Empires of the Word A Language History of the World

ISBN-10: 0060935723

ISBN-13: 9780060935726

Edition: N/A

Authors: Nicholas Ostler
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Description: 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. From the uncanny resilience of Chinese through twenty centuries of invasions to the engaging self-regard of Greek and to the struggles that gave birth to the languages of modern Europe, these epic achievements and more are brilliantly explored, as are the fascinating failures of once "universal" languages. 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.

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Book details

List price: $17.99
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 6/27/2006
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 640
Size: 5.25" wide x 8.00" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 1.364
Language: English

Acknowledgments
List of Maps, Tables and Figures
Maps
Tables
Figures
Preface
Prologue: A Clash of Languages
The Nature of Language History
Themistocles' Carpet
The language view of human history
The state of nature
Literacy and the beginning of language history
An inward history too
What It Takes to Be a World Language; or, You Never Can Tell
Languages by Land
The Desert Blooms: Language Innovation in the Middle East
Three sisters who span the history of 4500 years
The story in brief: Language leapfrog
Sumerian-the first classical language: Life after death
First Interlude: Whatever Happened to Elamite?
Akkadian-world-beating technology: A model of literacy
Phoenician-commerce without culture: Canaan, and points west
Aramaic-the desert song: Interlingua of western Asia
Second Interlude: The Shield of Faith
Arabic-eloquence and equality: The triumph of 'submission'
Third Interlude: Turkic and Persian, Outriders of Islam
A Middle Eastern inheritance: The glamour of the desert nomad
Triumphs of Fertility: Egyptian and Chinese
Careers in parallel
Language along the Nile
A stately progress
Immigrants from Libya and Kush
Competition from Aramaic and Greek
Changes in writing
Final paradoxes
Language from Huang-he to Yangtze
Origins
First Unity
Retreat to the south
Northern influences
Beyond the southern sea
Dealing with foreign devils
Whys and wherefores
Holding fast to a system of writing
Foreign relations
China's disciples
Coping with invasions: Egyptian undercut
Coping with invasions: Chinese unsettled
Charming Like a Creeper: The Cultured Career of Sanskrit
The story in brief
The character of Sanskrit
Intrinsic qualities
Sanskrit in Indian life
Outsiders' views
The spread of Sanskrit
Sanskrit in India
Sanskrit in South-East Asia
Sanskrit carried by Buddhism: Central and eastern Asia
Sanskrit supplanted
The charm of Sanskrit
The roots of Sanskrit's charm
Limiting weaknesses
Sanskrit no longer alone
Three Thousand Years of Solipsism: The Adventures of Greek
Greek at its acme
Who is a Greek?
What kind of a language?
Homes from home: Greek spread through settlement
Kings of Asia: Greek spread through war
A Roman welcome: Greek spread through culture
Mid-life crisis: Attempt at a new beginning
Intimations of decline
Bactria, Persia, Mesopotamia
Syria, Palestine, Egypt
Greece
Anatolia
Consolations in age
Retrospect: The life cycle of a classic
Contesting Europe: Celt, Roman, German and Slav
Reversals of fortune
The contenders: Greek and Roman views
The Celts
The Germans
The Romans
The Slavs
Run: The impulsive pre-eminence of the Celts
Traces of Celtic languages
How to recognise Celtic
Celtic literacy
How Gaulish spread
The Gauls' advances in the historic record
Consilium: The rationale of Roman imperium
Mos Maiorum-the Roman way
The desertion of Gaulish
Latin among the Basques and the Britons
Einfall: Germanic and Slavic advances
The Germanic invasions-irresistible and ineffectual
Slavonic dawn in the Balkans
Against the odds: The advent of English
The First Death of Latin
Languages by Sea
The Second Death of Latin
Usurpers of Greatness: Spanish in the New World
Portrait of a conquistador
An unprecedented empire
First chinks in the language barrier: Interpreters, bilinguals, grammarians
Past struggles: How American languages had spread
The spread of Nahuatl
The spread of Quechua
The spreads of Chibcha, Guarani, Mapudungun
The Church's solution: The lenguas generales
The state's solution: Hispanizacion
Coda: Across the Pacific
In the Train of Empire: Europe's Languages Abroad
Portuguese pioneers
An Asian empire
Portuguese in America
Dutch interlopers
La francophonie
French in Europe
The first empire
The second empire
The Third Rome, and all the Russias
The origins of Russian
Russian east then west
Russian north then south
The status of Russian
The Soviet experiment
Conclusions
Curiously ineffective-German ambitions
Imperial epilogue: Kominka
Microcosm or Distorting Mirror? The Career of English
Endurance test: Seeing off Norman French
English overlaid
Spreading the Anglo-Norman package
The waning of Norman French
Stabilising the language
What sort of a language?
Westward Ho!
Pirates and planters
Someone else's land
Manifest destiny
Winning ways
Changing perspective-English in India
A merchant venture
Protestantism, profit and progress
Success, despite the best intentions
The world taken by storm
An empire completed
Wonder upon wonder
English among its peers
Languages Today and Tomorrow
The Current Top Twenty
Looking Ahead
What is old
What is new
Way to go
Three threads: Freedom, prestige and learnability
Freedom
Prestige
What makes a language learnable
Vaster than empires
Notes
Bibliography
Index
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