Thursday, December 17, 2015

Research Book Post #1

December 17

Book: Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World by Nicholas Ostler

Section: First Twenty Pages (Chapter 1 and half of Chapter 2)

Language, its Spread, and How it Affects Us

          The first chapter of this book, which serves as the introduction of the book and its purpose, describes how language is useful to a community and what purpose it serves. The book starts out by describing how the world's situation in regards to language looks, with between 6000 to 7000 languages present, and how over 1000 of those languages are spoken by less than a dozen people, while several languages like Chinese, English and Spanish dominate having 1.2 billion, 300 million, and 400 million, respectively. It describes how languages are similar to species in the way that they evolve and change over time, the difference being that languages evolve much faster, and languages,
unlike organisms, have a chance at immortality by passing from parents to offspring and being revitalized. The book discusses how languages, unlike species, are the only way to look at populations and define them into communities, as science has shown that all of humanity is one species, thus the study of humanity and other species similar to us has fallen out of usefulness for the most part, language continues to persist as a way of defining communities as it is required for a community to share knowledge and have a common history. Languages are one of the few ways for a group to communicate and identify with each other, and it is very important to maintaining culture and world view. The book describes that it's goal is to track the change of languages and their cultures, and describes how as languages change also shows how a culture changes in its view of the world. The chapter also describes how writing evolved and changed from simple documentation, to a way to record information in a way other than oral tradition. Chapter 2 discusses how languages spread differently, with some spreading through the Farmer's Strategy, passively growing its population and thus its influence, and it then discusses the Hunter's Strategy, which is how languages such as Latin grew, through conquest of passive languages. It also discusses how languages do not grow for any set of reasons, that the situation is different every time, as it addresses the old theory that languages can only grow the military and economical domination. It disproves this through the example of how the Germanic tribes conquered Latin speaking areas after the fall of Rome, but did not change its people's languages.

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