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The Languages of the World Paperback – May 12, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0415250047 ISBN-10: 0415250048 Edition: 3rd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 3rd edition (May 12, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415250048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415250047
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,082,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

'A reference tool for all linguists as well as a collector's item for those in allied fields, enabling even an amateur to identify foreign scripts with ease and satisfaction ... to be recommended.' - Modern Language Review

'A wholly fascinating mini-kaleidoscope indicating the largely diverse variety of the world's main languages and their scripts and of their cultures.' - The Good Book Guide

About the Author

Prior to his recent retirement, Kenneth Katzner worked for the US government and also served as an editor on a number of international encyclopedias and English dictionaries. He is also author of a large English-Russian/Russian-English Dictionary.

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Customer Reviews

Two thirds of the page is left empty!
Solivagant
This book is almost useless unless you like looking at foreign alphabets without understanding the smallest thing about the languages that use them.
FretiCat
Showing such languages in both scripts is fun, but rarely done in this book, even when the book mentions that the language has multiple scripts.
John A. Dodds

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By John A. Dodds on August 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
Kenneth Katzner has set himself a difficult task--review the languages of the world in a reasonably-sized volume. This means that, inevitably, a lot of important detail is going to be left out. Most, but not all, nations have their national languages recognized here. Some smaller languages are included both for completeness and for examples of interesting linguistic variations. One, Naxi, spoken in Yunnan, China, is still written with little pictures; a stick figure jumping represents dancing, for instance.

Some other reviewers have complained that there is a lack of detail about the writing systems, so that seeing the original language and its translation is not that helpful. This does not account for the complexity of some of these alphabets, like Burmese or Thai or Devenagari (Hindi and some other Indian languages); which have a LOT of letters and modifications of letters. Once you start down that road, the book could easily double in size! However, he does explain a little about how some alphabets work, like how Korean (Hangul alphabet) has its letters grouped into little three-letter clusters, not written in a straight line.

One major improvement that would help a future edition of the book: Typeset the foreign languages! Clearly, some samples are photoreproduced from old sources, and the letters are unclear and hard to see and/or of poor overall quality (and vary in size from language to language, even languages using the same alphabet). This is particularly noticeable with some of the odder Asian scripts. The Unicode project is trying to allow computers to recognize nearly any script (even obscure ones); the next edition of this book should take advantage of such advances and typeset those languages that are not in this edition.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By K. Johnson VINE VOICE on March 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
Kenneth Katzner provides a well written and concisely presented book for those interested in the world's languages, their origins, growth and transformations, and linguistic relatives. The languages are listed by familial grouping, then individual languages, and then nation by nation. Easy-to-read charts elucidating families, sub-groups, branches, and major and minor languages are listed in the front of the book. Individually, the languages are listed in the index in the back of the book in alphabetical order making them easy to find and cross-reference. One can quickly find which languages are related via sub-families. You can bounce around from page to page with this.
Each language listed is presented with a sample such as a poem or proverb followed by an English transliteration. Also included is the number of people who speak it, and in what different parts of the world. The languages' family, idiocyncracies, major grammar points, alphabet, and stresses are noted. As an example, here's a paraphrase of the Finnish language presented in the book:
Spoken by 5 million speakers in Finland, 70,000 in the U.S., 200,000 in Sweden and 50,000 in Russia. Finnish is one of the few languages in Europe that is not of the Indo-European languages family. Like Estonian, it belongs to the Finno-Ugric languages which are a branch derived from the Uralic family. Finnish is difficult language to learn for Western native speakers because of it's non Indo-European origins and the the fact that it has 15 noun cases.
Also in the beginning is a biography of the families of languages and explanations of the migrations of people, many thousands of years ago, that has created the current multi-varied linguistic make up of our world today.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Eric Andrew on March 24, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I own both the second and third editions of this book, and I can attest that the improvements in the third edition make this volume far more valuable than before. Katzner now provides far more general information about language families that should satisfy the curiosity of someone not in this field. Also, the individual language entries were updated. I especially value the language map.

My two main gripes with the book are: 1) there isn't enough information about individual languages, especially those with non-Roman character sets; and 2) there are some errors that need to be corrected. One of the most glaring errors that I noticed within 3 minutes of opening the new edition is Katzner's remark that the ß (eszet) character was totally eliminated from the German language in the 1998 spelling reform. This is undeniably false.
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29 of 36 people found the following review helpful By FretiCat on November 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book is almost useless unless you like looking at foreign alphabets without understanding the smallest thing about the languages that use them. Katzner gives you a sample passage of a language in its native script with an English translation, but does nothing to impart a sense of what the language actually means or how it sounds. So, unless you can actually read the Cyrillic, Arabic or Hanggul scripts , or know the writings used to represent Buginese, Burmese, Tamil, Sanskrit or dozens of others, you know next to nothing about the language itself. There are no grammatical data given, nor any sense of how each language expresses itself. One mistake he makes over and over is confusing letters and sounds - the two are not the same, but Katzner doesn't seem to realize it.

So if you want to look at Tibetan and say to yourself, "Gee, that's a nice looking bit of writing", this is a good book for you. If you have any linguistic training, this will be a nice curiousity on your shelf. If you want to know more about Tibetan (or any of the other languages included), it will be a disappointment.
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