Friday, November 03, 2006

Empires of the Word

I was about to say that Nicholas Ostler's Empires of the Word has more details about language history than any human being would want to know when I realized how ridiculous a statement that was, given what I've been reading lately.

The focus of this book is on major world languages, how and why they have spread, and what political, economic, religious and cultural functions they have served. The result is a huge survey of "early history" and one that is particularly free of Eurocentrism and its equally useless brother, anti-Eurocentrism. It's not free of huge generalizations, some of which are probably off-base, but huge generalizations on a subject most people never think much about is the whole point of this book.

My guess is that most people who will enjoy this book will want to spend a lot of time with it, and not necessarily read it front to back.

If you are interested there are a number of reviews on the Web.

I will be returning NU's copy to the library later today, with luck.

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