The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 12/16/2009
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications

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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.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1(14)
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 Developed 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!'' 287(18)
Notes 305(12)
Acknowledgments 317(2)
Index 319

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