Speak: A Short History of Languages

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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

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

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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198299783
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/1/1902
  • Pages: 316
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 1.00 (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 1
2 The Large Language Groups 29
3 Writing and the Egyptians 57
4 Greek and the Greeks 69
5 Latin and the Romans 89
6 Did Dante Write in Italian? 108
7 From Germanic to Modern English 129
8 The Era of National Languages 165
9 Languages of Europe and of the World 184
10 How Languages Are Born - or Made 202
11 How Languages Disappear 232
12 The Heyday of English 251
13 And Then? 267
Suggestions for Further Reading 283
Index 291
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