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WHY IS THIS A QUESTION?

Have you ever wondered why our language works the way it does? Why our words go in the order they do? Why our alphabet is arranged in ABC order? Why our letters even look the way they do? And for that matter, how our brain deals with all these written lines, curves, dots, and dashes, and somehow manages to use them to make sense of our linguistic world?

 

Questions like these—and many more like them—are the subject of the latest book by Paul Anthony Jones, Why Is This A Question?

 

Published by Elliott & Thompson in October 2022, Why Is This A Question? explores 20 extraordinary ponderables from the world of language and linguistics. Beginning with some of the basics (like the surprisingly tricky problem of explaining precisely what words and languages actually are), the book continues on through many of the more curious features of our language (such as the order of our words and the history of our alphabet) before taking a deep dive into some of the most fascinating philosophical aspects of our language and its workings. How does reading work? How do we speak? How do we understand things? And what does moving our hands when we talk have to do with our aquatic primordial ancestors?

 

Along the way, the book is peppered with remarkable tales and anecdotes from the world of language—like the story of a Sumatran orangutan that learned a bizarrely human way of communicating, and the story of a short-lived language once used by Basque fishermen in an isolated corner of Iceland. All told, Why Is This A Question? is an enthralling and captivating exploration of surely one of the most captivating subjects imaginable.

“Language is an immensely intricate medium, 

but Paul Anthony Jones has the measure of it.”

John Banville
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