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This review also appears on my blog www.silashruparell.comMy one liner Linguistics for the layman Families, lineages, and some syntax and grammar deconstruction to show us how the principal language groups have evolved And some crystal ball gazing on the future of world languages Readable and Browsable.I have always thought that learning a language, writing a good computer programme, and drafting a good contract involve essentially the same discipline I suspect writing a musical score requires some of the same skills but I don t know can anyone enlighten me Steven Roger Fischer takes the evolving and increasingly technical discipline of linguistics and language evolution, and gives us a quick tour in the History of Language First off, a small gripe Split infinitives may or may not annoy people linguistic conservatives want to preserve the grammatical rule that one should not put an adverb in between the two parts of an English infinitive They would turn Star Trek s To Boldly Go into Boldly To Go And that, Mr Fischer, is the standard refutation that British children are taught in schools regarding the split infinitive rule Churchill s famous hypercorrective quip This is the sort of English up with which I will not put , to which you refer or should that be which you refer to J is a clever refutation of another so called grammar rule, but it s not the split infinitive one, OK Right, rant over though it does make one wonder whether there are any other errors in this book The book is otherwise fascinating.It has only been in the twentieth century that Western linguists were able to elucidate the principles of phonemics But we find out in the History of Language that India s earliest Sanskrit scholars had already developed the dvhani sphota relationship in the first half of the millenium Utterance was the dhvani permanent linguistic substance, unuttered, was the sphota Teaching us that language rules are inextricably linked to the philosophy, culture and religion of a society the Hindu Vedas distinguish between word forms that are written, unwritten, and incapable of being written.And just as amazingly these scholars adopted a highly efficient and systematic approach to documenting their grammatical forms that any proponent today of efficient computer coding would be proud of Ancient Indian scholars appear to have been obsessed with grammar, seeking to state all rules in the most economical prioritized set one commentator noted that saving half the length of a short vowel while positing a rule of grammar was equal in importance to the birth of a son Word formation rules, applied in a strict set in aphoristic sutras, take precedence in contrast, Sanskrit s phonetic and grammatical description is almost wholly assumed Through the study of linguistics valuable insights can be gained into the relationships between people of different regions that disciplines such as genetics are only today discovering Take for example the recent genetic discovery that Y polymorphisms extremely rare male genetic mutations , are relatively common both in Asian and Finnish populations This would not be surprising to a scholar of the Finnish language Since he will tell you that speakers of the Uralic languages in North Eastern Asia becamce divided into two language families Samoyed and Finno Ugric as an aside, Finno Ugric is the source language for both Finnish Finland and Magyar Hungary.We learn how the discipline of modern linguistics was developed, particularly by scholars in the 19th Century Franz Bopp 1791 1867 conducted a comparative study of the verbal forms in Sanskrit, Latin, Greek and the Germanic languages, and in particular the inflection ie the systems of word endings which denote grammar His principal work Vergleichende Grammatik extended this for all inflected forms, and he also carried out investigations into the relationships of the above with other languages such as Litauen, Armenian, Albanian, and the Celtic and Slavic languages Hence all falling into the Indo European family of languages Bopp is today considered the founding father of the comparative study of the various Indo European languages Fischer also walks us through the process of linguistic change There are four types of linguistic change 1 Phonological change Chaucer s h s to modern house or haus , which is a systematic change of sound Phonological change is the most easily accepted type of change amongst the users of a language 2 Morphological change Shakespeare s goeth to modern goes , is a systematic change in the form of words, which is not as frequent as phonological change 3 Syntactic change Attorney General , the Norman French form, should really be General Attorney , under Old English grammar rules , where there is a systematic reordering of words 4 Semantic change cniht meaning youth in Old English, with the c pronounced, to kniht meaning military servant in Middle English with the k pronounced, to knight meaning person elevated to honourable rank today, without the k pronounced Semantic change systematically alters the meaning of a word And of course with the advent of the internet, globalisation and the spread of the English language as the medium of choice, this pace of change accelerates, at least with respect to the English language.But what of other languages Fischer is unambiguously clear that the number of languages in the world will continue to reduce, of around 5,000 languages extant over the last 50,000 years, probably only 4,000 are spoken today, and Fischer thinks that only 1,000 will be spoken at the start of the 21st Century Fischer postulates not surprisingly that English will be the dominant language in centuries to come although doesn t rule out some unforeseen occurrence which brings another rich country language to the fore such as German or Japanese The other two languages which will be globally prevalent are of course Mandarin Chinese and Spanish And fast forwarding even further to days when we colonise Mars, we will no doubt see differences evolve between Earthen English and Martian English.The benefits of standardisation of language are clear, as they reduce transaction costs of interacting across the globe But of course, as Fischer points out Despite the immediate gains language replacement brings, those who voluntarily give up their language invariably sense a loss of ethnic identity, a defeat by a colonial or metropolitan power with concomitant sensations of inferiority and a distressing defection from one s sacred ancestors This also entails the loss of oral histories, chants, myths, religion and technical vocabulary, as well as customs and prescribed behaviour This is a short book, and hence very readable, or indeed one that you can dip in and out of at leisure The section on animal communication is particularly fascinating for example, and it can be read entirely in isolation Did you know that the blue whale emits probably the most powerful sustained sounds known on Earth Its 188 decibel song is detectable for hundreds of kilometres, and the perfectly timed notes are emitted at intervals of 128 seconds, or if there is a pause, at exactly 256 seconds Likewise humpback whales emit long love songs used for mating These are regular sequences of sounds varying widely in pitch and lasting between six and thirty minutes But when you record these songs and speed them up around 14 times, they apparently sound remarkably like birdsong If I had a criticism of the book it would be that it is longer on Proto Indo European and shorter on Semitic and Asiatic languages, and hence arguably reflects a linguistic cultural bias of its own But that is a minor quibble as it is full of pointers for anyone who wants to studyin this area. (((READ EBOOK))) ☠ History of Language (Reaktion Books - Globalities) ⇪ It Is Tempting To Take The Tremendous Rate Of Contemporary Linguistic Change For Granted What Is Required, In Fact, Is A Radical Reinterpretation Of What Language Is Steven Roger Fischer Begins His Book With An Examination Of The Modes Of Communication Used By Dolphins, Birds And Primates As The First Contexts In Which The Concept Of Language Might Be Applied As He Charts The History Of Language From The Times Of Homo Erectus, Neanderthal Humans And Homo Sapiens Through To The Nineteenth Century, When The Science Of Linguistics Was Developed, Fischer Analyses The Emergence Of Language As A Science And Its Development As A Written Form He Considers The Rise Of Pidgin, Creole, Jargon And Slang, As Well As The Effects Radio And Television, Propaganda, Advertising And The Media Are Having On Language Today Looking To The Future, He Shows How Electronic Media Will Continue To Reshape And Re Invent The Ways In Which We Communicate A Delightful And Unexpectedly Accessible Book A Virtuoso Tour Of The Linguistic World The Economist Few Who Read This Remarkable Study Will Regard Language In Quite The Same Way Again The Good Book Guide Highly informative If one is ever curious about the evolution of language, this book should be read As far I will always remember from the book, that is our cultural interactions and word transfers from different languages beyond an assimilation, an enrichment Though, this aspect should have been discussedclear, while there were a lot of contradictions, that the author remarks the examples, that new interactions which led the loss of a language. Outstanding book, does a wonderful job of giving a broad overview of the field Although if you are unfamiliar to linguistic then a device with Google is essential. Feelslike the history of linguistics than language Personally, it s lacking aspects of how languages affects human thoughts and emotions. I liked that the book began with a thorough analysis of the vocalizations and gestures of non human animalsthat allowed the story to continue building one what humans do with language that is remarkable and unique The chapter on writing was good, and in general Fisher does a really good job keeping his eye on the real subject how language is used and doesn t fall into traps about how it is represented I have to admit I got a little creeped out at the end where he wrote about language and society and seemed not to be taking seriously the issue of political correctness This has become a bit of a distraction in American culture, to the point where some pundits are proud of their political incorrectness, but Fisher must realize that the perpetual use of language to re enforce unfair power relations the issue at the heart of the debate is not something to be taken lightly I m still looking forward to Fisher histories of writing and reading, but I ll be reading them with acritical eye after this Interesting for those who are interested in the subject me but it s not always an easy tiptoe through the linguistic tulips Aimed at those with a general knowledge of language who are going on to a deeper study of linguistics, I think this book is sometimes a little too out of reach if you re not already familiar with some of the terms and concepts that are discussed I ve read a lot about languages if not about linguistics but I found myself scratching my head at least a few times per chapter, especially when the text became a laundry list of description or an involved explication or comparison of things that hadn t been explained in depth to begin with.More often than not, though, this is a really interesting and informative look at not only how we define language, but also how we think language came about and how that knowledge has been acquired, collected, studied, and interpreted.Recommended for the dedicated language enthusiast. The history of language is a fascinating thing It s a tough thing to trace in some cultures where writing wasn t developed, and where writing was developed we can only guess what it sounded like before audio recording equipment was developed This book give a good history of all we know about language starting from first principles of where language developed and how it works in lower animals The evolution of European languages is what I was most interested in, and I m pleased with the depth that Fischer goes into Prose is a difficult medium to use to get across the spread of languages though, and I think that better use of diagrams and maps would have been in order Ideally, an animation would be the only way to truly explain it The only other problem I had with this book was the chapter about the history of the study of linguistics, which I didn t find terribly interesting, and I skipped to the end of that part.Still a good read though. A fascinating and well rounded book I aspire to be a multi linguist, and reading this book has really improved my acquisition and ability to communicate in foreign languages even though it s a history book and has nothing to do with the actual learning of a foreign language Dispelling myths about the origins of language, connecting the evolutionary dots and getting back to the fundamental reason why language exists to communicate has been inspirational as well as helpful My only wish is that the middle was as flowing and enjoyable to read as the beginning and end it would then be the perfect book. pretty interesting stuff though some of the chapters go a bitinto trivial details than is probably interesting to anyone and other parts i would have liked to go intodetail than they did on the whole good introduction to lots of ideas, but the author didn t really seem to do anything particularly amazing nor particularly bad then again maybe i m just full of shit cos i dont know much about anything