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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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

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User Review  - vonChillan - LibraryThing

A fascinating survey of the myriad ways humans get to communicate with each other, not as a catalog of odd behaviors but as the evidence for a rather radical thesis: there are no dialects, all are ... Read full review


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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