Mezzofanti's Gift: The Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Language Learners

Front Cover
Duckworth Overlook, 2013 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 306 pages
Multilingualism is on the rise - in the coming decades, as many as two billion people will learn English as a second language. The next stage up from multilingualism is the domain of the 'hyperpolyglot' or 'superlearner'- someone who claims to know at least six languages. But what does it mean to 'know' a language? Can a person claim to speak a language fluently if it isn't their mother tongue? What role does culture play in learning languages? In this accessible and enthralling book, Erard discusses the upper limits of the brain's capacity to learn languages and sheds light on the 'hyperpolyglot' phenomenon, from the Italian cardinal Giuseppe Mezzofanti, who was said to speak as many as WC seventy-two languages to the 'superlearners' of the 21st century.

About the author (2013)

Michael Erard has an MA in Linguistics and a PhD in English from the University of Texas, and has taught all around the world. His essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, Science, Wired and New Scientist, and his first book, Um...- Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean, was published in 2007.

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