Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language

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Overview

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.

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Overview

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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060520854
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/17/2002
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 97,071
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

John McWhorter, associate professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of The Word on the Street. He lives in Oakland, California.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2003

    Great Fun, an Academic Romp Through Linguistics

    Prof. McWhorter writes very well. The book is as entertaining as it is informative. Professionals and serious amateurs in the field will have some issues with a few points he makes, but these are trivial. I recommend this wonderful read to anyone with an interest in language -- that ought to mean anyone literate. I do have one small point in critique which is not negative at all. McWhorter is hardly chauvinistic when it comes to non-Western vs. Western or even Indo-European languages; I do wonder, however, what this book would look like had it been written by a Chinese author. Mcwhorter is obviously much more comfortable with the everyday usages of English, French, Spanish, and German. Given that this book is in English, that's OK. I suppose making the reader think about just such issues is a strength of his writing and pedagogy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 23, 2010

    Wonderful book

    I had no idea that spoken communication was so complex. I have learned that language is more than the way a sentence is spoken or organized,simple words like the,is,a,are incredible how they differentiate between language to language,and even dialect to dialect.This is a great read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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