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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Empires of the Word – A review

The most interesting sections, to me, were the final two chapters, where he assesses the status of the current top 20 languages, and then suggests where we might be headed linguistically as a species. My library Help Advanced Book Search.

But he does not think that it will last. There is Greek, whose fortunes were tied only loosely to Greek civilisation and which somehow niicholas to hitch a ride on the Roman empire and become, as the prestige language of learning, an integral part of that historical era too. I thought this was awesome; although I wasn’t entirely convinced that his or his advisors had written everything precisely right, and trying to get one’s head around the numerous different romanization systems to get a sense of what the languages actually sounded like and nocholas they worked, his stated point in including these quotes got really difficult.

For all fhe hubris about the rise empirfs English and how it will rule the world’s tongues for ever, it is sobering to reflect on why languages that in their day seemed utterly nucholas in their dominance and prestige, spoken across large regions of the world for thousands of years, were eventually eclipsed.

Ostler divides language spread into two periods, before and after An impressive and sweeping view of the history of languages throughout human history. So even if we haven’t seen any cases in history of writing technology inducing a change in popular speech before now, I nichklas that may change, and soon. As the technological and cultural dominance of America has consolidated the territorial achievements of the British Empire, the English language aided by the predominantly Anglophone Internet has apparently never had it so good.


Ambitious in scope, it organizes history into successions of language groups rather than the more usual empires and nations. ByHindi-Urdu, Spanish and Arabic should rival it native speakers.

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 of peoples and levers of power but of th Ostler has created a history of all of humanity, in so much as such a thing can be achieved in a single volume, osfler a basis unlike any other Niholas have encountered.

The hearth and not the battlefield was where language victories were won or lost. Kurdish is a Persian l Not a fun book, nor an easy book, and not well edited.

Liberally sprinkled with quotes in many of the languages discussed, supplemented nihcolas useful maps and charts and touching on several areas of historical linguistics, Empires of the Word is a comprehensive book that can get you started on thinking about language.

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.

Why did German get left behind?


The idea of Latin rapidly displacing Celtic in Western Europe and Greek rapidly displacing Indo-European languages in Anatolia is hard to confirm given the lack of records in the displaced languages, and there are the counter-examples of the survival of British and the Indo-European languages of Eastern Anatolia Armenian and Kurdishsuggesting distance from the metropole rather than structural similarity is predominant.

Specifically the section about native indian is very informative.

Sanskrit, Persian Farsiand Arabic are all admired for being poetic. He’s usually clear that he’s doing this; he says, “We don’t really know, but this is the way that I think makes the story most interesting, and there is some evidence for it, so I’m going to choose to believe it was this way. Turkic and Persian, outriders of Islam. If you, like me, are interested in linguistics and big-picture world history, this is the book.

An alphabet can leap cultural boundaries and leave a language dying in its wake, empirds on a life of its own. Ostler is a professional linguist and currently chairman of the Foundation for Endangered Languages.


Canaan and points west. It is a compelling read, one of the most interesting books I have read in a long while. The Muslim invasions of the Indian subcontinent starting in Gazhni, Afghanistan in the 10th century and culminating in the Mughal empire after are also surveyed.

The glamour of the desert nomad. Nicholas Ostler is a scholar and scientist of languages, who has a working knowledge of 26 languages and who set up five tbe ago the Foundation for Endangered Languages, an international organisation, to provide funding and support to document and revitilise languages in peril. And then there is Chinese.

English has the good fortune of being first spread by the global British Empire and then being able to maintain her dominance through the most powerful nation in the world, the United States of America. English Until the Return of Babeland yet another short review essay in the future. While classical Greek was picked up for study during the Rennaisance, it had lost its place as a lingua franca to Latin. After reading it you will never think of language in the same way again – and you will probably think of the world, and its future, in a rather different way too.

There are no discussion topics on this book yet.

As a result, Brazil went from havinginhabitants into 1, in and more than wodd today. What are the most dominant languages today?

Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World – Nicholas Ostler – Google Books

Some shared language is what binds any community together and makes possible both the living of a common history and the telling of it. His loving fascination with languages is plain on every one of six hundred pages of analysis, careful transcriptions, pronunciation guides, drawings, photographs, and maps.

Ostler studied at Balliol College, Oxford, where he received degrees in Greek, Latin, philosophy, and economics.