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The World's Major Languages Hardcover – Feb 1992

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'This excellent, thorough resource has an unsurpassed amount of detail for a single-volume survey.' --S. L. Johnson, Eastern Illinois University, Choice Reviews 'Highly recommended. Academic libraries supporting lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers.'--S. L. Johnson, Eastern Illinois University, Choice Reviews 'Originally published in 1987, the second edition of this major handbook contains considerable enough amount of revision and new material to warrant its purchase by those libraries which invested in the original edition' -- Reference Reviews 'The Volume is well constructed for reference access as well as for more in-depth consultation' -- Reference Reviews

About the Author

Director, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig (since 1997) Distinguished Professor of Linguistics, University of California Santa Barbara (since 2002) --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Partly fixed: Kindle 2nd Edition laughably misedited 21 Nov. 2010
By Flash Sheridan - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I agree with the other reviewers on the magnificence of the dead-tree first edition; no-one has yet reviewed the second edition, nor its Kindle version, so I'll focus on the Kindle second edition. The electronic editor got the first (literally, for once) thing wrong: the title. It has a hyphen rather than an apostrophe, which shows that the publisher did even less checking than usual for Kindle conversions. The carelessness isn't confined to the title, even in the free sample; Table 1.1, of basic Indo-European terms, is horribly dismembered. This may be unavoidable in some form-factors, but it could have worked on the iPad in landscape mode, if a human had bothered to check.

Some text, e.g. the accented name of one of the contributors, Dinh-Hoa Nguyen (whose accented form Amazon won't permit me to write), is rendered as graphics, not text, and can't be properly highlighted.

At the beginning of "Greek in its Geographic and Social Context" (location 24630-37) the Greek is comically mistranscribed: "KópivOos; 'Corinth', µívOn 'mint'". (In case Amazon's site filters that badly, the book's electronic editor really did transcribe theta as capital O, and eta as n.)

Professor Comrie's own chapter on Slavonic isn't safe to read either, e.g. "the shift ... to reduced vowels (jers) symbolised b, b" (17,876). This transcends mere ignorance, since Routledge's editor transcribed both jers, right next to each other, as the same character, the letter b. This of course renders much of the text unreliable and/or unreadable, e.g., "*mbxbbmb" (17,952), and a mystifying opposition between "nos" and "nos" in the next paragraph. Likewise the apparently systematic mistranscription of ' (ch) as c, e.g., 18,028 ("South Slavonic shc"), and 18,038 (amusingly: "c and c").

Some mistakes can't be excused even by ignorance and stupidity, for instance misspelling "Indo-European" (17,898), or completely omitting the word being glossed ("moka" for 'torment', earlier on the same page.)

The content in the second edition is wonderful, of course, and so far seems slightly improved from the first edition. The preface says that two languages, Javanese and Amharic, have been added. The existing chapters supposedly have all had their bibliographies updated; this is certainly true of the introduction, the only bibliography in the sample. For nineteen chapters this has been the only revision; the remaining chapters "have been revised, at times substantially." Most of the changes I've noticed have been minor but good, e.g., adding Nostratic to the discussion of macro-families in place of part of an overly-long list of possible families. A reference to Sumerian has been substituted in the brief subsection on Anatolian languages, and Carian added. The spelling of Bogazkoy has been changed, but Amazon would filter either the new or the old one, so I won't attempt to display the difference. I've noticed a few minor improvements in the chapters on Slavonic and Russian, but nothing sufficient to make up for the transcription errors.

There are some mild changes mandated by political correctness, e.g. BCE for BC, and a longer title for the section on Serbo-Croat, which also has an additional contributor. Contributor's affiliations are no longer after their names in the table of contents, but are now in a separate section. There's also an inessential substitution of Mexico for California in the first paragraph of the introduction, and slightly more apologizing in the preface for making judgements in order to live up to the book's title.

I had hoped to hold out for a proof-read iBooks edition using Unicode, but couldn't resist the temptation to have this marvelous book on my person at all times for the rest of my life. eBooks Dot Com does advertise an ePub version for the same price as the hardcover, though the sample seems to be for the PDF rather than the ePub. The Barnes and Noble Nook store lists the book as available for a price described as Free, $0.01, and NaN, but the copy I purchased only had five pages poorly scanned from the Bantu Languages section. I don't see much hope that the Kindle version's errors will be corrected, since it would require Routledge to hire someone educated, intelligent, and diligent to do the whole job over again. Merely correcting individual errata will not suffice.

The price of the Kindle edition is half that of the paperback, which doesn't even exist yet; it's a fifth the price of the hardback second edition. If you own the first edition and can't use the Kindle version, the paperback, due in February 2011, may be worth waiting for, for the bibliographies. And, of course, if don't own any edition, by all means buy one, though which to buy will depend on your budget and patience.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Gift and giftee liked it 2 Jan. 2013
By Colorado Kid - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gift and giftee liked it. This one is beyond me but I am not a linguist. Giftee is PHD in linguistics
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
good for Linguists of all levels 19 Nov. 2011
By Rebecca L. Haag - Published on
Format: Paperback
The World's Major Languages is an excellent concise volume describing many languages from around the world. It is very informative. Another must have for a linguists library.
9 of 54 people found the following review helpful
very uneven quality 12 Dec. 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I have enjoyed many chapters in this book, but I cannot recommend it. The complete exclusion of Native American languages was a damning error, despite the editor's excuses. But more than that, the book is ruined by the uneven quality of the included essays. The chapter on Arabic by Alan S. Kaye is of particularly low quality. Let me quote a sentence: "I should also mention the elegance one can immediately feel when one is invited to DINE vs. plain 'ole EAT." [My caps repesent italics in the text.] I find the use of "plain 'ole" for what presumably must be "plain ol'" (="plain old") ridiculous and hideous, and the inclusion of such incompetence in the text shows the editor's indifference to the final quality of the book.
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