- Paperback: 512 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (March 6, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195081161
- ISBN-13: 978-0195081169
- Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1.5 x 6.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,261,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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An Introduction to the Languages of the World 1st Edition
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"The author succeeds in covering a broad range of important and interesting information, and I am not aware of any other work that could serve as an all-round textbook for a course on the Languages of the World."--Bernard Comrie, University of Southern California, author of The World's Major Languages
"...clearly exhibits the author's very considerable erudition in several language areas."--Joseph Grimes, Cornell University
About the Author
Anatole V. Lyovin is at University of Hawaii at Manoa.
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Top Customer Reviews
Each chapter in the main body starts with a summary of the languages found in the region concerned, followed by "sketches" of two languages from the region; exercises introducing a few more languages and selected literature references conclude the chapter. This approach gives quite a balanced view of the languages of the world.
The languages featured are: Europe: Russian and Finnish (with exercises about Turkish and Sanskrit); Asia: Mandarin Chinese and Classical Tibetan (+ Hmong and Japanese); Africa: Modern Literary Arabic and Swahili (+ !Xu (Khoisan)); Oceania: Hawaiian and Dyirbal (+ Tagalog, Fijian and Buang (Papuan)); Americas: Yup'ik (Eskimo) and Quechua (+ Hixkaryana, Aztec, and Huave); Pidgin and Creole: Tok Pisin (+ Hawaiian Creole English. Each "sketch", which is actually a description of reasonable depth, covers the background, phonetics, morphology, and syntax of the language, in about twenty pages. This knowledge is then applied to analyse a small (about fifteen sentences) text; the analysis consists of a literal morpheme-by-morpheme translation, explanatory notes and a translation to normal English. These sketches are of high quality; seriously working your way through such a "sketch" gives one a good grasp of the language and may well allow one to decipher simple texts in it, using a dictionary. The treatment of the languages in the exercises is of course much more restricted.
The chapter in pidgins and creoles has this same structure, and Tok Pisin (Talk Pidgin) gets the same treatment as, for example, Finnish or Quechua. It is remarkable how much Tok Pisin looks like a normal language under this treatment, even though it is evident that the English original is never far away: "Dispela man i kam asde em i papa bilong me" = This-fellow man he come yesterday him he father belong me = This man who came yesterday is my father.
In summary this book gives the student/reader some knowledge of a very wide range of languages and their features, supplemented by more in-depth knowledge of a dozen or so specific languages; a good combination it seems to me.
Having finished the book I came away with the intuitive impression that actually all languages are the same. For example, some languages have prepositions, some have postpositions, and others have case endings, and so on, but even these differences repeat themselves so often that they become next to meaningless.
Although the book is obviously designed as a textbook, it can only be recommended only as a reference, or as one among many textbooks for a specific course, because the style is too monotonous. It is also not a book to read through unless you are a language freak.
Since the book came out in 1997, it is not up-to-date any more in every area. Still, the author's cautious and balanced approach makes it a reliable reference.