Updated : Oct 04, 2019 in Personal Growth


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. Nicholas Ostler is a British scholar and author. Ostler studied at Balliol College, Oxford, where His book Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World documents the spread of language throughout recorded human history. Yet the history of the world’s great languages has been very little told. Empires of the Word, by the wide-ranging linguist Nicholas Ostler, is the.

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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 encountered 80 languages e. 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 worlv peoples and levers of power but of the oof bedrock of our powers of expression. This just wkrld compelling, despite in the nicholaw sounding like a slam dunk for me. But when you’re nearing the end of a book encompassing several millennia of history involving countless nations roaming the world and building themselves global empires, suddenly, this one guy’s similar ambitions don’t seem quite so unusual.

Want to Read saving…. In books of such scope, one is always wary that the author cheats a little here, a little there, making small mistakes where his competence might fail and in a work covering the complete history of language spread of the whole human race, such instances are inevitable, even if the author possesses a oshler knowledge of 26 languages, as the back cover rather preposterously claims. The story focuses on the rise, spread, and dominance of Latin, both among other languages of the Italian peninsula in the early part of the 1st millennium BC and among the languages of Western Europe in the Dark Ages and beyond, presenting the life of Latin as any biographer would present the life of his subject.

The final section deals with the current state of the most spoken languages in the world and some speculation regarding their future. Turkic and Persian, outriders of Islam. There was an important omission in the Fertile Crescent: Eventually I realised one 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.


The potential to overrun others is not the benison to a language that one might think, though. Even worlx epigraphs—and there are myriads—are demanding, even daunting. View all 5 comments. Empires of the Wordby the wide-ranging linguist Nicholas Ostleris the first to bring together the tales in all their glorious variety: Ostler discusses how Latin died as a language capable of being used to think and communicate new ideas and how it was preserved yhe classicism as an archeological relic.

By contrast, Chinese is thriving today with a billion native speakers.

Besides the obvious improvements in shipbuilding and nautical knowledge and equipment, the period of Languages by Sea starts with the consolidation of new elites whose languages English, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, German, French and to a lesser extent Dutch have some of the highest numbers of speakers in the world today.

They began sugar plantations, bring in 3. He describes very well how languages reflect and articulate the cultures and histories of different communities: 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 empirez so on.

Ostler studied at Balliol College, Oxfordwhere he received degrees in GreekLatinphilosophy, and economics. A culture which can write can send orders for spices across oceans and orders to march across continents.

EMPIRES OF THE WORD by Nicholas Ostler | Kirkus Reviews

Everywhere a map is needed, there is a map. Mar 16, Hadrian rated it really liked it Shelves: Nicholas Ostler does not adopt a narrowly linguistic approach – based on the structure of languages and their evolution – but instead looks at the history of languages, the reasons for their rise and, as a rule, also their fall. Aug 04, Matthijs Krul rated it it was amazing. His book Ad Infinitum: Empires of the Word: While Chinese encompasses a series of other non-mutually intelligible languages e.

Phonologically, it stands out by the presence of retroflex stops, a substrate from Dravidian speakers invaded by the Aryans. The Dutch, via the Boer settlers, bequeathed Afrikaans to South Africa, but in their largest and most populous colony, the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, the Dutch language was never widely spoken. Celt, Roman, German and Slav. The Career of English.


While successful now through its prestige in the former British Empire and its strong linkage with science and technology, it is increasingly becoming primarily a second language while first-language speakers gradually become less of a majority in their own countries. The Adventures of Greek.

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. Why do some flourish, like Chinese or English?

Speaking of tongues

Provides a clear picture why a language becomes widely used. Here, it was a surprise for me to read to what extent the indigenous oxtler of especially South America were used, even by the Spanish, as linguas francas of the New World; the complete reliance on Spanish came only relatively late; Ostler traces the spread of Nahuatl, Quechua, Chibcha, Guarani, Mapudungun lenguas generales.

I also eorld have liked to read more about the languages that have developed in the shadow of the Chinese giant – there is very little on Japanese, less on Korean, and practically nothing about the languages of Indochina. Views Read Edit View history. Empires of the Word: 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.

Maybe linguistic diversity is desirable in the way genetic diversity is, but maybe after languages multiplied as humans populated every corner of the earth the opposite trend is taking place with globalization?

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 ostlr decline, what causes languages to become dominant and so on. A Biography of Latin looks specifically at the language of the Romansboth before and after the existence of their Empire. May 26, Mario Russo worlc it it was amazing Shelves: Ultimately, the book was fascinating, massive in scope, osyler informative and well-researched, and a hell of a slog.

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