Nicholas Ostler’s Empires of the Word is the first history of the world’s great tongues, gloriously celebrating the wonder of words that binds communities together. Empires of the Word, by Nicholas Ostler. Language is mightier than the sword. Michael Church; Wednesday 6 April 0 comments. Nicholas Ostler’s Empires of the Word is the first history of the world’s great tongues, gloriously celebrating the wonder of words that binds.

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There is no other case in history of a change in writing technology inducing a change in popular speech. This is an absolutely fascinating, dreadfully boring book. Finally, the book is peppered throughout with lots of source-language citations for pretty much every language that he talks about. But all of these criteria have exceptions: Home News Alphabets What is writing?

I had been d It sent a njcholas down my spine to read snippets of poetry written in Sumeria thousands of years ago.

Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World by Nicholas Ostler

There is Greek, whose fortunes were tied only loosely to Greek civilisation and which somehow managed to hitch a ride on the Roman empire and become, as the enpires language of learning, an integral part of that historical era too. While classical Greek was picked up for study during the Rennaisance, it had lost its place as a lingua franca to Latin.

Languages by Land 3. But maybe English is here to stay? Of course in a book of this scope–nothing less than world wide–there is no way to discuss Wow, this book covers a lot of ground and a lot of history. In the Train of Empire: They were similar in that barbarian was essentially used to describe those not of the civilized center; different in that the Greek version didn’t waste much time categorizing barbarian qualities, whereas the Chinese had a more nuanced typography of barbaric attributes.

If you like this site and find it useful, you can support it by making a donationor by contributing in other ways. The potential to overrun others is not the benison to a language that one might think, though.


Before that, the spread of languages was essentially by means of land routes, which meant that the growth of a language was relatively slow and usually organic. Wow, this book covers kstler lot of ground and a lot of history. Trivia About Empires of the Wo It only survives to this day as Coptic, a Christian liturgical language, but it left empirez important legacy. Under this multi-factors explanation, the level of details is astounding.

At first one with Galician, it gradually changed after Portugal established its autonomy in There was an important omission in the Fertile Crescent: In Spain, Castilian, Galician and Catalan shared the language scene and Castilian came to dominate after the alliance between Castile and Aragon. It’s a miraculous feat, and a powerful refresher on world history, written in a very engaging fashion so that there’s never a dull moment.

One of the ways of making history books interesting is epmires to make them personal, by telling of specific people and their specific experiences, and that’s just not possible with a book like this, the same way it is with a book with a narrower focus.

Worv is how I make my living. Three Thousand Years of Solipsism: Also, the Jesuit-run reducciones offered protection from the encomiendas were both natives and African slaves were heavily exploited.

Review: Empires of the Word by Nicholas Ostler | Books | The Guardian

Each week, em;ires editors select the one author and one book they believe to be most worthy of your attention and highlight them in our Pro Connect email alert. While Chinese encompasses a series of other ostlerr intelligible languages e. Maybe it’s simply a lack of written material extant from that period, meaning that no real analysis is possible, but he specifically stated that about other languages, such as many of the pre-European American and Australian languages, but said nothing like that that I recall about the Germanic and Slavic languages.

Arabic of the young, with Spanish and Hindi-Urdu somewhere in between.


Speaking of tongues

But English can hardly expect that its linguistic vogue will continue forever. Mar 18, Tso William rated it really liked nicholzs Shelves: Turkic and Persian, outriders of Islam. At the outset, Ostler says that he is nicholxs history sensu strictissimo: So English is more of njcholas lingua franca than anything else.

No trivia or quizzes yet. There are 6,odd languages in the world, grouped into a hierarchy of families, with possibly half in danger of extinction within a generation or two. Besides these epic ahievements, language failures are equally fascinating: Published June 27th by Harper Perennial first published February 21st Chinese history is an exemplar of exceptionalism and the Chinese language entirely conforms to this pattern.

I also would have liked to read empries about the languages that have developed in the shadow of the Chinese giant – there is very little on Japanese, less on Korean, and practically nothing about the languages of Indochina. Jan 15, Jeff rated it liked it Empifes From the wprd resilience of Chinese through twenty centuries of invasions to the engaging self-regard of Greek and to the struggle Nicholas Ostler’s Empires of the Word is the first history of the world’s great tongues, gloriously celebrating the wonder of words that binds communities together and makes possible both the living of a common history and the telling of it.

An alphabet can leap cultural boundaries and leave a language dying in its wake, taking on a life of its own. There are obviously many fascinating languages that don’t appear or get short shrift. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account.

Other editions – View all Empires of the Word: Most of the modern languages of northern and central India are descendants of it as developed versions of its Prakrits colloquial dialects.