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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Apr 12, Aaron Arnold rated it it was amazing Shelves: Specifically the section about native indian is very informative. Tends toward the academic. May 26, Mario Russo rated it it was amazing Shelves: It opens nicholad with an extensive passage in romanized Quechua, for instance.

Ostler studied at Balliol College, Oxford, where he received degrees wotld Greek, Latin, philosophy, and economics. A Language History of the World An excellent reading.

Trivia About Empires of the Wo Not a fun book, nor an easy book, and not well edited.

The Cultured Career of Sanskrit. But English can hardly expect that its linguistic vogue will continue forever.

Nicholas Ostler

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. A highly readable and thoroughly entertaining piece of education awaits the reader. Here are some of the more noteworthy concepts: There is Greek, whose fortunes were tied only loosely to Greek civilisation and which somehow managed to hitch a ride on the Roman empire and become, as the prestige language of learning, an integral part of that historical era too.

This heavy, sturdy text rests on a foundation of scholarship and oatler so broad and deep that it will osstler gasps of admiration from professional linguists and assorted logophiles, though its very complexity and comprehensiveness may overwhelm general readers. These features might have very well made it impossible for any compromise to develop with the Altaic languages of the Mongolian hordes led by Ghengis Khan in the 13th empirees and the Manchus in the 17th which were of the agglutinant typeadding tthe Chinese cultural resilience.


Review: Empires of the Word by Nicholas Ostler | Books | The Guardian

I enjoyed a short tangent the book took into a comparison of Greek and Chinese conceptions of the ‘barbarian’. Nicholas OstlerAP Watt literary agent.

Finally, the book is peppered throughout with lots of source-language citations for pretty much every language that he talks about. 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. Finnish is related to Hungarian, and nothing else. The top 20 global languages – defined in terms of their use as a first or second niicholas – provide an interesting reflection on the fortunes of those languages that have spread by organic growth and those that have expanded by means of mergers and acquisitions.

It focuses on the top 20 languages, kind of a greatest hits album. Russian managed to stamp out worlx indigenous languages of Asian Russia behind the Urals, Siberia, etc.

Oh dear–I had such high hopes–and I really do love the occasional academic treatise. Indeed, it is salutary to learn that it has mainly been western cultures – Greek, Roman, French, Dutch, Portuguese, British and American, together with Islam – that have sought to impose themselves, and their languages, on others.

Like most Indo-European peoples, they cared more for honour than for life itself. The issues and concerns and discoveries here merit far wider attention than this sometimes turgid text will attract. Empires of the Word: He analyzes how languages spread, how they die, and what factors contribute to a language’s longevity. Greeks’ indifference towards other languages. On page 64, he says: Afterthe major form of expansion was by sea.


The Germanic languages don’t have a good success rate.

Once language expansion could be achieved by force – or what Ostler describes as mergers and acquisitions – the pace of language growth was enormously accelerated. In Ostler’s terms, Singapore has retained English for reasons of unity and globality. As this book splendidly and authoritatively reveals, the language history of nicholqs world shows eloquently the real character of peoples; and, for all the recent tehnical mastery of English, nothing guarantees our language’s long-term preeminence.

View all 6 comments. The Cultured Career of Sanskrit. But maybe the most illuminating world history book that I have ever read.

The very fact of being able to write enables a culture to take on a sense of itself across time and space. As far as I know thi This is a history of languages which have left written works or records – how and why they spread or went into decline, empies causes languages to become dominant and so on.

The final section deals with the current state of the most spoken languages in the world and some speculation regarding their future. Language Innovation ostleer the Middle East. This just wasn’t compelling, despite in the abstract sounding like a slam dunk for empirse.

Ostler has created a history of all of humanity, in so much as such a thing can be achieved in a single volume, on a basis unlike any other I have encountered. Antonio de Nebrija made descriptive grammars of Latin and Spanish, a milestone in linguistics.

Ultimately, the book was fascinating, massive in scope, highly informative and well-researched, and a hell of a slog.