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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In Ostler’s thf, Singapore has retained English for reasons of unity and globality. The Goths dismembered the Roman Empire, but they still spoke the vernacular forms of Latin. When the administrators were overturned and the cities sacked in the fall of this civilisation, these libraries acquired the distinction of being the only ones in fo to have been preserved by arson!

The book starts with the earliest languages Sumerian, Akkadian, etc. Eventually I realised one Turns out that when the pharaoh was gone, the heart went out of old Egyptian religion and the language was adopted as a Christian language.

Everywhere a map is needed, there is a map.

Empires of the Word – A review

The Adventures of Greek. Language is the tie that binds us and forms our minds and societies, and by viewing the ebb and flow of its empires we glimpse the flow not merely of peoples and levers of power but of the very bedrock empries our powers of expression.

Not a fun book, nor an easy book, and not well edited. If you, like me, are interested in linguistics and big-picture world history, this is the book. It may re-emerge as many dialects, wore those spoken in Jamaica and Singapore.

So, a painful book, but here I am, reading it again already. Despite all this rampant competition, almost all of them — or their successors — are still in existence at the beginning of the twenty-first century. However, the title, ‘Ad Infinitum,’ refers not to this, but to his thesis that the Latin-speaking world was unconscious of its own limits, looking always back to its centre, rather than outwards. It tackles some of the big questions: Mar 08, Victor Sonkin rated it really liked it Shelves: In these places, English tended to become an elite language, and it remains a language of aspiration to this day.


Interlingua of western Asia. Of course in a book of this scope–nothing less than world wide–there is no way to discuss all the many languages of mankind.

From our vantage point in the early 21st century, this remains entirely unpredictable.

A final section looks at factors which may affect the relative importance of different languages in coming decades.

The issues and concerns and discoveries here merit far wider attention than this sometimes turgid text will attract. Sanskrit, Persian Farsiand Arabic are all admired for being poetic. Jan 24, Mohammad Rameez added it. Harper CollinsJun 28, – History – pages. The First Death of Latin. 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.

Under this multi-factors explanation, the level of details is astounding.

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

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. The narrative follows roughly the ch Empires of ostlwr Word: View all 5 comments. Before embarking on the linguistic conquest of the Americas, the author deals with the linguistic and political situation of the country that funded Christopher Columbus.

Tends toward the academic.

What languages have survived millennia or have spread across continents, and why? 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.

The glamour of the desert nomad. Throughout the book Ostler is at pains to correct the misconception that empire-building has carried the burden of language spread. He’s usually clear that he’s doing this; he says, “We don’t This is an absolutely fascinating, dreadfully boring book. 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, what causes languages to become dominant and so on. As in business, it is evident that merger and acquisition can outpace organic growth.


Sign up here to receive your FREE alerts. A recurring theme is the idea of language prestige, a quality which may induce people to adopt a spoken language, and later to preserve it as a medium of learning in reverence for its canon of literature, and the social status conferred on those educated in it. This is a wonderful book.

The revolutions of 19th century, cemented this, with criollos enlisting natives, osrler and blacks under one language Spanish. From his rich picture of why major languages have waxed and waned, it is clear that there is no single model: A Language History of the World.

These tablets were sometimes fired, but for economic reasons large volumes of text, such as records of state, were simply dried and stacked in libraries. In the Train of Empire: Superficially, this is odds as the former almost falls into total oblivion and is used only for strictly liturgical purposes in the Coptic branch of Christianity while the latter is spoken by more than one billion people.

What are the forces that might weaken the current hegemony of English around the world? Refresh and try again. The Dutch, via the Boer settlers, bequeathed Afrikaans to South Africa, but in their largest and most empirse colony, the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, the Dutch language was never widely spoken. It is a little disappointing to see that African languages virtually receive no attention. 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 lstler shared by unralated languages like Thai.

A Language History of the World An excellent reading.