Vital insights into language and learning

Book Review


Etymology of Learning

by Dr. S B Ekanayake

Reviewed by Prof. W I Siriweera

Chairman, National Education Commission

"Etymology of Learning" authored by Dr. S B Ekanayake, former Basic Education Advisor, UNESCO/UNCHR Central Asia is a publication much needed in the field of education.

Education has been one of great concerns of humankind in whatever form it was delivered since time immemorial. Although, overwhelmingly the system of learning has changed, the basics remain the same. Few know the struggles man had to undergo in developing the fundamentals of learning viz letters, sounds, words, punctuations which today seem to be of not much concern, invariably taken for granted like wind and air, by the greater majority.

This publication looks into the earliest forms of language contraction and writings on the walls, more so to begin with drawings of animals, later transferring these to sounds and words, which took ages. Needs of pre-historic peoples were few and limited to mundane activities which required more physical skills than verbalism. Pre-historic man never required complex information in their daily routines in the struggle for existence. However, those who are inquisitive linguistically and sociologically may be interested from an academic angle about the origins of language. This publication attempts to cater to such interests as well, perhaps even providing the incentive to go beyond and further inquire into ancient methods of learning and teaching.

Compelling desire of the publication ‘Etymology of Learning and Sustainability of Humanity’ is about how the human changed from that of the level of an animal to a more sophisticated human being, with developed inner capacities and outer expressions as different from that of the animal. It took millions of years for this transformation. This transformation changed the world scenario from sole dependency on nature to one of creativity and change. The publication deals with changes in the environment from that of ‘no talking’ in the pre-historic era to a situation of ‘never ending talking’, in the modern era. The highlights of the publication relates to the meticulous manner in which people commenced writing and talking from almost nothing to go by other than mere eye commands, lines and symbols, to begin with. On the other hand, some languages that were developed through trial and error over the centuries are disappearing regularly due to non use by clients. The publication highlights these as well.

By and large, language development has come a long way from pictures in caves and inscriptions on rocks as edicts by rulers. Today cultures are mixing up, so are the languages which promote such jig saw fits bringing sustainability to human cultures and learning to live together. The thesis of the publication relates to the fact that languages which were of positive use to humanity leading to interactions and conveying feelings to others, in some cases have turned by extremists groups to bring about discord and internecine struggles. This turn of events has to be arrested to retrieve the lost legacies and rich heritage of humanity that had accumulated over the millennia.

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