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Speak: A Short History of Languages / Edition 1

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Overview

This book is a history of human speech from prehistory to the present. It charts the rise of some languages and the fall of others, explaining why some survive and others die. It shows how languages change their sounds and meanings, and how the history of languages is closely linked to the history of peoples.

Writing in a lively, readable style, distinguished Swedish scholar Tore Janson makes no assumptions about previous knowledge. He takes the reader on a voyage of exploration through the changing patterns of the world's languages, from ancient China to ancient Egypt, imperial Rome to imperial Britain, Sappho's Lesbos to contemporary Africa. He discovers the links between the histories of societies and their languages; he shows how language evolved from primitive calls; he considers the question of whether one language can be more advanced than another. The author describes the history of writing and the impact of changing technology. He ends by assessing the prospects for English world domination and predicting the languages of the distant future.

Five historical maps illustrate this fascinating history of our defining characteristic and most valuable asset.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Swedish linguist Janson (he's taught Latin and African languages at G<:o>teborg U. in Sweden) has written an absorbing account of language, its development, transformations, and impact on history. Many specific examples from history are given that will intrigue the non-specialist reader for whom this petite volume is intended. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher

"Accomplishes its task in a very elegant and living way . Amazing ability to put together historical data and illuminating comments about languages."--Linguist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199263417
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 4.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Tore Janson was born in 1936 in Stockholm, Sweden. He studied Classics at Stockholm University and received his Ph.D. in Latin in 1964. He has held various teaching and research positions at the University of California, Los Angeles; Stockholm University; the Swedish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences; and at Göteborg University, where he has been first Professor of Latin, and then Professor of African Languages. He has published several books and a large number of articles in the fields of Latin, general linguistics, phonetics, and African languages.

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Table of Contents

1. Languages before History

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