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

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Synopsis

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.

 

About Nicholas Ostler

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Nicholas Ostler is the author of Empires of the World: A Language History of the World. He is chairman of the Foundation for Endangered Languages (www.ogmios.org), a charity that supports the efforts of small communities worldwide to know and use their languages more. A scholar with a working knowledge of twenty-six languages, Ostler has degrees from Oxford University in Greek, Latin, philosophy, and economics, and a Ph.D. in linguistics from M.I.T., where he studied under Noam Chomsky. He lives in England, in Roman Bath, on the hill where Ambrosius Aurelianus defeated the Saxons for a generation.
 
Published February 25, 2010 by Harper Perennial. 688 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference, Religion & Spirituality. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Empires of the Word

Kirkus Reviews

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A dense but enlightening account of how the world’s written languages were born, how they spread and changed, how some weakened and died, how others thrived.

May 01 2005 | Read Full Review of Empires of the Word: A Langua...

The Guardian

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Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World by Nicholas Ostler 615pp, HarperCollins, £30 There are many ways of recounting the history of the world - via the rise and fall of civilisations, the fortunes of nation states, socio-economic systems and patterns, the development of technology,...

Mar 12 2005 | Read Full Review of Empires of the Word: A Langua...

The Guardian

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Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World by Nicholas Ostler HarperCollins £30, pp624 This learned and entertaining book starts around 3,300BC and works forwards.

Mar 13 2005 | Read Full Review of Empires of the Word: A Langua...

Publishers Weekly

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Ostler's ambitious and accessible book is not a technical linguistic study—i.e., it's not concerned with language structure—but about the "growth, development and collapse of language communities" and their cultures.

May 16 2005 | Read Full Review of Empires of the Word: A Langua...

BC Books

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Language can prove remarkably resiliant—for example, the continued regard for Greek despite the Roman conquest.

Sep 09 2005 | Read Full Review of Empires of the Word: A Langua...

BC Books

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Every now and again you'll hear word of a "dying" or "dead" language, a language whose adherents are dwindling or which is no longer actually spoken by any natives (Latin, for example, is pretty much "dead," even though law students and med students both still have to wrestle with it).

Sep 09 2005 | Read Full Review of Empires of the Word: A Langua...

Project MUSE

2) published an article of ours, "Language Death, Language Genesis, and World History," in which we asserted that world historians were in need of a new source of data and suggested that they look at language, specifically what we described as solid areal and historical linguistics.

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California Literary Review

But without preferring one community to another, it is possible to trace language histories, and see that some language communities have been more effective than others in effecting the security and spread of their language.

Apr 03 2007 | Read Full Review of Empires of the Word: A Langua...

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