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Dictionary of Languages: The Definitive Reference to More Than 400 Languages [Hardcover]

Andrew Dalby
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

8 Dec 1998 0231115687 978-0231115681 Rev. Ed
Approximately how many languages compose the Bantu language group of central and southern Africa? What is the name of the language spoken in Hawaii by an estimated two thousand people? What Western European language is not known to be related to any other language family in the world -- and is considered by linguists to be one of the most difficult to learn? These are only a few of the questions language lovers, linguists, and lay readers will be able to answer with the Dictionary of Languages -- an easy-to-navigate, authoritative guide to the world's languages and language groups at the end of the twentieth century. Andrew Dalby had the needs and interests of general readers in mind when he compiled this comprehensive reference work -- most other language guides are written for scholars, and many include little or none of the absorbing social, cultural, geographic, and historical details that are brought together here. In the Dictionary of Languages, readers will find: *a selection of four hundred languages and language groups, arranged alphabetically, with rich, detailed descriptions of the genesis, development, and current status of each; *more than two hundred maps displaying where the languages are spoken today; *sidebars showing alphabets, numerals, and other enriching facts *a comprehensive index listing additional languages, guiding readers to the nearest language groups with full writeups and maps; *charts breaking down large language groups -- such as Bantu or Austroasiatic languages -- by geographic region and approximate number of speakers. In a world where geopolitical boundaries often explain little about the people that live within them, where we may read about Kurd and Khmer in the same newspaper and be expected to be conversant about each -- if not conversant in each -- Dalby's single, information-packed volume helps us make sense of the rich mosaic of world languages.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; Rev. Ed edition (8 Dec 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231115687
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231115681
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.5 x 6.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,024,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A well-ordered, concise, alphabetical summary of over 400 world languages. The basic information for each entry includes the countries or areas where the language is used, the number of people who use it, and a brief historical survey... This is a volume for every library and home. Council on National Literatures The extensive range of languages covered makes this an extremely useful source... A welcome addition. Booklist Comprehensive and engaging... Dalby's Dictionary of Languages is enriched by its author's lively presentation of historical detail and the wide-ranging and often intriguing selections of material from the languages discussed. AB Bookman's Weekly This highly practical work intended for the non-specialist is an excellent source for browsing or reference. Library Journal (starred review) An approachable, historical linguistic dictionary of the 400 'major languages of the 20th century.' Rich yet concise... This is an excellent source. -- A. C. Moore Choice This book provides the sort of information about the languages of the world that is most often sought by the curious reader, and as such it should be available in every library. It would be right at home in many a private collection as well. -- Peter T. Daniels Language in Society Reliable for specialists, fun for browsers, this big book is a very useful reference tool. -- Leonard R. N. Ashley Geolinguistics Vol.31, 2005 This is a volume for every library and home. Book Digest (Council On National Literatures) Vol. 1, No. 4

About the Author

Andrew Dalby is Honorary Librarian at the Institute of Linguistics in London. He is the author of many books, most recently, Language in Danger (Columbia, 2003).

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
If you have an interest in languages, then this may well be the book for you. It deals with over 400 languages in greater or lesser detail, often giving intriguing insights into the language or people discussed. It is not a great reference work, it is not an educational text, you won't even learn any useful phrases (although you may learn to count to ten in hundreds of tongues!). But this is an excellent introduction to the variety of languages and alphabets in the world today (along with important extinct languages), and their geographical distribution. Taken for what it is, the only real criticisms of the book are the maps, which are not as clearly defined as they might be (perhaps in the interest of cost?), and the physical dimensions of the book. The hardback version is about 9 inches tall, and 5 inches thick. You need a table to read this for any length of time. Alphabetically ordered, this book is suitable for dipping in and out of as necessary, and you will find some golden nuggets of information. I bet I know of a Western European Language spoken by over 10 million people that you don't!!!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good for browsing, and for reference 4 Mar 2000
While this book serves its function as a reference work admirably, providing quick access to useful information on pretty-much any language or dialect in the world, it is equally fascinating as a book to browse. The information is certainly extensive, and seems to be reliable and unbiased.
Sadly, the book is not without its faults. The typography is very poor in places - tables of correspondence between other scripts and the Roman alphabet are often misaligned so that considerable effort is required to work out what's what. The maps are extremely crude, though functional. Informative and useful though it is, this book is not a thing of beauty.
Also, the book explicitly excludes languages other than naturally-evolved spoken and written languages. This means it contains nothing on sign languages, nor on synthetic languages such as Esperanto and Lojban - omissions that are a minor shame.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unputdownable 20 April 2011
By sally tarbox TOP 500 REVIEWER
Fascinating book to browse, with a couple of pages given over to each of 400+ languages. With examples of different scripts, comparisons of related languages printed side by side and numerals, anyone with an interest in the subject can peruse the 700 pages for hours. Dalby includes extinct languages; from the section on Sogdian (extinct language of Uzbekistan) for example, you can compare their numerals with those of some modern languages spoken in the Pamirs and see the strong similarity. It doesnt go into any one area in depth but it gives you basic information to study further if you wish
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