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. Nicholas Ostler is a British scholar and author. Ostler studied at Balliol College, Oxford, where His book Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World documents the spread of language throughout recorded human history. Yet the history of the world’s great languages has been very little told. Empires of the Word, by the wide-ranging linguist Nicholas Ostler, is the.

Author: Arashijas Kenris
Country: Honduras
Language: English (Spanish)
Genre: Education
Published (Last): 3 December 2013
Pages: 222
PDF File Size: 7.69 Mb
ePub File Size: 8.82 Mb
ISBN: 195-8-20863-542-7
Downloads: 8368
Price: Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]
Uploader: Mooguzragore

Nick Ostler has this tendency, also, to latch on to small bits of evidence and make much of it. Here, it was a surprise for me to read to what extent the indigenous languages of especially South America were used, even by the Spanish, as linguas francas of the New World; the complete reliance on Spanish came only relatively late; Ostler traces the spread of Nahuatl, Quechua, Chibcha, Guarani, Mapudungun lenguas generales.

A Language History of the World An excellent reading. Even the mightiest languages have fallen, and the future of the mightiest of our time – English – can never be secure or guaranteed, whatever the appearances to the contrary. If you read only one book on diachronic sociolinguistics, make it this one.

Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World – Nicholas Ostler – Google Books

History is a lot more fascinating when viewed through the spread of various languages and cultures. Ostler points out that in this period a major language shift from Celtic to Latin occurred in western Europe due to military conquest and that this is at the root of the misleading conception that what changes languages is only control backed by military and economic strength.

This is a richly detailed work that goes through nicyolas rise and fall of more than a dozen of the world’s most influential languages while investigating the factors involved in their growth and death. Account Options Sign in.


Of course, English is a far more global language – though primarily as a second language – ejpires Chinese, the vast majority of whose speakers live in China. Hindi when it is written in Devanagari and borrows words from Sanskrit and Urdu when it is written in Persian script and draws on Persian and Arabic.


It’s an admirable goal, but I don’t think that it really worked as intended. Here are some of the more noteworthy concepts: The status of second language is precarious. Sanskrit as one of the few ‘world’ languages mostly spread through scholarship and education rather than by sword. How did English, with its multiple parents, spread osler rapidly and pervasively? An ideographic system can offer nearly insurmountable obstacles to learning and yet, like Chinese, its very abstraction from the phonetic nature of the language can enable it to serve and persist as the medium of transmission for mutually unintelligible dialects.

Portuguese was widely used but soon abandoned; Dutch had even less success and today is virtually unknown outside Netherlands and Belgium; the French also lost a lot of ground, and the Russians were usually disliked by the people they were subduing; this makes Ostler wary about Russian’s perspectives.

EMPIRES OF THE WORD by Nicholas Ostler | Kirkus Reviews

His book Empires of the Word: I wonder, if we look at popular speech in a few years, or possibly even now, will we not see certain changes that are a direct result of email, instant messaging, and especially text messaging? In Ostler’s terms, Singapore has retained English for reasons of unity and globality. The maps are great. Retrieved 21 January Ambitious in scope, it organizes history into successions of language groups rather than the more usual empires and nations. One of the ways of making history books interesting is usually 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 narrowe This book has achieved the somewhat dubious accomplishment of being both very interesting and rather dry.

  8102A MCI PDF

As in business, it is evident that merger and acquisition can outpace organic growth.

This just wasn’t compelling, despite in the abstract sounding like a slam dunk for me. Eventually I realised one So while it was quite fascinating, it was not a good book to read when I was even a little sleepy. His book Ad Infinitum: While it is a ncholas of languages, it is nicholss the same time a history of the cultures and civilisations from which they sprang. A culture which can write can send orders for spices across oceans and orders to march across continents.

So, a painful book, but here I am, reading it again already. It is quite telling of this division between Hinduism and Islam that the largest and most wide-spread language in India today goes under two names: The illustrations and asides are mostly all there for a purpose. When the administrators were overturned and the cities sacked in the fall of this civilisation, these libraries acquired the distinction of being the only ones in history to have been preserved by arson!

After a brief introduction on the nature of language history, the first half of the book deals with the language spread by land. In fact, some evenings it acted as a sleep-aid, and next evening I would have to re-read some pages that my dozy brain just hadn’t absorbed the previous day.

Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World

This just wasn’t compelling, despite in workd abstract sounding like a slam dunk for me. Some conquerors in fact adopted the language of their vanquished foes.

A splendid, authoritative, and remarkable work, it demonstrates how the language history of the world eloquently reveals the real character of our planet’s diverse peoples and prepares us for a linguistic future full of surprises.