- Gebundene Ausgabe: 301 Seiten
- Verlag: Oxford University Press (14. März 2002)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 0198299788
- ISBN-13: 978-0198299783
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 17,5 x 2,5 x 12,7 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: Schreiben Sie die erste Bewertung
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 892.544 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
- Komplettes Inhaltsverzeichnis ansehen
Speak, A Short History of Languages (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 14. März 2002
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Tore Janson is a Swedish linguistic scholar who has studied and worked much in the USA. To the surprise of the sceptical, he manages to make the history of language interesting in Speak, a well written and solidly researched little book. He begins with a study of the most basic communication skills, proceeds to theorise how language developed and then traces written language and the fascinating family tree of linguistic development down through history and around the world to the present day pre-eminence of English. The book is complete with six maps tracing world linguistic development as well as helpful tables and charts that compare languages. Anyone who has taken an interest in language or has seriously tried to learn a foreign language will be interested.
Maybe Oxford University Press have published Speak in an attempt to cash in on the ongoing enthusiasm for JRR Tolkien, philologist and Oxford don, by making linguistic history interesting and available to a wide audience. However, readers should not be deceived by the attractive cover, catchy title and small format. This is a serious, detailed study that will require some effort. That effort will be rewarded though with a greater appreciation and understanding for the unique human gift of language. --Dwight Longenecker
[Janson's] English style is neat and clear, and overall, this book can hardly be praised too highly. Roger Wright, University of Liverpool, Diachronica ... new ideas and insights are constantly emerging even in the narrative of well-estabished facts ... controversial topics are often presented from both sides, and when [Janson] makes a decision to come down on one side of an argument it is the result of careful thought. Roger Wright, University of Liverpool, Diachronica [Janson] is particularly good at seeing what the most important and relevant questions are, and then presenting them clearly. Roger Wright, University of Liverpool, Diachronica A synthesis of the whole of linguistic history is remarkable enough in itself, but to have made it generally accessible to an educated non-specialist public is a real achievement. Roger Wright, University of Liverpool, Diachronica I like Tore Janson's book very much, and can see why the original Swedish version has been a best-seller. He has translated it himself, and writes with authority and clarity on a topic which has rarely, if ever, been presented in such a wide and coherent perspective. Roger Wright, University of Liverpool, Diachronica This is a book written to popularize some key ideas about the history of languages ... it accomplishes its task in a very elegant and living way. To read Janson's book was an enjoyable activity, mainly because of his ability to put together historical data and illuminating comments about language. Linguist List Janson proves that the general reader can be informed, entertained and treated like an adult. Jonathan Patrick, The Scotsman Tore Janson certainly knows his stuff. Keith Waterhouse, Daily Mail Don't be deceived by the small format, the catchy title, or the attractive cover - this is a serious work, which will pay close attention.of the development and transformation of languages. http://www.worldwidewords.org Tore Janson manages to make the history of language interesting in Speak a well written and solidly researched little book. This is a serious, detailed study that will require some effort. That effort will be rewarded though with a greater appreciation and understanding for the unique human gift of language. Dwight Longenecker, Amazon.co.ukAlle Produktbeschreibungen
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Spanish is my first language and when comparing it with portuguese there is no much difference in the writing -- portuguese is like castilian but badly written (with all due respect) -- the major difference is in the phonetic, so everytime I need to speak to someone portuguese, we ended up speaking english to better understand each other. English is my second language and I think this language have some advantages compared to other languages, for example, most of the books written by the best scholars and scientists come in English so in my case it was important to know this language in order to read this great book and other books that are only published in English.
For most of human history, people lived in small, isolated groups, and each group had its own identity and language. Some parts of the world, such as Amazonia, the Australian outback and Papua New Guinea, are still like this. However, with the introduction of agriculture between five and ten thousand years ago, we see the rise of nation-states unifying millions of people with a single language. Thus, although the human population has been expanding exponentially, the number of different languages spoken is actually decreasing.
This has been the general trend for at least the last three thousand years. However, there are exceptions. For example, during the height of the Roman Empire, Latin was the native language of millions of people across Europe and around the Mediterranean. A Roman citizen in Gallia could easily converse with a fellow citizen in Italia. However, when the empire fell apart, local speech patterns began to diverge from the Roman norm. At first, people in these regions considered themselves to be speaking Latin, even though they were finding it harder to understand those who came from some distance. They did not start thinking of themselves as speakers of French or Italian until the modern nation-states began to coalesce from the ruins of the Roman Empire a millennium later. Thus, although the evolution from Latin into the various Romance languages was gradual, we can point to a time when people stopped thinking of themselves as Latin speakers and starting thinking of themselves as speakers of French or Italian.
Janson points out two factors in particular that drive linguist unification. One source of linguistic unity is a strong central government. The Roman Empire was linguistically homogeneous, but when it fell, the language splintered into hundreds of local dialects. Later, these dialects regrouped around new political centers. Over the last few centuries, the dialects within the borders of each of the Europe nation-states have been gradually merging towards the central standard forms. Another source of linguistic unity is a single writing system. China provides the classic example of this. Although Chinese is composed of dozens of mutually unintelligible "dialects," all of them are written in the same graphic system. This fact contributes greatly to the general sense that Chinese is a single language rather than a language group.
In recent years, there has been much ado within linguistic circles about the plight of indigenous languages. Some linguists have gone so far as to equate the severity of "language death" with the loss of biodiversity. But to Janson, expressions like "language death" and "loss of linguistic diversity" are hyperbole. He points out that when languages die, it is not because their speakers die but rather because they choose not to pass on their native language to their children. This is the typical case when immigrants are allowed to integrate into the new society, and it is also the case when some other language is politically ascendant. Thus, Janson prefers to talk about "language shift" rather than "language death." In Janson's view, fretting about loss of linguistic diversity is pointless, and anyway there is little we can do about it. After all, linguistic unification has been the general trend for three millennia.
Today, there are perhaps a dozen languages with more than a hundred million speakers and that play a major role in international communication. Among these, Chinese (Mandarin dialect) has the most native speakers, but English has even more if we count those who speak it as a second language. The rise of English as a global language is due largely to the fact that, over the last two centuries, the two global superpowers (first Great Britain and then the United States) both spoke English. Something like a quarter of the world's population can communicate in English, which is an unprecedented event in world history.
In addition, the fact that English is the first language of a number of different countries makes it appealing as a common language for international communication. This is because English is no longer tied to the culture of a single country. Rather, the language has shown remarkable adaptability to local needs, so that nowadays we can talk about "world Englishes"--Indian English, Singaporean English, and so on.
Janson concurs with other linguists, such as David Crystal, that it is inevitable that English will eventually break up into mutually unintelligible dialects as speakers assert their local group identities. This may be true, but Janson may also be forgetting the two factors that drive linguistic unification, political centrality and a common medium of long-distance communication. If the general trend over the last three thousand years has been toward greater political and linguistic unity, why should we suppose that the current political layout will remain as it is over then next few centuries? For example, the development of the European Union after World War II is evidence of growing supra-national sentiment, at least in that region of the globe. Furthermore, the advent of instant worldwide communication is bound to have a linguistically unifying effect.
In the chapter "Did Dante Write in Italian?" Janson relates Dante's efforts to create a standardized Italian language as well as his aspirations for a unified Italian state. Linguist unity in Italy came first, largely built on Dante's model. It was not for another five centuries, though, that Dante's dream of political unification was realized. Here at the start of the twenty-first century, we live in a world divided both politically and linguistically. However, as in the Italian case, there is a trend toward linguistic unification. Is it just a pipe dream, then, to aspire to a time when all people, united linguistically, think of themselves as citizens of the world?
Janson starts by giving a brief overview of the development of languages, including mentioning one of his major themes of the book - a language is only a language if its speakers recognize it as such. He then traces the history of the Mesopotamian languages, Greek, Latin, and then the modern European languages, finally devoting a chapter to English's current dominance in the world. Finally, Janson concludes with a short chapter on the possible future development of languages.
John McWhorter's "Power of Babel" is the only comparable book that I have read. McWhorter is a little more entertaining and explains the actual dynamics of language change better, but Janson's story is more structured, linear and complete.
This book is a good overview of the history of language for a layman.
He also discusses how languages are created and destroyed. He devotes a particularly interesting chapter to the formation of pidgin and creole tongues, and another to "language death." He explains why English is replacing languages such as those of Native Americans, and what implications this has.
Janson has many interesting things to say about the relationship between languages and nations. His theories help explain the state of the world's languages today.
Unfortunately, this book suffers from bad writing, or perhaps a bad translation. Janson uses cliches like "at this point" and "in summary" too often, and sometimes generalizes by saying "everyone knows" or the like. It often seems as if his words were translated literally, with no regard to typical English sentence structure or diction. This makes for some awkward sentences and word choices. For example, the words "thirdly" and "fourthly" are used on the page before me.
Also, as another reviewer mentioned, he sometimes wanders and repeats himself.
This is unfortunate, because Janson is clearly very knowledgeable and has many fascinating things to say. If "Speak" were better written I would give it five stars. Still, it is good for getting some basic linguistic knowledge.