March 5, 2019
While I have read a great deal of science fiction, fantasy, and poetry in my time, I have never read a single work by the late Ursula K. Le Guin. No specific reason for that; I just haven’t. However, a few weeks ago I read something that persuaded me to order what I think is her last collection of essays, “No Time To Spare“, from the library, and I just finished reading it. It was marvelous.
It is a collection of short essays — more properly, long blog posts — in which she covers a wide range of topics including ageing, her cats, breakfast, visits to the opera, the meaning of words, anger, the deterioration of imagination in swearing, the nature of belief, and the Great American Novel amongst many others. I enjoyed it all, but in particular her reminiscences of John Steinbeck, her essay on Homer, and the joys of answering fan mail from children.
She comes across as a thoroughly sensible and likeable woman and I feel certain I have missed out by not reading her before now.
March 5, 2019
One of my enduring interests is the history of language in general, the historical and genetic links between each language in a language family (Indo-European, for example, or Niger-Congo), and between each of the families into which we have divided the earth’s 7,000+ spoken and written forms of communication.
Languages, like all living forms, evolve and change. We know that each language and each language family had earlier forms, known as proto-languages; and there has been speculation that all languages are ultimately derived from some original or ur-language. I haven’t accepted that thesis for quite some time, preferring instead to believe that language — being so vital to the complex world that the fast-rising homo genus was creating — evolved multiple times in multiple locations.
That being said, and while understanding that language and writing are not the same thing, Canadian paleoanthropologist Genevieve von Petzinger has presented evidence that the same symbols of human communication might well be global at a period many thousands of years before the Sumerians “invented” writing.
In fact, she suggests that this system is “a carryover from modern humans’ migration into Europe from Africa” tens of thousands of years ago. ‘This does not look like the start-up phase of a brand-new invention,’ she writes.”
Like much cutting edge science, this analysis remains to be proven or otherwise. In the meanwhile, it allows for fascinating speculation.