Books: A Confusion of Tongues

WORD PLAY:

What Happens When People Talk

by PETER FARB 350 pages. Knopf. $8.95.

By manipulating its throat while it growled, Alexander Graham Bell once tried to teach a dog to say "How are you, Grandma?" In the latter half of the 20th century, Homo loquens (man the talker) has been rediscovered to be a wonder beside which Bell's talking dog would rate only as a very minor marvel -even if Rover had recited the whole Gettysburg Address to Grandma. The infinitely subtle strategies of man speaking to man, the remarkable social utility of a...

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