia meant that he understood words in terms of strings of numbers.

    The book contains fifteen very different chapters, each describing the influences and the ups and downs of his exploration of the words themselve

    A stunning depiction of the depth of human language

    Daniel Tammett is an autistic savant, rated at 15th in a poll of the Top 100 geniuses in 2007.

    By the excellent writing which characterises this book, one would never guess that he views the English Language with discomfort, where synesthesia meant that he understood words in terms of strings of numbers.

    The book contains fifteen very different chapters, each describing the influences and the ups and downs of his exploration of the words themselves and their meanings.

    His overall view is that words themselves have no meaning until they are used in context. Alone, the word 'toast' could have two very different 'meanings'. We animate words through our imagination and hence 'the bird is taught to sing'.

    It wasn't an easy journey for Tammet as he confronted the closed minds of the psychological researchers who failed to see the depth of his experience of words.

    One of the words the researchers presented was 'equivocal' and this sparked such a rich and varied experience in Tammet's understanding as evoked in his description, 'A word cool to the touch. The greenness. The Shininess. The coolness. They all came at me simultaneously. The word radiated the sea on a late British summer afternoon – the briny, garlicky smell of the sea – and aroused a momentary nostalgia for the coast'. It also contains all five vowels if you hadn't realised that.

    This is such an accessible book, rather than the usual studies of psychology, autism and language, each word sings exuberantly, like the birds, and in that song opens up some understanding of the potential of human language. It is an absolute must for anyone interested in linguistics, psychology and/or autism.

    Pashtpaws

    Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of this book to review

  • Jo-Ann Duff (Duffy The Writer)

    Every Word Is A Bird We Teach To Sing is a wonderful collection of encounters, interviews, and experiences which author Daniel Tammet has experienced throughout his life. Daniel has high functioning autism and sees the world, and in particular words and numbers, differently to most of us. Numbers bring about feelings and images, for example, certain numbers are described as heavy, hard, floating, or aggressive. There is a complex pattern when it comes to attaching feelings and colours to words a

    Every Word Is A Bird We Teach To Sing is a wonderful collection of encounters, interviews, and experiences which author Daniel Tammet has experienced throughout his life. Daniel has high functioning autism and sees the world, and in particular words and numbers, differently to most of us. Numbers bring about feelings and images, for example, certain numbers are described as heavy, hard, floating, or aggressive. There is a complex pattern when it comes to attaching feelings and colours to words and numbers, which I had a hard time grasping sometimes, yet it all works in Tammets mind and it all fits together.

    See how the T advances

    Stain

    Satin

    Saint

    (From Every Word Is A Bird We Teach To Sing)

    Tammet explores not only the English language but that of other countries. He helped Lithuanian women learn English by using poetry; where words bring about feelings. Feelings are something our memory holds on to, something sticks when a phrase or sentence resonates with and it is then remembered forever. Rather than repeating meaningless lines on a whiteboard, Tammet taught English using poetry and genuine, natural conversation. In Iceland, the country works extremely hard to keep the language as it is, with committees to approve names for children and even scouring newspaper print to ensure slang words don’t creep in and become part of the everyday language.

    Who Should Read Every Word Is A Bird We Teach To Sing?

    Every Word Is A Bird We Teach To Sing is a brain training book. I found myself fascinated by a language I have spoken all my life and I definitely felt I was learning and gaining a deeper understanding of language. Not only about the intricacies and wonders of the English language, but also understanding what it’s like to live in this world with high-functioning autism. At times it seems a curse, but in Tammets case is definitely a gift he shares with eloquence here.

  • Alan

    Daniel Tammet is an autistic savant whose talents include quick mathematical calculations & memorization, multiple languages and colour synesthesia. He has performed various public stunts, presumably for book publicity, such as learning Icelandic in 1 week and then being interviewed about it on Icelandic Television and memorizing/reciting Pi to 22,514 digits. I first learned of him about a decade ago from reading various articles / reviews related to his autobiography

    Daniel Tammet is an autistic savant whose talents include quick mathematical calculations & memorization, multiple languages and colour synesthesia. He has performed various public stunts, presumably for book publicity, such as learning Icelandic in 1 week and then being interviewed about it on Icelandic Television and memorizing/reciting Pi to 22,514 digits. I first learned of him about a decade ago from reading various articles / reviews related to his autobiography

    .

    At the time, the draw of interest for me was that Tammet had changed his family name after finding the Estonian word "tamm" (oak) on the internet. He adopted the new name as he preferred the colours and shapes that it conveyed to his synesthetic sensibility. I hadn't read any of his books previously, but this most recent 2017 title with essays on various languages or methods of speech and writing intrigued me.

    The essays cover a wide range of topics including Tammet's own teaching of English in Lithuania, Icelandic naming rules, L'Academie Francaise and its official control of the French language, Sign Language, Telephone speaking conventions and habits, writing with Oulipo constraints (an essay which is itself written with an Oulipo constraint), the attempts to preserve the Manx language (the Gaelic language unique to the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea), translating the Old Testament Bible, whether AI bots will ever pass a conversational Turing Test etc. All of these were intriguing and full of linguistic trivia that you likely have never heard about before (at least I certainly hadn't).

    Oddly, there is no essay about the Mänti language which is a Finnic-based language which Tammet invented by adapting his favourite Finnish and Estonian words. Perhaps it is covered in another one of his several books which I am now even more eager to read.

  • Samantha

    Daniel Tammet is an explorer and treasure seeker, and his prize is language. Tammet is uniquely qualified for a linguistic adventure, through his synaesthesia – the ability to interpret one sense as another. In his case, Tammet sees language as a visible construct – shapes, colours and textures. Initially fluent in the language of numbers (even composing poems of numbers), Tammet has always had a remarkable yet perhaps unusual relationship with words – they are more than pen strokes on a page, b

    Daniel Tammet is an explorer and treasure seeker, and his prize is language. Tammet is uniquely qualified for a linguistic adventure, through his synaesthesia – the ability to interpret one sense as another. In his case, Tammet sees language as a visible construct – shapes, colours and textures. Initially fluent in the language of numbers (even composing poems of numbers), Tammet has always had a remarkable yet perhaps unusual relationship with words – they are more than pen strokes on a page, but physically represent a shape, feeling, texture or colour, arranging themselves in unusual partnerships and illustrating their links to their brethren through manners invisible to many.

    Tammet’s unique experience of language thus illustrates to the reader the immense richness of any language, the amazing possibilities in prefixes and suffixes, the playful manner in which a language can be constructed and destructed, allowing one to see it anew. This rebirth of language in the mind of the reader is a moving a deeply rewarding experience, which Tammet gracefully and intelligently communicates.

    Daniel Tammet has allowed me the opportunity to view my mothertongue anew, as a creature which constantly evolves, adapts and and translates. As he declares, “English never stops.” Through the book’s unique interpretation of words, sounds and the squiggles which indicate both, it becomes apparent that no language is fixed – while rules govern grammar and structure, the feelings and imagery inspired by a specific expression can be interpreted differently be many readers – in fact, it is safe to say that every person translates their own language, as well as that of others. Indeed, the author explains an incredibly powerful aspect of language and communication, “To be fluent, we must animate words with our imagination”.

    Every Word is a Bird we Teach to Sing is a rewarding experience, a ticket to Tammet’s journey in search of what makes language just that, and the politics, history and evolution behind communication. His book truly has the power to change the way we view language as a tool which allows us to communicate.

    Throughout its forages into the various complexities of language and communication, Tammet makes a point of leaving you with the realization that what is most important in this all is meaning, not the words or gestures you use to provide it.

    Tammet’s is a book which makes scholarly investigation exciting, and which makes greater understanding possible. I cannot adequately praise his efforts, but I leave you with an instruction; he is a pathfinder, and we should follow him.

    Every Word is a Bird we Teach to Sing by Daniel Tammet is published by Hodder & Stoughton, an imprint of Hachette Books, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

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