The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language

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Harper Collins, Jan 7, 2003 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 352 pages
15 Reviews

There are approximately six thousand languages on Earth today, each a descendant of the tongue first spoken by Homo sapiens some 150,000 years ago. While laying out how languages mix and mutate over time, linguistics professor John McWhorter reminds us of the variety within the species that speaks them, and argues that, contrary to popular perception, language is not immutable and hidebound, but a living, dynamic entity that adapts itself to an ever-changing human environment.

Full of humor and imaginative insight, The Power of Babel draws its illustrative examples from languages around the world, including pidgins, Creoles, and nonstandard dialects.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - MartinBodek - LibraryThing

Reading this mind-blower created four significant changes in my brain: 1) It changed my approach to learning languages, as I was previously stuck trying to learn them through the rules of my own. 2 ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - LynnB - LibraryThing

This is an interesting look at how the world went from one language to the roughly 6000 we have today. At times, it was a bit too much "in the weeds" for me, with details of wording endings or how a ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction 1
The First Language Morphs
The Six Thousand Languages Develop
The Thousands of Dialects Mix
Some Languages Are Crushed to Powder
The Thousands of Dialects of Thousands
Some Languages Get Genetically Altered
Most of the Worlds Languages
of Adam and Eve 287
Notes 305
Index 319
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About the author (2003)

John McWhorter, associate professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of The Word on the Street. He lives in Oakland, California.

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