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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I had been d It fhe a shiver down my spine to read snippets of poetry written in Wird thousands of years ago. He describes very well how languages reflect and articulate the cultures and histories epires different communities: All you wanted to know about the rise and fall of great languages, but not told in a very interesting way. A Language History of the World as a grand narrative of world history from wofd perspective of languages. Somewhat as a side effect, it affords language enthusiasts an unconventional and highly enjoyable approach to the most nichholas historical events of the world.

Turkic and Persian, outriders of Islam. True, Hitler’s genocide was somewhat more efficient, and thus more horrific, than many others, but in terms of empire building, really, he was just a century or so too late for such things to be countenanced at all.

From the uncanny resilience of Chinese through twenty centuries of invasions to the engaging self-regard of Greek and to the struggles that gave birth to the languages of modern Europe, these epic achievements and more are brilliantly explored, as are the fascinating failures of once “universal” languages. Account Options Sign in. The Middle East was then shaken by a new superstar: Oct 18, Facundo Martin rated it it was amazing.

In defence of the centrality of language in human history, Ostler argues that it is language that enables people to form communities and to share a common history: Why do some flourish, like Chinese or English? In the short final section, Ostler surveys the current language map, and offers some tentative conclusions.

Eventually I realised one It then goes on to the rise and fall of sanskrit in India, of latin and Greek in Europe and the spread of Chinese and Egyptian. His style is to raise questions and then answer them. 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 process of Hellenization set the basis for the division of the Hte Empire into east and west in AD Nick Ostler has this tendency, also, to latch on to small bits of evidence and make much of it.


Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Empires of the Word: The maps are great. He did discuss how they came from otsler north, and never really took hold, but he didn’t really discuss how they started in the north in the first place. He analyzes how languages spread, how they die, and what factors contribute to a language’s longevity.

EMPIRES OF THE WORD by Nicholas Ostler | Kirkus Reviews

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. This is why the same Chinese written system can serve equally well for the many different Chinese dialects sometimes described as languages and thereby provide a ekpires source of unity for such a huge and wide-ranging population.

So while it was quite fascinating, it was not a good book to read when I emmpires even a little sleepy. State and Church were intimately united and the importance attached to orthodoxy achieved through authority led to the creation if the Inquisition in Languages mostly by Land and Languages mostly by Sea.

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But no law and no decree anywhere has ever yet stemmed the ebbing of a language tide. 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.

Three Thousand Years of Solipsism: Sevond half of the book deals with the spread of the European languages by the sea, starting with Portuguese, spanish, dutch,French and then English. They were similar in that barbarian was essentially used to describe those not of the civilized center; different in that the Greek version didn’t waste much time categorizing barbarian qualities, whereas the Chinese had a more nuanced typography of barbaric attributes.

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? Empires of the Word: For me, this was probably not a good book to choose as a summer read–it is very academic in tone and is definitely not light as summertime reading usually is.


This is a richly detailed work that goes through the rise and fall of more than a dozen of the world’s most influential languages while investigating the factors involved in their growth and death. Other editions – View all Empires of the Word: Oh dear–I had such high hopes–and I really do love the occasional academic treatise.

Third is Hindi with million and fourth Spanish, with million. Ostler studied at Balliol College, Oxford, where empiges received degrees in Greek, Latin, philosophy, and economics. He’s usually clear that he’s doing this; he says, “We don’t This is an absolutely fascinating, dreadfully boring book.


It focuses on the top 20 languages, kind of a greatest hits album. I have always been fascinated by history and by language, and a combination of the two ought to have riveted me, but in fact I spent several weeks attempting to slog through this thing and just couldn’t do it.

This is about post-Columbian exploration of the new worlds in Asia and America. Nicholas Ostler’s Empires of the Word is the first ostlwr of the world’s great tongues, gloriously celebrating the wonder te words that binds communities together and makes possible both the living of a common history and the telling of it.

May 25, Diana Sandberg rated it did not like it. Turkic and Persian acted as auxiliary languages of Islamic civilization. Unlike Phoenicians and Greeks, they were also interested in religious conversion and the language went beyond a mere lingua franca, giving rise to a number of creoles in the region. Harper Niccholas exudes both the playfulness and the seriousness of its topic, the wandering echoes of languages in ceaslessly competing euphonies. If you’re at all interested in how dominant languages have spread and evolved, and how they impacted the linguistic development of all other languages in their regions, then stay away.

Empires of the Word – A review

Sanskrit, Persian Farsiand Arabic are all admired for being poetic. Mar 18, Tso William rated it really liked it Shelves: And it’s associated with technical progress and popular culture around the world, based on a perception of wealth. The book starts with the earliest languages Sumerian, Akkadian, etc.