Cover: The Language Animal: The Full Shape of the Human Linguistic Capacity, from Harvard University PressCover: The Language Animal in HARDCOVER

The Language Animal

The Full Shape of the Human Linguistic Capacity

Add to Cart

Product Details


$35.00 • £28.95 • €31.50

ISBN 9780674660205

Publication Date: 03/14/2016


368 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

Belknap Press


Characteristically, [Taylor’s] latest book transgresses the boundaries of usually distinct philosophical topics, incorporating disciplines outside philosophy: anthropology, sociology and developmental psychology. Philosophy of language becomes the doorway to metaphysics, politics and ethics, and to working out the nature of modernity and what it has made us.—Jane O’Grady, Times Higher Education

Taylor moves well beyond theory, looking at the ‘shape, scope and uses of language.’ We find out a great deal about how language is learned, semantic invention, and how words fit into the broader palette of art, ritual, gesture and symbol.—Jonathan Wright, The Catholic Herald

True to its author’s background in philosophy and political thought, The Language Animal is less a scientific, by-the-facts book than a reflective and often poetic account of how language shapes human experience.—Charisma Lee, LSE Review of Books

Taylor’s argument is salutary and powerful. His erudition is impressive, and the rich diet of examples he assembles poses a serious challenge to facile reductionist accounts of language and of human nature.—Edward Feser, National Review

Taylor’s prolific philosophical output is justly celebrated for the rich historical sweep of its learning… The Language Animal…is no exception… By the end we have been given a powerful and often uplifting vision of what it is to be truly human.—John Cottingham, The Tablet

[Taylor’s] ultimate objective in his latest book, The Language Animal, is to demonstrate how we can all live in a more tolerant ‘flexible’ (his word) world—if we can learn how to make the most of the resources, above all the resources for communication, we all share. This is a continuation of the ideas he has been working on throughout his astonishingly long and productive career. Taylor writes in a compelling, congenial way that enables him to encompass seeming contradictions.—Anthony Pagden, World Post

There is no other book that has presented a critique of conventional philosophy of language in these terms and constructed an alternative to it in anything like this way.—Akeel Bilgrami, Columbia University

Taylor is one of the handful of most important thinkers of our era. The line of thinking he develops in The Language Animal is basic to his whole work since Explanation of Behaviour. Many readers will grasp the importance of a constitutive view of language, and for them this will be a landmark book.—Craig Calhoun, Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science

Just as Humboldt believed that ‘possessing a language is to be continuously involved in trying to extend its powers of articulation,’ Charles Taylor’s new book, The Language Animal, demonstrates how the very study of language over time embodies the evolving human effort to extend our understanding—not only of language, but of the very self language helps to describe, propel, and transcend. It is a deeply thoughtful, historically enriching, and ultimately luminous book.—Maryanne Wolf, Tufts University

Awards & Accolades

  • Charles Taylor Is Winner of the 2008 Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy
  • Charles Taylor Is Winner of the 2007 Templeton Prize
Sufi Lyrics: Selections from a World Classic, by Bullhe Shah, translated by Christopher Shackle, from Harvard University Press

From Our Blog

Jacket: The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America, by Beth Lew-Williams, from Harvard University Press

Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Part II

In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’re showcasing titles that document the Asian American experience. Our second excerpt comes from Beth Lew-Williams’s prizewinning book The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America, which historian Richard White describes as “a powerful argument about racial violence that could not be more timely.” Monday night, Gong was asleep in his tent when the vigilantes returned