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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But which languages, a millennium from now, will still be prospering, which will be the dominant global languages, and which will be the lingua franca?

Not in anything major enough, anyway. This book also tells about the first cracks in the language barrier: It makes more sense when you understand what kinds of languages people were speaking. Antonio de Nebrija made descriptive grammars of Latin and Spanish, a milestone in linguistics. This need not have been necessarily so, since this is less about linguistics and more a history of languages and their associated cultures and traditions, and while that’s also something I may be a fan of, it could get tiresome when one ancient empire after another is examined without an encompassing look.

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

Throughout the book Ostler is at pains to correct the misconception that empire-building has carried the burden of language spread. Nicholas Ostler is a British scholar and author. Not a fun book, nor an easy book, and not well edited. However, the title, ‘Ad Infinitum,’ refers not to this, but to his thesis that the Latin-speaking world was unconscious of its own limits, looking always back to its centre, rather than outwards.

English seems strong today, but in historic terms, it probably won’t last too long on top. 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 In pages, Ostler condenses the history of human civilization, based on a study of languages.


This just wasn’t compelling, despite in the abstract sounding like a slam dunk for me. The Greek language continued to thrive for more than years largely because it was held in esteem by learned Romans. His book Ad Infinitum: A Language History of the World documents the spread of language throughout recorded human history.

In a world now dominated by alphabetic languages, Chinese, based on characters, remains a pictographic tongue. While setting up shop in Carthage and trading around the Meditarrenean, Phoenicians spread an alphabet based off of Egyptian hieroglyphs from which the Greek and Latin ones would derive.

The impact varied enormously from continent to continent, country to country. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account.

Nicholas Ostler

We people haven’t changed much. Interlingua of western Asia. Spanish in the New World. This book delivers what was promised, despite the broad range of the topic “Language history empirew the world”. Carpe diem, gentle readers, carpe diem! Ostler by the hand in those instances where I genera This is a learned book.

The Current Top Twenty and gives some predictions about their future distribution. It only survives to this day as Coptic, a Christian liturgical language, but it left an important legacy.

May 01, Chris Fellows rated it it was amazing. Even when military might led to language spread, what was more vital for the permanent adoption of the foreign language was the growth of the language community, in which a parent, often the mother, taught the children her native language.


Of course, English is a far more global language – though primarily as a second language – than Chinese, the vast majority of whose speakers live in China. He lives in Bath, England. 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 oostler 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.


This, together with the fact that almost all the conquistadores had children in the New World, accounts for the prevailingly mestizo population prior to colonial independence—the minority white colonial-born criollos were the ruling class. Always challenging, always instructive—at times, even startling or revolutionary.

An important sub-group within the Semitic language family are the Canaanite language, comprising, for instance Phoenician and Hebrew. The focus is not on linguistic evolution – how vocabulary and grammar of languages have developed – but on the relationship of languages to political, economic, cultural and societal history.

However, this had little effect in practice and it was only after they discovered Brazil on 22 April that the Portuguese established a foothold in South America. Why did German get left behind? The very fact of being able empides write enables a culture to take on a sense of itself across time and space. All by himself, he wrote this handy one-volume language history of the world, ranging from Sumerian, Akkadian and Aramaic in the ancient world to English in our contemporary scene, discussing Egyptian, Chinese, Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Spanish, and Russian in the course of his immense story.

English traffic on the Internet was recently exceeded by the total in other languages.

In pages, Ostler condenses the history of human civilization, based on a study of languages.