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Umberto Eco

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unch
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 Message 1 of 10
06 February 2011 at 1:32am | IP Logged 
When I was in Italy somebody told me that Umberto Eco speaks 56 languages. I've tried to find something to back this up or otherwise but I have had no luck. Can anybody shed some light on the polyglot status of Umberto Eco please? 56 languages seems like a lot - maybe he has only notions of some of those 56 languages?

In an aside, I searched for Umberto Eco on this site and came up with no results. Then a google search for Umberto Eco polyglot brought me back to this forum! I'm quite new here..can anybody explain this to me please? (pm will suffice so as not to take away from the real thread topic)

Thanks,
Una





Iversen
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 Message 2 of 10
07 February 2011 at 12:43am | IP Logged 
This forum has one reference to Umberto Eco in the form of the mysterious tag "penitenziagite", which alludes to a chaotic breakdown of barriers between languages in a person with far too many languages up his sleeve - in this case a person in "Il Nome della Rosa". The name of this work has also come up in other discussions.

Edited by Iversen on 07 February 2011 at 12:45am



unch
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 Message 3 of 10
13 February 2011 at 12:32pm | IP Logged 
Thanks for the reply Iversen. It still doesn't tell me whether he speaks many languages or not though. I was hoping that I had just missed an old thread about him and that somebody would immediately be able to tell me about his language skills. I suppose if he did speak 56 languages then that would be the case?

I've been finding this forum very informative and interesting since I came across it some weeks ago. I'm delighted to have found you all.

If Umberto Eco were a polyglot, do you think it would be known here on this forum, as he is a publicly known figure?





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 Message 4 of 10
13 February 2011 at 9:40pm | IP Logged 
I have read several of his books about semiotics and also some of Il Nome della Rosa (until I got bored), and while there are signs that he knows several European languages, I haven't seen any sign that he should be able to even read 56 languages, even less speak them.

Edited by Iversen on 15 February 2011 at 4:19am



etracher
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 Message 5 of 10
14 February 2011 at 11:57pm | IP Logged 
This is the only reference I have seen to his language abilities. It only refers to languages he speaks "fluently", as well as his Latin and Greek, so there might be others not counted here. Also, the article is from 1986, so he might have learned others since then.

Newsweek, September 29, 1986

He looks a bit like a Maurice Sendak creation. He teaches semiotics, the "scientific" study of signs, a subject so complex and abstruse that only a few hundred people in the world have mastered its rudiments. His breadth of knowledge is mind boggling: he speaks five modern languages fluently, is perfectly at home with classical Greek and laces his writing with long Latin quotations and obscure scholarly jokes. He is, to put it mildly, a colossus of learning, with the honorary doctorates (13) and government honors to prove it.

I found the reference on this page

Edited by etracher on 15 February 2011 at 7:53am

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Fasulye
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 Message 6 of 10
16 February 2011 at 8:45pm | IP Logged 
OK, if Umberto Eco speaks 5 modern languages fluently plus has a deep knowledge of Latin and Ancient Greek, he may be called a ployglot. And that was the question, whether he is polyglot or not. So in my opinion he merits the tag "Polyglot" - and thanks for the quote from "Newsweek"!

Fasulye

Edited by Fasulye on 16 February 2011 at 8:49pm



etracher
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 Message 7 of 10
16 February 2011 at 9:33pm | IP Logged 
Yes, I agree with Fasulye that Eco merits the tag "Polyglot".

I interpreted the original post to be a request for confirmation or denial of the 56 languages someone has apparently claimed that Eco speaks. I was also intrigued by the fact that the article only mentioned languages in which he was 'fluent' (in addition to Latin and Greek). Perhaps then there are others in which he is not fluent that could conceivably be added to the languages he 'knows'?

Edited by etracher on 17 February 2011 at 7:57am





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 Message 8 of 10
17 February 2011 at 12:38pm | IP Logged 
My guess is that someone 'borrowed' the 56 languages from Ziad Fasad (give and take a few) and applied a similar number to Umberto Eco. There is no evidence that Eco ever claimed more than he could deliver, and that is easily enough to earn him the epithete of 'polyglot'.

However the interview article is exaggerating somewhat in the following passage:

"He teaches semiotics, the "scientific" study of signs, a subject so complex and abstruse that only a few hundred people in the world have mastered its rudiments."

Nonsense - the problem is that there are people (mostly French) who have written about semiotics in such abstruse terms that the most likely explanation is that they just wanted to impress their surroundings, or maybe they just didn't know what they wanted to say about it. But as far as I remember both Eco's big book "La struttura Assente" and the smaller "Trattato di semiotica generale" (= "A Theory of Semiotics", summary in English here) were written in a exemplary crisp and clear style - though I haven't read them since the seventies. Actually I ought to reread them now to polish my Italian ... and to remind me of a bundle of theories I haven't cared about for more than thirty years.

Edited by Iversen on 17 February 2011 at 12:47pm



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