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Power of Babel A Natural History of Language

ISBN-10: 0716744732
ISBN-13: 9780716744733
Edition: 2001 (Revised)
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Description: There are approximately 6000 languages on earth today, the descendants of the tongue first spoken by homo sapiens some 150,000 years ago. How did they all develop? What happened to the first language? In this irreverent romp through territory too  More...

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Book details

List price: $26.00
Copyright year: 2001
Publisher: W. H. Freeman & Company
Publication date: 1/15/2002
Binding: Hardcover
Pages: 336
Size: 6.50" wide x 9.75" long x 1.25" tall
Weight: 1.342

There are approximately 6000 languages on earth today, the descendants of the tongue first spoken by homo sapiens some 150,000 years ago. How did they all develop? What happened to the first language? In this irreverent romp through territory too often claimed by stodgy grammarians, McWhorter ranges across linguistic theory, geography, history, and pop culture to tell the fascinating story of how thousands of very different languages have evolved from a single, original source in a natural process similar to biological evolution. While laying out how languages mix and mutate over time, he reminds us of the variety within the species that speaks them, and argues that, contrary to popular perception, language is not immutable and hidebound, but a living, dynamic entity that adapts itself to an ever-changing human environment. Full of humor and imaginative insight, The Power of Babel draws its examples from languages around the world, including pidgins, creoles, patois and nonstandard dialects. McWhorter also discusses current theories on what the first language might have been like, why dialects should not be considered "bad speech" and why most of today's languages will be extinct in 100 years. The first book written for the layperson about the natural history of language, Power of Babel is a dazzling tour de force that will leave readers anything but speechless.

Introduction
The First Language Morphs into Six Thousand New Ones
The Six Thousand Languages Develop into Clusters of Sublanguages
The Thousands of Dialects Mix with One Another
Some Languages Are Crushed to Powder but Rise Again as New Ones
The Thousands of Dialects of Thousands of Languages All Develop Far Beyond the Call of Duty
Some Languages Get Genetically Altered and Frozen
Most of the World's Languages Went Extinct
Epilogue: "Extra, Extra! The Language of Adam and Eve"
Notes
Acknowledgments
Index

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