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Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World (German)
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From Publishers Weekly
Ostler's ambitious and accessible book is not a technical linguistic study—i.e., it's not concerned with language structure—but about the "growth, development and collapse of language communities" and their cultures. Chairman of the Foundation of Endangered Languages, Ostler's as fascinated by extinction as he is by survival. He thus traces the fortunes of Sumerian, Akkadian and Aramaic in the flux of ancient Middle Eastern military empires. Ancient Egyptian's three millennia of stability compares with the longevity of similarly pictographic Chinese—and provides a cautionary example: even a populous, well-defined linguistic community can vanish. In all cases, Ostler stresses the role of culture, commerce and conquest in the rise and fall of languages, whether Spanish, Portuguese and French in the Americas or Dutch in Asia and Africa. The rise of English to global status, Ostler argues, owes much to the economic prestige of the Industrial Revolution, but its future as a lingua franca may falter on demographic trends, such as booming birth rates in China. This stimulating book is a history of the world as seen through the spread and demise of languages. Maps.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* Caesar led his legions into battle for the glory of Rome--and the immortality of Greek. In the curious spread of Greek through Roman conquest, Ostler recounts one of the many fascinating episodes in the complex history of languages. The resources of the cultural historian complement those of the comparative linguist in this capacious work, which sets the parameters for a new field of scholarship: "language dynamics." By peering over Ostler's shoulder into this new field, readers learn how languages ancient and modern (Sumerian and Egyptian; Spanish and English) spread and how they dwindle. The raw force of armies counts, of course, in determining language fortunes but for far less than the historically naive might suppose: military might failed to translate into lasting linguistic conquest for the Mongols, Turks, or Russians. Surprisingly, trade likewise proves weak in spreading a language--as the Phoenician and Dutch experiences both show. In contrast, immigration and fertility powerfully affect the fate of languages, as illustrated by the parallel histories of Egyptian and Chinese. Ostler explores the ways modern technologies of travel and communication shape language fortunes, but he also highlights the power of ancient faiths--Christian and Moslem, Buddhist and Hindu--to anchor language traditions against rapid change. Of particular interest will be Ostler's provocative conjectures about a future in which Mandarin or Arabic take the lead or in which English fractures into several tongues. Few books bring more intellectual excitement to the study of language. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The ebook formatting, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired.
1) Images (and there are hundreds of them, including many special characters) only appear in the "View on your Browser" environment or (presumably) on a direct-networked Kindle device. They do NOT appear on the Kindle for PC reader or, therefore (I believe) in side-loaded Kindles. (And if you convert and read the file on an ePub device, they don't appear there, either.) You can read the book without the images, but you are missing a lot of the helpful illustrations, and most of the unusually accented characters.
2) Page references all point to the print edition and (of course) have no relationship to whatever digital device you use, nor are they live links.
3) eBook pagination jumps all over the map. For example, on my device, crossing a chapter boundary moved me from p. 662 (of 696) to p. 140.
If you have an interest in the history of language, or even just a patience for it coupled with a desire to take a big picture look at human history, I strongly recommend working your way through Ostler's magnum opus.
I enjoyed this presentation of world history as it relates to the evolution of civilization. It certainly enhanced my view of the global events that have shaped our heritage.
I particularly enjoyed this presentation as it relates to the history of civilization. It added a great deal to my understanding of world historical events as well as awakening to the true value of language
I've had a couple of issues on the kindle app in rendering some of the less common character sets, but that's not Ostler's fault. I'm glad he's put those in, actually and he always supplies a translation.
My only complaint is that it doesn't go on for 5,000 pages.