NIAS-KNAW

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Koenen, Liesbeth

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Liesbeth Koenen, born in Tilburg, the Netherlands, in 1958. MA in General Linguistics at the University of Amsterdam. Freelance journalist and science writer in Amsterdam, guest lecturer at Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Journalist-in-Residence (1 September 2013 - 31 January 2014)

THE CASE OF KELLY AND OTHER MIRACLES OF LANGUAGE [TRANSLATION OF DUTCH WORKING TITLE]

Project Description

The power, the resilience and the intricacies of our capacity for language are downright fabulous, but to the untrained eye they are not that easy to see. Which is unfortunate, because once you do, it is not only a glorious sight, it also offers insights into important everyday matters. At NIAS I will be working on a book that takes true to life stories about real people, and an occasional ape or bird, to cast light on the magnificently intriguing phenomenon called language. Like Kelly, who was born blind, but at the age of three knew the difference between looking and seeing, without ever having been told. How come? And like chimp Nim, who was able to ‘speak’ in sign language. Or was he?

Selected Publications

1) Het Vermogen te Verlangen (9 letters), gesprekken over taal en het menselijk brein. (Laatste editie met 50 interviews: e-book Fosfor 2013) (‘Conversations about language and the human brain’)

2) Gebarentaal, de taal van doven in Nederland (met Tony Bloem, Ruud Janssen en Albert van de Ven, laatste editie Vi-taal, 2005) (‘Sign Language, the language of the deaf in the Netherlands’)

3) Hoe mijn vader zijn woorden terugvond (Nieuw Amsterdam 2006) (‘My father’s journey to find again his words’)

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