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Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World's Undeciphered Scripts (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 16. Februar 2009

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43 von 44 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Fascinating and informative 22. Juli 2002
Von Christian Wheeler - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
An altogether extraordinary and fascinating work, "Lost Languages" is an engaging and engrossing look at the ways that anthropologists and linguists have deciphered lost or forgotten languages. The first part of the book deals with the translation of three key languages: Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Mayan glyphs, and Greek Linear B, and how the decoding of these languages led to major breakthroughs in our knowledge of those cultures. Robinson provides a wealth of detail on the processes needed to overcome the difficulties of translating a lost language, giving the reader an inside view of the workings of the world of linguists and the often laborious tasks they undertake when attempting to decode texts from a sparse handful of clues--and how anthropological information can sometimes be the key that finally opens the door. The thrill of discovery, of unlocking the door to knowledge, is vividly presented here. Robinson's own excitement is nearly palpable, expressed in writing that is almost giddy at times. The author also makes good use of numerous charts, graphs, and illustrations to highlight his points and to clarify textual information.
The second part of the book deals with nine languages that have so far eluded translation, most notable Greek Linear A, the language of Easter Island, and the Etruscan language. Here, Robinson chronicles the frustrations and difficulties of the efforts to finally break the mystery of these forgotten languages. All of the joy of the first part of the book--the thrill of discovery--is muted here, with disappointment and frustration frequently holding court. There may be a key out there somewhere (another Rosetta Stone, perhaps) but for now--and maybe forever--these languages remain tantalizingly out of reach.
Written in a clear, reader-friendly style, with good doses of wit and anecdotal information, "Lost Languages" serves as a fine introduction to the world of ancient languages and those who seek to crack their hidden meanings. One of the best things I can say about it, though, is that it is likely to make the reader want to learn more about its subject--always a good sign. Excellent work.
27 von 28 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
a most enjoyable read! 20. Juli 2002
Von David W. Straight - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
A wonderfully entertaining book--part archaelogy, part detective
novel-like, part art. Lavishly illustrated (black-and-white with
blue to highlight): maps (showing locations where fragments
and tablets, etc, were found, historical influences, such as
Kush on Upper Egypt); hieroglyphs, symbols, etc; photographs;
drawings, etc. You can spend a lot of time just on these
illustrations alone.
The book starts off with chapters on three deciphered (more or
less) languages: Egyptian hieroglyphs, Linear B, and Mayan
glyphs, and describes how these languages were finally solved.
Problems arise because some languages are based on logograms,
where a symbol represents a word (e.g. "man"), some have symbols
representing a syllable, and some have symbols representing
just a letter--a part of a syllable--as in English. To make
matters worse, some languages have mixtures of these types.
It can be helpful for decipherers to have an idea of the
spoken language--Linear B turned out to be a form of Greek,
but the written symbols were not the familiar Greek letters.
Bilingual stelae--such as the Rosetta Stone--are very helpful--
if they can be found.
After showing how the three aforementioned languages were
solved, the author then spends the second half of the book on
8 languages which have not been deciphered, beyond, perhaps,
a few words. Some of these languages are "isolates" which
have no other modern or ancient language which is similar--
nobody speaks Etruscan, which died out in the first century B.C.
(Basque is a modern-day isolate, bearing no relation to other
languages). One of the most interesting of these undeciphered
languages is rongorongo, found on Easter Island, which is 2000
miles from the nearest other human habitation (Pitcairn Island,
of Bounty fame, is 1400 miles away). It is suspected that the
inhabitants of Easter Island came from Polynesia, and that
rongorongo is a written form of Polynesian. So with rongorongo
and the other languages, the author leads you through clues,
hypotheses, hopeful leads, false trails to show why each
language is still undeciphered, even though bits and pieces
may have been solved.
So we have, in essence, a detective novel that isn't fiction.
No crime, no murder, but clues and curiosities and detectives.
It's like reading about Turing, Bletchley Park, and the Enigma
machine--but as the author notes, the German codes were
"malicious"--designed to hinder decipherment--and these lost
languages are not malicious, but pose very different kinds
of problems for the would-be decipherer.
20 von 21 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
The challenge of a Lifetime, in a very rich edition 15. März 2004
Von Roberto P. De Ferraz - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Deciphering ancient dead languages is one of the most fascinating challenges a man/woman can face in his/her lifetime, and the more obstacles faced by the challenger the better. In this regard, the Frenchman mathematician Jean-François Champollion, the decipherer of the Egyptian hieroglyphs in the Rosetta Stone (the name Rosetta derives from the place Rashid in the North of Africa), the most well known block of stone in the world. Alongside with him is the British amateur archeologist and linguist Michael Ventris, who in 1953 broke the code of the so-called Minoan Linear B tablets. COntrary with what happened in the case of the Rosetta Stone, where alongside with the text to be deciphered (in demotic Egyptian and in hieroglyphics), there was not a base text (in Greek) to be confuted with. It is so not surprising that the great majority of decipherers attained its goas before reaching 30 years of age.
The feats of these two men, who depended upon the previous work of many others who trod the same paths before them, is detailed narrated in this very good book, richly illustrated with many ellucidative diagrams, graphs, drawings and pictures of alphabets, sillabarys and hieroglyphs, Egyptian inclusive. Andrew Robinson, the author of this excelent book, is in this regard extremely well equiped to present difficult subjects in a very easy manner to the lay reader like myself, who is only looking for the big picture and do not care about the multitude of details present in this type of work. The chapter on the deciphering of the Maya script by a Russian scholar is also a very informative one, in fact overflowing the reader with a lot of pertinent graphic information.
The scripts still waiting to be broken (Linear A among others and the scripts of the Easter isle) are very fascinating chapters of the book and one almost feels the urge to quit everything immediately and jump right away into the arena of deciphering dead languages.
In my opinion, this book is as good as it could be on the important subject of the decoding of the dead languages of humanity.
This edition of the book is indeed a very rich one and this is the kind of book one feels pretty much comfortable to give as a gift to friends and relatives. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
10 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Lost and Found Languages 12. Oktober 2003
Von Michael Gunther - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
If I could have any one thing come to pass (within reason) in linguistics, it would be a decipherment of the Indus Valley script. But no matter what your personal obsession - Rongorongo, perhaps, or Linear "A", or maybe just a basic interest in how linguists try (and sometimes succeed) to decipher the unknown writings of the world - there is likely to be much in "Lost Languages" that will interest and entertain you. It is primarily an introduction to the subject for the general reader, although it seems likely that even a specialist will not necessarily be familiar with all the languages included here.
Robinson begins with the story of three formerly undeciphered scripts that have now been (more or less) successfully deciphered: Egyptian hieroglyphs, Linear B, and (to a somewhat lesser extent) Mayan glyphs. This sets the stage for short chapters on important but so-far undeciphered scripts: Meroitic, Etruscan, Linear A, Proto-Elamite, Rongorongo, Zapotec, Isthmian (Mexico), Indus Valley, and the Phaistos Disc. Robinson shows how the principles of decipherment have been applied to these scripts, explains why they remain largely undeciphered at present, and offers a reasoned estimate of their chances for successful decipherment in the future.
As an introduction to the field of decipherment this is, I think, a very successful book. Naturally it lacks the details to be found in more specialized studies, but Robinson clearly articulates the basic principles of decipherment and their application to these very interesting scripts. Examples are given for the reader to work out, and other examples show how would-be decipherers, both famous and not-so-famous, have sometimes gone wrong. One could only wish for the inclusion of more scripts (why not cunieform?) and more in-depth coverage, but as an introduction, "Lost Languages" fulfills its purpose admirably. Maybe someone who reads this book will "catch the bug," go on to more advanced study, and - who knows? - someday find the key to one of these enigmatic writings.
6 von 7 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
You don't need to be a linguist to find this fascinating! 19. Juni 2003
Von Michael Booker - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
I teach Logic and the thing that makes this book absolutely fascinating is the way that Robinson explains the process of deciphering lost languages. We've all heard the story of the Rosetta Stone, but the discovery of the stone only made it *possible* to read Ancient Egyptian inscriptions -- it took an enormous amount of intelligence to sort out the basics of the writing system. Robinson does a wonderful job of explaining how the evidence is actually used to unlock these scripts. He also shows how mysterious writings are fertile ground for various "crackpot theories" (though I like the idea that the Phaistos Disk is a gameboard).
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