A review of Why We Talk: The Evolutionary Origins of Language by Jean-Louis Dessalles (translated by James Grieve). Oxford University Press (2007), 395 pages, £35.00 ($55.00), ISBN: 0199276233 (hardback)
The expression xuuč yaria can be translated as ‘story’ or ‘gossip’, and indeed, they are short stories about interesting, extraordinary or sometimes fearful events heard or seen by the storyteller. As far as their content is concerned, the stories are colourful and ramifying, and it is beyond doubt that the xuuč yaria has some connections with domogs, tales and even heroic epics. Unfortunately, research into this field has begun relatively recently, so these connections are far from being clear. Moreover, the xuuč yaria stories are interesting not only from the point of view of folklore, but they also shed light on the history of ideas, since the first ones were collected in the 1950s, and thus some of them reflect the political atmosphere of the socialist era. In this article an attempt is made to give the broader outlines of the xuuč yaria as a genre of Mongolian folklore, and establish a typology in the hope that it will be helpful for further research.