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Empires of the world - Nicholas Ostler

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Empires of the world - a language history of the world
Nicholas Ostler
UK Publication Date

An unusual and authoritative 'natural history of languages' that narrates the ways in which one language has superseded or outlasted another in the past, and what it is about - say - Greek, Sanskrit, Mandarin Chinese and English that has led to their supremacy at different times.

If the history of languages has taught us anything, Nicholas Ostler argues, it is that no language - however populous its speakers, confident its culture and advanced its technology - has remained the linga franca indefinitely. As the technological and cultural dominance of America has consolidated the territorial achievements of the British Empire, the English language (aided by the predominantly Anglophone Internet) has apparently never had it so good. And yet the long-term dominance of English will inevitably, in due course, give way.

Will the language split into disparate daughter languages which will undermine the mother tongue? Will English be displaced in world terms by a language such as Mandarin Chinese, which has been a great regional player since well before English emerged as an offshoot of Anglo-Saxon, French and Norse?

Taking in a broad sweep of history, Ostler will examine the reasons for the dominance of a particular language at a particular time and look at the cultural importance of linguistic variety.

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Nicholas Ostler is a scholar and scientist of languages, who has a working knowledge of 26 languages and who set up five years ago the Foundation for Endangered Languages, an international organisation, to provide funding and support to document and revitilise languages in peril. With his own company Linguacubun Ltd., he regularly advises governments and corporations on policy in the field of computers and natural language processing.

'Delicious! Few books on language answer the questions that people actually ask linguists, such as why some languages are spoken by millions and others by just a few hundred. Ostler's book shows how certain lucky languages joined humankind in its spread across the world, many off them eventually vanishing without a trace, and one of them - guess which? - currently ruling the planet.' - John McWhorter, author of THE POWER OF BABEL: THE NATURAL HISTORY OF LANGUAGE

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Historical linguistics.
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