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

Daniel Tammet's brain processes words a bit differently from many people's: he's a high-functioning autistic with a slight tendency toward synesthesia. A polymath writer, he is brilliant, bilingual and deeply in love with language. Tammet (Thinking in Numbers; Born on a Blue Day) takes a deep dive into the world of language with his fourth book of nonfiction, Every Word Is a Bird We Teach to Sing.

He begins with his own story of acquiring language: the colors and textures he associated with certain words as he tried them out during his London childhood. He then shares the joyous story of the year he spent teaching English to a group of Lithuanian women. With a combination of dictionaries, drawing exercises and the women's eagerness to try new things, Tammet taught--and learned--more than he'd ever expected.

The subsequent essays in Every Word are like thoughtful, extended dictionary entries on obscure words and languages: Esperanto, the disappearing dialect of Manx (spoken on the Isle of Man), the wordplay of lipograms, the linguistic rules and restrictions of American Sign Language and "telephone grammar." Throughout, Tammet's voice--witty, thoughtful and erudite--pulls readers along. His enthusiasm for language makes such niche topics as Icelandic baby names and the intricacies of L'Academie Francaise fascinating and accessible.

Instantly appealing to Tammet's fellow "word nerds," but suited for a much wider audience, these essays--like the titular bird--both soar and sing. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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