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The power of Babel : a natural history of language

Author: John H McWhorter
Publisher: New York : Times Books, 2001.
Edition/Format:   Book : English : 1st edView all editions and formats
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
"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?"
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Material Type: Internet resource
Document Type: Book, Internet Resource
All Authors / Contributors: John H McWhorter
ISBN: 0716744732 9780716744733
OCLC Number: 46564796
Notes: "A W.H. Freeman book."
Description: 327 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Contents: The first language morphs into six thousand new ones --
The six thousand languages develop into clusters of sublanguages --
The thousands of dialects mix with one another --
Some languages are crushed to powder but rise again as new ones --
The thousands of dialects of thousands of languages all develop far beyond the call of duty --
Some languages get genetically altered and frozen --
Most of the world's languages went extinct --
Epilogue : "Extra, extra! The language of Adam and Eve.
Responsibility: John H. McWhorter.
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Abstract:

"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."--Jacket.

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