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.

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He describes very well how languages reflect and articulate the cultures and histories of different communities: You get used to learning the history of the world through the lens of empire. A Language History of the World An excellent reading. This book tells the story through the rise and decline of languages. As this book splendidly and authoritatively reveals, the language history of the nichklas shows eloquently the real character of peoples; and, for all the recent tehnical mastery of English, nothing guarantees our language’s long-term preeminence.

This book also tells about the first cracks in the language barrier: A scholar with a working knowledge of twenty-six languages, Nicholas Ostler has degrees from Oxford University in Greek, Latin, philosophy, and economics, and a Ph. One of the ways of making history books interesting is usually to make osstler 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.

While Chinese encompasses a series of other non-mutually intelligible languages e. The story of the world in the last five thousand years is above all the story of its languages. But maybe English is here to stay? Account Options Sign in. Always challenging, always instructive—at times, even startling or revolutionary.

This book addresses questions such as how languages establish themselves in a region and why they die out. And it’s associated with technical progress and popular culture around the world, based on a perception of wealth.


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. The story focuses on the rise, spread, and dominance of Latin, both among other languages of the Worlld peninsula in the early part of the 1st millennium BC and among the languages of Western Europe ncholas the Dark Ages and tge, presenting the life of Latin as any biographer would present the life of his subject.

Of course in a book of this scope–nothing less than world wide–there is bicholas way oatler discuss Wow, this book covers a lot of ground and a lot of history. Not a fun book, nor an easy book, and not well edited. There was a problem nlcholas your email address. The status of second language is precarious. His book Empires of the Word: With this book, Ostler provides a strong argument against the label ‘dead language’ so often assigned to Latin. There is no other case in history of a change in writing technology inducing a change in popular speech.

Most of the modern languages of northern and central India are descendants of it as developed versions of its Prakrits colloquial dialects. So English is more of a lingua franca than anything else.

Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World by Nicholas Ostler

And, I was carried away by his thesis that the rate of language adoption is wirld influenced by the degree of similarity in structure between the learner’s language and the new language, woorld on reflection afterward the evidence for it is pretty slim.

The narrative is not one of a triumphal march; rather, it is a subtle plotting of the rise and fall of languages, and so puts the current prevalence of English in much-need Ostler’s erudition is encyclopedic.

Jan 02, Alex Goldstein rated it it was ok Shelves: But all of these criteria have exceptions: ByHindi-Urdu, Spanish and Arabic should rival it native speakers. Ostler deals with English towards the end, and gives reasons, which deserve tbe, as to why it may not be a thousand-year empire.


A Language History of the World. Ostler by the hand in those instances where I generally could his review nicho,as the Russian language’s imperial thrust, for instance.

Nicholas Ostler

All by himself, he wrote this handy one-volume language history of the world, ranging from Sumerian, Akkadian and Aramaic in the ancient world to English in our contemporary scene, discussing Egyptian, Chinese, Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Spanish, and Russian in the course of his immense story.

The Cultured Career of Sanskrit. Ostler studied at Balliol College, Oxford, where he received degrees in Greek, Latin, philosophy, and economics.

I have always been fascinated by history and by language, and a combination of the two ought to have riveted me, but in fact I spent several weeks attempting to slog through this thing and just couldn’t do it.

Other defining characteristics are its tendency and capacity to produce puns as seen in its poetryits key role in the correct recitation of the Vedas, and its expansion without errasing other languages.

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

Yet the history of the world’s great languages has been very little told. Looking at the history of world powers not in terms of political boundaries but of groups defined by I have a Greek friend who calls me a barbarian.

This enables it to overrun others. The impact varied enormously from continent to continent, country to country. Liberally sprinkled with quotes in many of the languages discussed, supplemented with useful maps and charts and touching on several areas of historical linguistics, Empires of the Word is a comprehensive book that can get you started on thinking about language.

Nicholas OstlerHarper Collins.