The Search for the Perfect Language

Front Cover
Wiley, Oct 30, 1995 - History - 385 pages
14 Reviews
The idea that there once existed a language which perfectly and unambiguously expressed the essence of all possible things and concepts has occupied the minds of philosophers, theologians, mystics and others for at least two millennia. This is an investigation into the history of that idea and of its profound influence on European thought, culture and history.

From the early Dark Ages to the Renaissance it was widely believed that the language spoken in the Garden of Eden was just such a language, and that all current languages were its decadent descendants from the catastrophe of the Fall and at Babel. The recovery of that language would, for theologians, express the nature of divinity, for cabbalists allow access to hidden knowledge and power, and for philosophers reveal the nature of truth. Versions of these ideas remained current in the Enlightenment, and have recently received fresh impetus in attempts to create a natural language for artificial intelligence.

The story that Umberto Eco tells ranges widely from the writings of Augustine, Dante, Descartes and Rousseau, arcane treatises on cabbalism and magic, to the history of the study of language and its origins. He demonstrates the initimate relation between language and identity and describes, for example, how and why the Irish, English, Germans and Swedes - one of whom presented God talking in Swedish to Adam, who replied in Danish, while the serpent tempted Eve in French - have variously claimed their language as closest to the original. He also shows how the late eighteenth-century discovery of a proto-language (Indo-European) for the Aryan peoples was perverted to support notions of racial superiority.


To this subtle exposition of a history of extraordinary complexity, Umberto Eco links the associated history of the manner in which the sounds of language and concepts have been written and symbolized. Lucidly and wittily written, the book is, in sum, a tour de force of scholarly detection and cultural interpretation, providing a series of original perspectives on two thousand years of European History.

The paperback edition of this book is not available through Blackwell outside of North America.

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Review: The Search for the Perfect Language (The Making of Europe)

User Review  - Rachel - Goodreads

I'm sure there was a really interesting story in there somewhere, but Eco just wasn't the person to bring it out. Parts of it were fascinating, but there was far too much detail, especially about the ... Read full review

Review: The Search for the Perfect Language (The Making of Europe)

User Review  - Ilya - Goodreads

One of the leitmotifs of European history since the Middle Ages has been the search for a language that is perfect: describes reality exactly, and is easy to learn and use. In Genesis 10:5, each tribe ... Read full review

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JSTOR: The Search for the Perfect Language.
Eco has produced a fine account of a topic that obviously fascinates him, although he does not con- sider the search for the perfect language a promising ...
links.jstor.org/ sici?sici=0002-8762(199706)102%3A3%3C776%3ATSFTPL%3E2.0.CO%3B2-0

Umberto Eco Readers: The Search for the Perfect Language
The Search for the Perfect Language. Translated by James Fentress, Part of the “Making of Europe” Series. 1. Blackwell Publishers, 1995, ISBN 0-631-17465-6; ...
umbertoecoreaders.blogspot.com/ 2007/ 11/ search-for-perfect-language.html

The search for the perfect language by Umberto Eco | librarything
All about The search for the perfect language by Umberto Eco. librarything is a cataloging and social networking site for booklovers.
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umbertoeeo. (The Making of Europe series). Oxford: Blackwell. 1995 ...
The search for the perfect language. (The Making of Europe. series). Oxford: Blackwell. 1995. xii + 385 pp. Cloth (0-631-17465-61. £20.00. ...
www.crystalreference.com/ DC_articles/ Linguistics70.pdf

The search for the perfect language
(1993) "Ricerca della lingua perfetta nella cultura europea", Laterza, Rome. trans. Fentress, J. (1995) "The search for the perfect language", Blackwell, ...
homepages.which.net/ ~gk.sherman/ faaaaaax.htm

Reviews : The Search for the Perfect Language. By Umberto Eco ...
Automatic download [Begin manual download]. Downloading the PDF version of: Journal of English Linguistics Pederson 26 (3): 273. (231K) ...
eng.sagepub.com/ cgi/ reprint/ 26/ 3/ 273

ISO Standards Development:ISOTC home:ISO/TC 154 "Processes, data ...
Enterprise Workspace, Enterprise Workspace:. > Eco, Umberto, "The search for the perfect language". click to login Tuesday, 2008-04-15, ISOTC Portal home ...
isotc.iso.org/ livelink/ livelink?func=ll& objId=7084115& objAction=browse& sort=name

Ricerca della Lingua Perfetta Nella Cultura Europea - Wikipedia ...
La ricerca della lingua perfetta nella cultura europea (English The Search for the Perfect Language (The Making of Europe) trans. ...
en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ The_search_for_the_perfect_language

Textualities: Universal Languages
Whilst reading Drummond's novel, I was also, quite by chance, reading Umberto Eco's The Search for the Perfect Language. This, in typical Eco fashion, ...
www.scottishbookcollector.co.uk/ writers/ fiction-reviews/ adcockh01.php

What's lost in the translation | By genre | guardian.co.uk Books
To recap, in one of his earlier semiotic investigations, The Search for the Perfect Language , Eco argued that the Book of Genesis charts the decline of ...
books.guardian.co.uk/ reviews/ referenceandlanguages/ 0,,1115462,00.html

About the author (1995)

Umberto Eco was born in Alessandria in 1932 and has been Professor of Semiotics at the University of Bologna since 1975 and the President of the International Center for Semiotic and Cognitive Studies at the Universityu of San Marino since 1988. His books include The Name of the Rose (1980), Foucault's Pendulum (1988) and the more recent works include Semiotics and Philosophy of Lanaguage (1984) and The Limits of Interpretation (1990).

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