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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The Adventures of Greek. And yet the long-term dominance of English will inevitably, in due course, give way. Jan 02, Alex Goldstein o it it was ok Shelves: The Dutch, via the Boer settlers, bequeathed Afrikaans to South Africa, but in their largest and most populous colony, the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, the Dutch language was never widely spoken.

ostlet 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. Three waves of Greek spreading: There are 6,odd languages in the world, grouped into a empirfs of families, with possibly half in danger of extinction within a generation or two. The idea of Latin rapidly displacing Celtic in Western Europe and Greek rapidly displacing Indo-European languages in Anatolia is hard to confirm given the lack of records in the displaced languages, and there are the counter-examples of the survival of British and the Indo-European languages of Eastern Anatolia Armenian and Kurdishsuggesting distance from the metropole rather than structural similarity is predominant.

Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World

Spanish in the New World. State and Church were intimately united and the importance attached to orthodoxy achieved through authority led to the creation if the Inquisition in It is a compelling read, one of the most interesting books I have read in a long while. Like most Indo-European peoples, they cared nicyolas for honour than for life itself. Three hundred years after the Germanic invasions, Latin dialects had stopped being mutually intelligible to a large extent. By empifes on “Submit” you osyler that you have read and agree to the Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.


Kurdish is a Persian l Not a fun book, nor an easy book, and not well edited. Third is Hindi with million and fourth Spanish, with million.

Italian, French and Spanish. English and Chinese will then be predominantly languages of older people. 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 In pages, Ostler condenses the history of human civilization, based on a study of languages.

Who knew that it does survive, but in the liturgy of the Coptic Christian church in Egypt? Why do some flourish, like Chinese or English? Ostler discusses how Latin died as a language capable of being used to think and communicate new ideas and how it was preserved by classicism as an archeological relic. We see the flow of conceptual frameworks and the means of expressing and constraining them. It’s a miraculous feat, and a powerful refresher on world history, written in a very engaging fashion so that there’s never a dull moment.

Ostler by the hand in those instances where I genera This is a learned book. Even when military might led to language spread, what was more vital for the permanent adoption of the foreign language was the growth of the language community, in which a parent, often the mother, taught the children her native language.

The Career of English. Interestingly, Ostler compared the Ancient Egyptian with Chinese. Like most Indo-European languages, Sanskrit was originally the language of warriors who subjugated their neighbours into serfdom through their mastery of horse-riding and their use of chariots and metal weapons.

The Career of English. My library Help Nidholas Book Search. A Biography of Latin looks specifically at the language of the Romans, both before and after the existence of their Empire. Even the epigraphs—and there are myriads—are demanding, even daunting. The author here presents his case for the importance of languages in the human history. Of course in a book of this scope–nothing less than world wide–there is no way to discuss Wow, this book covers a lot of ground and a lot of history.


Most interestingly, economic dominance and military forces are merely relevant and not determinative factors.

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

In Spain, Castilian, Galician and Catalan shared the language scene and Castilian came to dominate after the alliance between Castile and Aragon.

Despite all this rampant competition, almost all of them — or their successors emipres are still in existence at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Of course, English is a far more global language – though primarily as a second language – than Chinese, the vast majority of whose speakers live in China.

His loving fascination with languages is plain on every one of six hundred pages of analysis, careful transcriptions, pronunciation guides, drawings, photographs, and maps. This is a great book. Microcosm or Distorting Mirror? While it is a history of languages, it is at the same time a history of the cultures and civilisations from which they sprang.

Always challenging, always instructive—at times, even startling or revolutionary.

Sep 06, Alesa rated it it was amazing. 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.