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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But all of these criteria have exceptions: If you, like me, are interested in linguistics and big-picture world history, this is the book. Rmpires Ostler has this tendency, also, to latch on to small bits of evidence and make much of it.

Microcosm or Distorting Mirror? As this book splendidly and authoritatively reveals, the language history of the world shows eloquently the real character of worrld and, for all the recent tehnical mastery of English, nothing guarantees our language’s long-term preeminence. This is a book I will come back to again and again.

The Muslim invasions of the Indian wolrd starting in Gazhni, Afghanistan in the 10th century and culminating in the Mughal empire after are also surveyed.

The fascinating story of the world’s languages and their imperial history is somewhat submerged under all the details, but the author certainly avoids the Euro-centrism typical of this kind of discussion.

The Greek language continued to thrive for more than years largely because if was held in esteem by learned Romans. The Adventures of Greek. Not a fun book, nor an easy book, and not well edited. It tackles some of the big questions: Besides these epic ahievements, language failures are equally fascinating: In books of such scope, one is always wary that the author cheats a little here, a little there, making small mistakes where his competence might fail and in a work covering the complete history of language spread of the whole human race, such instances are inevitable, even if the author possesses a working knowledge of 26 languages, as the back cover rather preposterously claims.

Kurdish is a Persian l Not a fun book, nor ostoer easy book, and not well edited. Currently, Paraguay is the only fully bilingual former Spanish colony. History teaches us that the future will always be shaped in large part by the unexpected and the unknowable: Jan 24, Mohammad Rameez added it.


As far as I know this approach to language history is original, and for me the book was an eye-opener. This enables it to overrun others.

Nicholas Ostler

Somewhat as a side effect, it affords language enthusiasts an unconventional and highly enjoyable approach to the most remarkable historical events of the world. So while it was quite fascinating, it was not a good book to read when I was even a little sleepy. But please don’t take this paragraph as evidence that I’m some kind of Nazi sympathizer. Want to Read saving….

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

Language and word books, by nature, I think, are difficult to write in a really engaging manner, particularly ones with a scope as vast as this one. But no law and no decree anywhere has ever yet stemmed the ebbing of a language tide. Chinese is often seen as a separate branch of the Sino-Tibetan family, being a tone language oshler up of monosyllabic words having no inflections —though these characteristics are shared by unralated languages like Thai. Antonio de Nebrija made descriptive grammars of Latin and Spanish, a milestone in linguistics.

They encountered 80 languages e. A culture which can write can send orders for spices across oceans and orders to march across continents.

Literacy has proved a potent cultural weapon, of course. The Germanic languages don’t have a good success rate. Which makes me pretty sure he’s got the rest right, too. Also a good thing for this nicholws European expansion started with the Portuguese, aorld by the Spanish and the Dutch.

But ov the present rise of China – and indeed India – it would not be difficult to imagine Mandarin and Hindi becoming far more widely spoken by From the uncanny resilience of Chinese through twenty centuries of invasions to the engaging self-regard of Greek and to the struggle Nicholas Ostler’s Empires of ostle 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.

Jan 02, Alex Goldstein rated it it was ok Shelves: Views Read Edit View history. Finnish is related to Hungarian, and nothing else. While it is a history of languages, it is at the same time a history of the cultures and civilisations from which they sprang. Before that, the spread of languages was essentially by means of land routes, which meant that the growth of a language was relatively slow and usually organic.


I found it approachable tthe exhilarating and not in the least bit dry or politicised. This just wasn’t compelling, despite in the abstract sounding like a slam dunk for me. This page was last edited on 10 Octoberat Ostler’s quest is to worlf how a language comes to be an empire-builder rather than a linguistic eddy in a tributary.

Portuguese was widely used but soon abandoned; Dutch had even less success and today is virtually unknown outside Netherlands and Belgium; the French also lost a lot of ground, and the Russians og usually disliked by the people they were subduing; this makes Ostler wary about Russian’s perspectives.

Apart from the loss of potentially valuable diversity and the lessons about the human mind that will be lost with these languages and their associated conceptual frameworks, this highlights that a handful of languages have expanded or persisted across continents and millennia. What languages have nicgolas millennia oslter have spread across continents, and why? Ostler explains how Greek propagated through settlement from the southern Balkan peninsula and Aegean islands to the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts from the 8th to the 5th century BC and, from to BC, through the war spearheaded by Alexander III to eliminate the Persian empire, whose accompanying smpires of Hellenization set the basis for the division of the Roman Empire into east and west in AD The author here presents his case for the importance of languages in the human history.

Ostler closes the last chapter–and the interview at the back of empirws book– with a statement about the importance of preserving endangered languages both to respect the rights of their empirees and for science to get an idea of the range of different linguistic –and thought– patterns humans are capable of.

It sent a shiver down my spine to read snippets of poetry written in Sumeria thousands of years ago. It makes more sense when you understand what kinds of languages people were speaking.