The Kingdom of Speech

The Kingdom of Speech The maestro storyteller and reporter provocatively argues that what we think we know about speech and human evolution is wrong Tom Wolfe whose legend began in journalism takes us on an eye opening j

  • Title: The Kingdom of Speech
  • Author: Tom Wolfe
  • ISBN: 9780316269964
  • Page: 390
  • Format: Hardcover
  • The maestro storyteller and reporter provocatively argues that what we think we know about speech and human evolution is wrong.Tom Wolfe, whose legend began in journalism, takes us on an eye opening journey that is sure to arouse widespread debate The Kingdom of Speech is a captivating, paradigm shifting argument that speech not evolution is responsible for humanity s comThe maestro storyteller and reporter provocatively argues that what we think we know about speech and human evolution is wrong.Tom Wolfe, whose legend began in journalism, takes us on an eye opening journey that is sure to arouse widespread debate The Kingdom of Speech is a captivating, paradigm shifting argument that speech not evolution is responsible for humanity s complex societies and achievements.From Alfred Russel Wallace, the Englishman who beat Darwin to the theory of natural selection but later renounced it, and through the controversial work of modern day anthropologist Daniel Everett, who defies the current wisdom that language is hard wired in humans, Wolfe examines the solemn, long faced, laugh out loud zig zags of Darwinism, old and Neo, and finds it irrelevant here in the Kingdom of Speech.

    One thought on “The Kingdom of Speech”

    1. Not having read any Tom Wolfe before, I was riveted by the prose style of this book, with its ellipses, colloquial asides, and multiple exclamation marks. I am sure it is possible to write a great book with this technique and perhaps Tom Wolfe has already done it, but this one is unfortunately a complete mess.I say ‘unfortunately’ because as a matter of fact I agree with his basic position. What Wolfe is trying to do is summarise the internecine fighting of the linguistics world that followe [...]

    2. If you ever wanted to read a book about a scientific field or two (in Wolfe's trademark flamboyant prose) that was utterly innocent of any understanding of science, here's your chance. This vapid piece of preening ignorance will stand as a pointless landmark (or better yet, sink like a witless stone) to sturm-und-drang self-regard. As an erstwhile colleague of mine put it in his review of the book in the Washington Post (here), the book is "unsullied by research."You don't have to be an evolutio [...]

    3. A great entertaining read. Wolfe gets off some magnificent and irreverent lines, aimed at the neo-Darwinian hand-wavers. Moreover, he is largely invulnerable to any counter attack from them because the one place he does his own hand-waving is a place where none of them can go. I hope to write more about this later.

    4. I normally enjoy Tom Wolfe, but this takedown of modern linguistics is simply a rant. His "new journalism" style was completely unsuited to persuading me of the validity of some of his rather specious scientific arguments. Despite the fairly copious footnotes, there was little evidence that Wolfe's understanding of either evolution or linguistics had any depth.

    5. Tom Wolfe one day stumbled across a 2014 essay by eight "heavyweight Evolutionists," the famed-linguist Noam Chomsky being notability among them, and was startled by their conclusion that, after 150 years of scientific research and academic speculation, what we know about speech and language remains "as mysterious as ever." A "poverty of evidence," they wrote, leaves us with "no explanation of how and why our linguistic computations and representations evolved."Wolfe looked askance at this concl [...]

    6. Maybe Tom Wolfe should be commended for diving headfirst into a complicated, even esoteric, debate raging inside linguistics and exposing it to a far larger audience than ever before. But praise for this book should really end there. As someone with some formal training in linguistics and more extensive exploration of the field as a hobby, I read Wolfe's prose in the voice of a supremely confident, almost entirely uninformed brat. In dealing with the fraught, hotly debated question of the origin [...]

    7. When getting my Master’s degree in English, I discovered the fascinating world of linguistics. With my emphasis in English as a Second Language, I took classes in Psycholinguistics (which is the physical and neurological aspects of language acquisition). I was especially intrigued by how language functions similarly to the genetic code, and I loved Modern Grammar which can be used with any language using the principles of Universal Grammar. Universal Grammar, postulates Noam Chomsky (the found [...]

    8. Tom Wolfe tries to take down Charles Darwin and Noam Chomsky with baffling (and terrible) results. Alternate title: "The Wrong Stuff."

    9. I generally enjoy Tom Wolfe, but this is an exception.This is a diatribe, a rant.He goes after two, I feel, very, unrelated individuals – Charles Darwin and Noam Chomsky.Wolfe’s main theme is language – the premise being that this distinguishes us(humans) from all others on the planet. I have no argument with this.He blasts Darwin for not acknowledging this. But Darwin was a naturalist. He was not a speech linguistic researcher. Was Wolfe trying to discredit evolution? This seems a tall or [...]

    10. This book forms a loose trilogy with "The Painted Word," Wolfe's dissection of art and art criticism, and "From Bauhaus to Our House," his similar evisceration of architectural theory. This book is different in that Wolfe has ventured into scientific theory - or actually, holy writ, i.e. Darwinian evolutionary theory. Those two books also dealt with a smaller topic - the conflict between American independent thought and the tendency of American intellectuals to follow European "isms," one of Wol [...]

    11. This book is, simply put, the heresy of an uneducated washed-up author. Wolfe's logic is completely lacking and shows how not arrive at a theory through proper scientific method. He makes several claims in the book that show how uneducated he is. This is not because he disagrees with the standard theory, but because his arguments consist of claiming there is no proof. A senior highschool student could come up with stronger arguments FOR his claims. This is the type of rhetoric that damages the p [...]

    12. Imagine you're at a party and off in the corner is an enigmatic man dressed in white talking to a large group. He has them eating out of his hand as he loudly, and drunkenly, has a one sided debate about language, Darwinism, and his own wit.From your view across the room, you're uncertain about this man. But as you get closer - out of curiosity, of course - you listen in and can't help but find him mildly entertaining. Maybe you'll listen a little more. His story takes form as David vs. Goliath [...]

    13. Surprisingly, for me at least, Wolfe careens between wildly engaging works, think Bonfire of the Vanities, to the near tears boredom inducing, A Man in Full. This one you figure, try it, maybe? Well!He first takes on no less than the god Darwin. He makes two basic points. One, Darwin may have stolen his theory of evolution (Alfred Russell Wallace beat Darwin to the theory of natural selection and sent his paper to Darwin for review). And two, speech—not evolution—is responsible for humanity' [...]

    14. Tom Wolfe wrote a book on a subject where he has no knowledge. He also appears unable to meaningfully back/cite/logically argue any of his lofty claims. This is one of the worst books I've ever read. I hated his writing style which came across as pompous, over confident, and rude. He also used way too many ellipses and said "solar plexus" an unreasonable number of times in such a short book. This book is poorly argued, makes no sense, and is generally extremely annoying. Another key shortfall: s [...]

    15. I normally would give this a 4 star rating, but I noticed there are a lot of pained 1 star reviews, so I upped my rating to a 5 to bring back some balance to the total average.Wolfe is generally in good standing with the liberal defenders of evolution who are for the most part all for his criticism of investment bankers (The Bonfire of the Vanities) or big business (A Man in Full). When he decided to tear down liberal icons Charles Darwin and Noam Chomsky, the reaction has been less than kind.Wh [...]

    16. Five stars for making fun of Darwin (for the despicable way he double-crossed Alfred Wallace) and Chompsky (for being an armchair intellectual nincompoop). (I mean, these gods are worshipped so devotedly so as to make you ill). Hearing Darwin's little tree of life sketch being described as 'abortive' makes me laugh even now, because my lecturers were so sanctimonious about it in class I laughed so much that I don't think I'll ever be able to read anything by those two too seriously (actually, I [...]

    17. It had its funny parts and interesting moments, but it barely seemed to touch the topic of speech, spending the first half on evolution’s history, the second on the wars over language, and the last chapter focused on speech. Most troublesome of all, Wolfe acted like an annoyed child each time he had to “correct” himself with the “new politically correct” terms for indigenous people, making it partway through the word “native” EVERY TIME. It was obnoxious.

    18. Depending on how much Wolfe's writing style irritates you, most of this book is a readable but disjointed and superficial narrative trying but mostly failing to connect two largely separate fields. Combining the vagueness of informal language with the pomposity of formal language, Wolfe's style is grating and awkward for non-fiction writing, but this book is short enough that it didn't accumulate into intolerable for me. The text, while clearly under-researched, still touches on enough important [...]

    19. Wonderful to have Tom Wolfe back and setting fire to sacred cows. This is a bit like his classic attacks on pretentious flim flammeryFrom Bauhaus to Our House andThe Painted Word but it also shares a lot of characteristics with snappy popular history likeThe Right Stuff or even popular science histories likeLongitude. The language is crackling and playful throughout, even more so than his usual in order to make a "the medium is the message" point about the subject of the book. Thoroughly enjoyab [...]

    20. If you have always been suspicious of the Chomsky hagiography gang, you will enjoy this book. If you are or were part of the gang, you should probably read it.

    21. But what even is the point of this book?I didn't read the synopsis before I started. I figured from the title that I would be interested. The whole time, I thought, "What is the thesis of this book?" What I settled upon was that maybe Wolfe was trying to use the interpersonal conflicts of those involved to partially explain why all the linguists and evolutionist and psychologists couldn't explain language even 150 years later?But no, that wasn't even it. He was just telling interesting stories t [...]

    22. I thought the first few chapters about how Darwin was forced to rush out his theory of evolution through natural selection were really great, probably because the story was new to me. Wolfe kept his own point of view largely in the background, but his assertions that the British class structure kept a middle-class working naturalist, Alfred Wallace, from getting proper recognition seem plausible to me. The book started to fall apart when it jumped forward almost a century, and Wolfe tries to dra [...]

    23. I got this audiobook in a hurry without reading any reviews Big mistake.I thought the book was going to be about the science of the evolution of human speech.After about 20 pages I realized it was not about science but rather is a really trashy parody written to ridicule science, Charles Darwin, and the subject of evolution in general.It appalls me that first someone would write such a book and second that anyone would publish such a book and third that anyone would actually read such a book. Th [...]

    24. I'd forgotten what a rambunctious, eloquent, mentally-arresting writer Tom Wolfe is. And here he's thumbing his nose at one of modernity's most sacred Golden Cows: the Theory of Everything. Of all the nerve.Well worth reading, if only for the part where Darwin's work is praised as more imaginative than Kipling's. I was almost in tears.

    25. Yes! Tom Wolfe is back!!! The sharply-dressed wordsmith returns with The Kingdom of Speech, his first non-fiction work since his 2000 collection of essays, Hooking Up. But you have to go back to 1981 and From Bauhaus to Our House to find Wolfe’s last extended, book-length piece of non-fiction. That seems fitting, because The Kingdom of Speech fits in well with From Bauhaus to Our House, Wolfe’s scathing critique of modern architecture, and The Painted Word, his 1975 lambasting of the modern [...]

    26. Tom Wolfe is a terrific writer, and I’ve enjoyed and gotten a lot from several of his books. But this is not one of his better ones.Wolfe spends the first third of the book making fun of Darwin—the debater’s fallback of ad hominem attack. Despite his human flaws, Darwin wasn't such a bad guy. Because of much work by many researchers in several fields over the previous century, evolution was an idea whose time had come. Darwin could have hogged all the glory for the theory but shared it wit [...]

    27. I'm admitting defeat at 51%. This could have been a lot better if the author had a better idea on what the hell they wanted their book to be about. Like seriously, the first 45% of this book was almost exclusively about the authors not-so-hidden dislike of Darwin. Which I guess he is allowed to have, but it has very little to do with speech or language. At times it felt like the author had half a book about how the theory of evolution came about, and half a book about how speech came about, and [...]

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