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. Empires of the Word, by Nicholas Ostler. Language is mightier than the sword. Michael Church; Wednesday 6 April 0 comments. 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.

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He’s usually clear that he’s doing this; he says, “We don’t This is an absolutely fascinating, dreadfully boring book. A Language History of the Worldwritten by Nicholas Ostler, is an immensely learned book with an ambitious project: 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.

Jan 02, Alex Goldstein rated it it was ok Shelves: Jul 10, Jee Koh rated it really liked it.

Account Options Sign in. The most interesting sections, to me, were the final two chapters, where he assesses the status of the current top 20 languages, and then suggests where we might be headed linguistically as a species.

Speaking of tongues

At the top of the league table is Mandarin Chinese, which has 1, million speakers, more than twice as many as the next highest, English, with million.

Spanish rigidity, cupidity and fidelity; French admiration for rationality; andEnglish admiration for business acumen. A long and a bit over-laborious comparison between the ‘careers’ of Egyptian and Chinese: All that said, this was a dry book about a totally fascinating subject, and if you’re interested enough in the subject, you’ll put up with reading the book.

The Cultured Career of Sanskrit. A Language History of the World. Invaders such as the Germanic tribes have dominated swathes of a continent, such as historic Gaul, and then left hardly a trace of their tongue across much of the area. HarperCollins- Historical linguistics – pages.


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

Empires of the Word discusses the unique position of English in our times as the only lingua franca to have truly permeated the whole world. Elsewhere it simply replaced native languages as the natives were driven to or near to extinction. Celt, Roman, German and Slav. An important sub-group within the Semitic language family are the Canaanite language, comprising, for instance Phoenician and Hebrew.

That said, the book was also an excellent overview of world history and I think I have a better sense of the order of certain events than before.

He did discuss how they came from the north, and never really took hold, but he didn’t really discuss how they started in the north in the first place.

Empires of the Word – A review

The narrative follows roughly the chronological line. I had been d It sent a shiver down my spine to read snippets of poetry written in Sumeria thousands of years ago. But a stunning achievement nonetheless.

From our vantage point in the early 21st century, this remains entirely ostlsr. Jan 25, Michael Cayley rated it it was amazing Shelves: Codified 2, years ago and barely changed since, this was a language that took great pleasure in its own beauty, which was intimately bound up with an Indian worldview, but which was ultimately to ossify to such an extent that today, although still an official language of India, oslter is spoken by fewer thanpeople.

I thought this was awesome; although I wasn’t entirely convinced that his or his advisors had written everything precisely right, and trying to get one’s head around emoires numerous different romanization systems to get a sense of what the languages actually sounded like and how they worked, his stated point in including these quotes got really difficult.

The classic mode of language growth in the new European era was by means of military conquest: Its written system dates back around 4, years and during that time it has changed ncholas little. 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.


I had been disappointed with Michael Wood’s “The Story of India” because it omitted what to us to the East of India is one the most exciting parts of the Indian story – the expansion of Hindu culture into South East Asia.

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

Carpe diem, gentle readers, carpe diem! Arabic which unabashedly spread the language with deadly sword and fervent faith. It focuses on the top 20 languages, kind of a greatest hits album. Chinese is often seen as a separate branch of the Sino-Tibetan family, being a tone language made up of monosyllabic words having no inflections —though these characteristics are shared by unralated languages like Thai.

By contrast, Chinese is oatler today with a billion native speakers. He has some really interesting insights empirrs all sorts of things, like nichllas Germanic tribes managed to conquer half the Roman Empire but didn’t impose their languages anywhere whereas the Arab conquests only a few hundred years later led to permanent linguistic change across almost all of their territories, and his ending discussion of the evolution and future of English is probably worth the price of the book right there.

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