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The Power of Babel: A Natural History of…
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The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language (2001)

by John McWhorter

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911319,650 (3.9)59
  1. 72
    Bastard Tongues: A Trailblazing Linguist Finds Clues to Our Common Humanity in the World's Lowliest Languages by Derek Bickerton (lorax)
    lorax: McWhorter talks a bit about creoles as clues to the structure of the first human language; Bickerton's book covers creoles in much more detail. Overall Bickerton's book isn't quite as good but still well worth reading.
  2. 00
    The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention by Guy Deutscher (keristars)
    keristars: Great companion books - two perspectives of virtually the same thing. McWhorter's looks more at the sheer variety (or lack thereof) of languages, while Deutscher's looks at the complexity within a single language.
  3. 00
    The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World by David W. Anthony (timspalding)
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Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
An exceptional book. It changed my understanding of linguistics completely (every classics grad student picks up a bit, but it's often quite outdated). The discussion of creoles was particularly engaging. McWhorter is a gem. ( )
  kristi_test_05 | Jun 20, 2016 |
An exceptional book. It changed my understanding of linguistics completely (every classics grad student picks up a bit, but it's often quite outdated). The discussion of creoles was particularly engaging. McWhorter is a gem. ( )
  kristi_test_05 | Jun 20, 2016 |
An exceptional book. It changed my understanding of linguistics completely (every classics grad student picks up a bit, but it's often quite outdated). The discussion of creoles was particularly engaging. McWhorter is a gem. ( )
  kristi_test_05 | Jun 20, 2016 |
An exceptional book. It changed my understanding of linguistics completely (every classics grad student picks up a bit, but it's often quite outdated). The discussion of creoles was particularly engaging. McWhorter is a gem. ( )
  kristi_test_04 | Jun 17, 2016 |
Reading this mind-blower created four significant changes in my brain: 1) It changed my approach to learning languages, as I was previously stuck trying to learn them through the rules of my own. 2) It caused me to understand why certain cultures speak the language of another culture in the same curious ways. 3) It gave me clarity on the exceptions in the English language. 4) It shoved a helluva pile of information in which won't leave very soon. Penultimately satisfying was his sense of humor, which he brandishes via superfun and apropos pop-culture references which mostly did not go over my head. Most satisfying of all was his origin story, which allows the reader to crystally understand the writer's passion, and appreciate his works in a most emphatic manner. ( )
  MartinBodek | Jun 11, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
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Book description
In this entertaining romp through territory too often claimed by stodgy grammarians, McWhorter ranges across linguistic theory, geography, history, and pop culture to tell the fascinating story of how thousands of very different languages have evolved from a single, original source in a natural process similar to biological evolution. While laying out how languages mix and mutate over time, he 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 examples from languages around the world, including pidgins, creoles, and nonstandard dialects. McWhorter also discusses current theories on what the first language might have been like, why dialects should not be considered "bad speech," and why most of today's languages will be extinct in one hundred years. [Back cover, 2003 trade paperback edition]
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 006052085X, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:18 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"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. How did they all develop? What happened to the first language?" "In this tour of territory too often claimed by stodgy grammarians, linguistics professor John McWhorter ranges across linguistic theory, geography, history, and pop culture to tell the fascinating story of how thousands of very different languages have evolved from a single, original source in a natural process similar to biological evolution. While laying out how languages mix and mutate over time, he 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. McWhorter also discusses current theories on what the first language might have been like, why dialects should not be considered "bad speech, " and why most of today's languages will be extinct within one hundred years." "The first book written for the layperson about the natural history of language, The Power of Babel is a dazzling tour de force that will leave readers anything but speechless."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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