Tari Vorbitoare De Limba Engleza

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Like the old joke about London buses, you wait for ages and then three come along at once. This is suddenly the season for books on language development and change. This work covers some of the same ground as John McWhorters book I reviewed last week and another book on a related theme will be reviewed next month. This one could not be more different in style to the last: it is as formal and European as John McWhorters was informal and American (the author, Tore Janson, is a distinguished Swedish linguist who retired last year from his post as Professor of African Languages at Goteborg University). By formal, I dont mean incomprehensibly academic - Prof Janson writes in a clear, logical and accessible way. But he doesnt add the personal asides or pop-cultural references that John McWhorter does. He is also more cautious in his assessments and conclusions. Dont be deceived by the small format, the catchy title, or the attractive cover (with its detail from a picture by Manet) - this is a serious work, which will repay close attention. His canvas is language and history, in two facets: the history of language, and the effect of language on history. Early chapters cover prehistory; the grouping of languages into families; the invention of writing; the growth and influence of Greek and Latin; the development of the Romance languages (such as French, Occitan and Italian) from Latin after the end of the Roman Empire; the creation of English through cultural mixing and political changes; the reasons why the European national languages grew in importance in medieval and post-medieval times compared with Latin. That quick summary shows that the earlier and larger part is not a short history of languages in general, but of European languages. Its true that accidents of history, such as colonisation and trade, have given these languages - in particular English - an importance well above their geographical or cultural weight (the reasons why are explored in a later chapter). But in this respect, Tore Jansons book is narrower in focus than John McWhorters. Two later chapters move into other areas. The first focuses on one way that new languages appear: through pidgins and creoles. The second looks at the cultural and political factors that cause them to vanish. The last two chapters show how it is that English has become so dominant, especially as a lingua franca, and what the language landscape might look like at various points in the future (though a writer has to be especially brave to feel able to say anything useful about a time two million years hence! ). Within its comparatively limited geographical scope, this is a useful overview of the development and transformation of languages through cultural and political upheavals over time. This bibliography was compiled from responses on HEL-L, an electronic discussion group on the history of English.
Most of the entries come from: Clinton Atchley Amsler, Mark. From Standard ...

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