Speak: A Short History of Languages / Edition 1

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How does a language come into being and when does it disappear? What actually happened to Latin? When was English created? Will all people on Earth speak English or Chinese in 200 years? These are a few of the fascinating questions discussed in A Short History of Languages. It is about how historical conditions shape languages and how languages influence the course of history.

The book starts with a discussion of the period of hunters and gatherers, when there was a huge number of languages. It moves on to Greek and Latin, to French and Italian, and naturally a full discussion of English. Many other languages are treated, from Setswana in southern Africa to the Creole language of Nevis in the West Indies. Hanson presents languages and cultures in a lively way, with concrete examples and, often, small samples from literary works. Although no knowledge of foreign languages is required, the book provides astonishing insights into many cultures and their languages. At the same time, it identifies long terms trends in history that may allow us to make predictions about the future.

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Editorial Reviews

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 recently retired as Professor of African Languages at Göteberg University in Sweden. He has held various teaching posts and research posts around the work, including the University of California, Los Angeles, and has published numerous books and articles on topics in language and linguistics.

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Table of Contents

1. Languages before History

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