Search Results: the-power-of-babel-a-natural-history-of-language

The Power of Babel

A Natural History of Language

Author: John McWhorter

Publisher: Harper Collins

ISBN: 006052085X

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 352

View: 5661

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.

The Power Of Babel

A Natural History of Language

Author: John McWhorter

Publisher: Random House

ISBN: 144647240X

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 336

View: 1136

There can be few subjects of such widespread interest and fascination to anyone who reads as the strange ways of languages. In this wonderfully entertaining and fascinating book, John McWhorter introduces us to 'the natural history of language': from Russonorsk, a creole of Russian and Norwegian once spoken by trading fur trappers to an Australian Aboriginal language which only has three verbs. Witty, brilliant and authoritative, this book is a must for anyone who is interested in language, as sheerly enjoyable as non-fiction gets.

The Power of Babel

A Natural History of Language

Author: John H. McWhorter

Publisher: Vintage

ISBN: 9780099435242

Category: Historical linguistics

Page: 327

View: 9871

"There can be few subjects of such widespread interest and fascination to anyone who reads as the strange ways of languages. In this wonderfully entertaining and fascinating book, John McWhorter introduces us to the natural history of language: from Russonorsk, a creole of Russian and Norwegian once spoken by trading fur trappers to an Australian Aboriganal language which only has three verbs. Witty, brilliant and authorative, this book is a must for anyone who is interested in language, as sheerly enjoyable as non-fiction gets.

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue

The Untold History of English

Author: John McWhorter

Publisher: Penguin

ISBN: 1592404944

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 230

View: 5156

A survey of the English language's usage mysteries considers the ways in which English developed and how it may reflect cultural values, in a reference that covers such topics as Celtic and Welsh influences, the origins of specific syntax patterns, and the role of language in forming early Britain. 25,000 first printing.

What Language Is

And What It Isn't and What It Could Be

Author: John McWhorter

Publisher: Penguin

ISBN: 1101644451

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 240

View: 9899

New York Times bestselling author and renowned linguist, John McWhorter, explores the complicated and fascinating world of languages. From Standard English to Black English; obscure tongues only spoken by a few thousand people in the world to the big ones like Mandarin - What Language Is celebrates the history and curiosities of languages around the world and smashes our assumptions about "correct" grammar. An eye-opening tour for all language lovers, What Language Is offers a fascinating new perspective on the way humans communicate. From vanishing languages spoken by a few hundred people to major tongues like Chinese, with copious revelations about the hodgepodge nature of English, John McWhorter shows readers how to see and hear languages as a linguist does. Packed with Big Ideas about language alongside wonderful trivia, What Language Is explains how languages across the globe (the Queen's English and Surinam creoles alike) originate, evolve, multiply, and divide. Raising provocative questions about what qualifies as a language (so-called slang does have structured grammar), McWhorter also takes readers on a marvelous journey through time and place-from Persian to the languages of Sri Lanka- to deliver a feast of facts about the wonders of human linguistic expression.

Empires of the Word

A Language History of the World

Author: Nicholas Ostler

Publisher: Harper Collins

ISBN: 9780062047359

Category: History

Page: 640

View: 4998

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 and makes possible both the living of a common history and the telling of it. 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. A splendid, authoritative, and remarkable work, it demonstrates how the language history of the world eloquently reveals the real character of our planet's diverse peoples and prepares us for a linguistic future full of surprises.

Defining Creole

Author: John H. McWhorter

Publisher: Oxford University Press

ISBN: 9780195347234

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 444

View: 7238

A conventional wisdom among creolists is that creole is a sociohistorical term only: that creole languages share a particular history entailing adults rapidly acquiring a language usually under conditions of subordination, but that structurally they are indistinguishable from other languages. The articles by John H. McWhorter collected in this volume demonstrate that this is in fact untrue. Creole languages, while complex and nuanced as all human languages are, are delineable from older languages as the result of their having come into existence only a few centuries ago. Then adults learn a language under untutored conditions, they abbreviate its structure, focusing upon features vital to communication and shaving away most of the features useless to communication that bedevil those acquiring the language non-natively. When they utilize their rendition of the language consistently enough to create a brand-new one, this new creation naturally evinces evidence of its youth: specifically, a much lower degree of the random accretions typical in older languages, which only develop over vast periods of time. The articles constitute a case for this thesis based on both broad, cross-creole ranges of data and focused expositions referring to single creole languages. The book presents a general case for a theory of language contact and creolization in which not only transfer from source languages but also structural reduction plays a central role, based on facts whose marginality of address in creole studies has arisen from issues sociopolitical as well as scientific. For several decades the very definition of the term creole has been elusive even among creole specialists. This book attempts to forge a path beyond the inter- and intra-disciplinary misunderstandings and stalemates that have resulted from this, and to demonstrate the place that creoles might occupy in other linguistic subfields, including typology, language contact, and syntactic theory.

Doing Our Own Thing

The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care

Author: John McWhorter

Publisher: Random House

ISBN: 1446473228

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 304

View: 2561

Once languages become written, they change. Only in writing does language develop the artfulness and richness that we associate with a Shakespeare, a Proust or a Whitman. Yet over the last forty years, the English-language has effectively gone into reverse - taking our lead from America and the legacy of the 1960s, our culture increasingly privileges the oral over the written, spurning the art of elaborated, 'written'-style language in favour of returning to the state of a spoken culture. Parallel developments have occurred in music. In this controversial and thought-provoking book, John McWhorter argues that the 1960's rejection of cultural traits associated with the Establishment, as well as a democratic celebration of what anyone can do over what requires training or talent, has led to our culture being increasingly impoverished, both intellectually and artistically...

Through the Language Glass

Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages

Author: Guy Deutscher

Publisher: Metropolitan Books

ISBN: 9781429970112

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 320

View: 9130

A masterpiece of linguistics scholarship, at once erudite and entertaining, confronts the thorny question of how—and whether—culture shapes language and language, culture Linguistics has long shied away from claiming any link between a language and the culture of its speakers: too much simplistic (even bigoted) chatter about the romance of Italian and the goose-stepping orderliness of German has made serious thinkers wary of the entire subject. But now, acclaimed linguist Guy Deutscher has dared to reopen the issue. Can culture influence language—and vice versa? Can different languages lead their speakers to different thoughts? Could our experience of the world depend on whether our language has a word for "blue"? Challenging the consensus that the fundaments of language are hard-wired in our genes and thus universal, Deutscher argues that the answer to all these questions is—yes. In thrilling fashion, he takes us from Homer to Darwin, from Yale to the Amazon, from how to name the rainbow to why Russian water—a "she"—becomes a "he" once you dip a tea bag into her, demonstrating that language does in fact reflect culture in ways that are anything but trivial. Audacious, delightful, and field-changing, Through the Language Glass is a classic of intellectual discovery.

The Creole Debate

Author: John H. McWhorter

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

ISBN: 1108601936

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: N.A

View: 1838

Creoles have long been the subject of debate in linguistics, with many conflicting views, both on how they are formed, and what their political and linguistic status should be. Indeed, over the past twenty years, some creole specialists have argued that it has been wrong to think of creoles as anything but language blends in the same way that Yiddish is a blend of German and Hebrew and Slavic. Here, John H. McWhorter debunks the most widely accepted idea that creoles are created in the same way as 'children', taking characteristics from both 'parent' languages, and its underlying assumption that all historical and biological processes are the same. Instead, the facts support the original, and more interesting, argument that creoles are their own unique entity and are among the world's only genuinely new languages.

The Unfolding of Language

An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention

Author: Guy Deutscher

Publisher: Metropolitan Books

ISBN: 1466837837

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 368

View: 3799

Blending the spirit of Eats, Shoots & Leaves with the science of The Language Instinct, an original inquiry into the development of that most essential-and mysterious-of human creations: Language Language is mankind's greatest invention-except, of course, that it was never invented." So begins linguist Guy Deutscher's enthralling investigation into the genesis and evolution of language. If we started off with rudimentary utterances on the level of "man throw spear," how did we end up with sophisticated grammars, enormous vocabularies, and intricately nuanced degrees of meaning? Drawing on recent groundbreaking discoveries in modern linguistics, Deutscher exposes the elusive forces of creation at work in human communication, giving us fresh insight into how language emerges, evolves, and decays. He traces the evolution of linguistic complexity from an early "Me Tarzan" stage to such elaborate single-word constructions as the Turkish sehirlilestiremediklerimizdensiniz ("you are one of those whom we couldn't turn into a town dweller"). Arguing that destruction and creation in language are intimately entwined, Deutscher shows how these processes are continuously in operation, generating new words, new structures, and new meanings. As entertaining as it is erudite, The Unfolding of Language moves nimbly from ancient Babylonian to American idiom, from the central role of metaphor to the staggering triumph of design that is the Semitic verb, to tell the dramatic story and explain the genius behind a uniquely human faculty.

Words on the Move

Why English Won't - and Can't - Sit Still (Like, Literally)

Author: John McWhorter

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

ISBN: 1627794735

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 288

View: 4553

A bestselling linguist takes us on a lively tour of how the English language is evolving before our eyes -- and why we should embrace this transformation and not fight it Language is always changing -- but we tend not to like it. We understand that new words must be created for new things, but the way English is spoken today rubs many of us the wrong way. Whether it’s the use of literally to mean “figuratively” rather than “by the letter,” or the way young people use LOL and like, or business jargon like What’s the ask? -- it often seems as if the language is deteriorating before our eyes. But the truth is different and a lot less scary, as John McWhorter shows in this delightful and eye-opening exploration of how English has always been in motion and continues to evolve today. Drawing examples from everyday life and employing a generous helping of humor, he shows that these shifts are a natural process common to all languages, and that we should embrace and appreciate these changes, not condemn them. Words on the Move opens our eyes to the surprising backstories to the words and expressions we use every day. Did you know that silly once meant “blessed”? Or that ought was the original past tense of owe? Or that the suffix -ly in adverbs is actually a remnant of the word like? And have you ever wondered why some people from New Orleans sound as if they come from Brooklyn? McWhorter encourages us to marvel at the dynamism and resilience of the English language, and his book offers a lively journey through which we discover that words are ever on the move and our lives are all the richer for it.

The Language Hoax

Author: John H. McWhorter

Publisher: Oxford University Press

ISBN: 0199361606

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 224

View: 9086

Japanese has a term that covers both green and blue. Russian has separate terms for dark and light blue. Does this mean that Russians perceive these colors differently from Japanese people? Does language control and limit the way we think? This short, opinionated book addresses the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which argues that the language we speak shapes the way we perceive the world. Linguist John McWhorter argues that while this idea is mesmerizing, it is plainly wrong. It is language that reflects culture and worldview, not the other way around. The fact that a language has only one word for eat, drink, and smoke doesn't mean its speakers don't process the difference between food and beverage, and those who use the same word for blue and green perceive those two colors just as vividly as others do. McWhorter shows not only how the idea of language as a lens fails but also why we want so badly to believe it: we're eager to celebrate diversity by acknowledging the intelligence of peoples who may not think like we do. Though well-intentioned, our belief in this idea poses an obstacle to a better understanding of human nature and even trivializes the people we seek to celebrate. The reality -- that all humans think alike -- provides another, better way for us to acknowledge the intelligence of all peoples.

Speak: A Short History of Languages

Author: Tore Janson

Publisher: OUP Oxford

ISBN: 0191622907

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 312

View: 3218

This book is a history of human speech from prehistory to the present. It charts the rise of some languages and the fall of others, explaining why some survive and others die. It shows how languages change their sounds and meanings, and how the history of languages is closely linked to the history of peoples. Writing in a lively, readable style, distinguished Swedish scholar Tore Janson makes no assumptions about previous knowledge. He takes the reader on a voyage of exploration through the changing patterns of the world's languages, from ancient China to ancient Egypt, imperial Rome to imperial Britain, Sappho's Lesbos to contemporary Africa. He discovers the links between the histories of societies and their languages; he shows how language evolved from primitive calls; he considers the question of whether one language can be more advanced than another. The author describes the history of writing and looks at the impact of changing technology. He ends by assessing the prospects for English world domination and predicting the languages of the distant future. Five historical maps illustrate this fascinating history of our defining characteristic and most valuable asset.

Spreading the Word

Language and Dialect in America

Author: John H. McWhorter

Publisher: Heinemann Educational Books

ISBN: N.A

Category: Education

Page: 83

View: 1928

In Spreading the Word, linguist John McWhorter proves that nonstandard dialects are not bastardizations of Standard English, but alternate variations upon the basic plan of English, of which the Standard is but one.

The History of Languages

An Introduction

Author: Tore Janson

Publisher: Oxford University Press

ISBN: 0199604282

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 280

View: 2838

An introduction to the history of languages, from distant past to distant future, looking at how languages arise, change, and die, and showing how the histories of peoples and languages are closely connected. It mixes chapters on general processes with accounts of specific languages, including Chinese, Arabic, Greek, Latin, and English.

Linguistic Simplicity and Complexity

Why Do Languages Undress?

Author: John H. McWhorter

Publisher: Walter de Gruyter

ISBN: 1934078409

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 342

View: 6501

In John McWhorter’s Defining Creole anthology of 2005, his collected articles conveyed the following theme: His hypothesis that creole languages are definable not just in the sociohistorical sense, but in the grammatical sense. His publications since the 1990s have argued that all languages of the world that lack a certain three traits together are creoles (i.e. born as pidgins a few hundred years ago and fleshed out into real languages). He also argued that in light of their pidgin birth, such languages are less grammatically complex than others, as the result of their recent birth as pidgins. These two claims have been highly controversial among creolists as well as other linguists. In this volume, Linguistic Simplicity and Complexity, McWhorter gathers articles he has written since then, in the wake of responses from a wide range of creolists and linguists. These articles represent a considerable divergence in direction from his earlier work.

Towards a New Model of Creole Genesis

Author: John H. McWhorter

Publisher: Peter Lang Pub Incorporated

ISBN: 9780820433127

Category: Foreign Language Study

Page: 199

View: 9526

"Creolists have established that many processes determine the structure of Caribbean creole languages, including innate linguistic universals, West African retentions, and certain patterns of simplification. Towards a New Model of Creole Genesis presents a method of uniting these strands into a single model of creole genesis. This discussion is primarily illustrated via Saramaccan Creole English, spoken in Suriname and combining elements from English, Portuguese, Dutch, and a range of African languages. An extensive evaluation of Derek Bickerton's Language Bioprogram Hypothesis is also presented. Increasing evidence is offered that Saramaccan and other Caribbean English creoles ultimately trace back to a single pidgin ancestor which emerged on the West African coast."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scientific Babel

How Science Was Done Before and After Global English

Author: Michael D. Gordin

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

ISBN: 022600032X

Category: Science

Page: 424

View: 6520

English is the language of science today. No matter which languages you know, if you want your work seen, studied, and cited, you need to publish in English. But that hasn’t always been the case. Though there was a time when Latin dominated the field, for centuries science has been a polyglot enterprise, conducted in a number of languages whose importance waxed and waned over time—until the rise of English in the twentieth century. So how did we get from there to here? How did French, German, Latin, Russian, and even Esperanto give way to English? And what can we reconstruct of the experience of doing science in the polyglot past? With Scientific Babel, Michael D. Gordin resurrects that lost world, in part through an ingenious mechanism: the pages of his highly readable narrative account teem with footnotes—not offering background information, but presenting quoted material in its original language. The result is stunning: as we read about the rise and fall of languages, driven by politics, war, economics, and institutions, we actually see it happen in the ever-changing web of multilingual examples. The history of science, and of English as its dominant language, comes to life, and brings with it a new understanding not only of the frictions generated by a scientific community that spoke in many often mutually unintelligible voices, but also of the possibilities of the polyglot, and the losses that the dominance of English entails. Few historians of science write as well as Gordin, and Scientific Babel reveals his incredible command of the literature, language, and intellectual essence of science past and present. No reader who takes this linguistic journey with him will be disappointed.

Find eBook