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6 Reviews
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing read
Having been interested in linguistics for some time I thought that I would pick up this book and I found it very interesting. The interactive part of the book giving the reader the opportunity to classify languages without prior knowledge of which language or language family they were dealing with was a great idea as it didn't prejudice one's views with regards to how...
Published on 6 July 2001

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't live up to its potential.
This book would have been much more enjoyable if it included a 1 or 2 page appendix describing the phonetic system used. I tried to read it on a plane, but without a self-contained way to sound out his examples, it was not as much fun as it could have been. In addition, much space seems to be devoted to the adolescent sniping that seems to be extremely prevalent in the...
Published on 21 Mar. 1998


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing read, 6 July 2001
By A Customer
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Having been interested in linguistics for some time I thought that I would pick up this book and I found it very interesting. The interactive part of the book giving the reader the opportunity to classify languages without prior knowledge of which language or language family they were dealing with was a great idea as it didn't prejudice one's views with regards to how languages are related to each other.
Towards the end of the book it was hard getting to grips with the attacks on the linguistic academic community and how everyone wants to protect their own specialist areas. That aside I couldn't fault the book in any other area.
This is a definite read and will leave the reader wanting to read more on the history of languages and linguistics.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant popular science, 8 Dec. 1998
By A Customer
Being a bilingual and a sometime translator, I have always had a certain fascination for linguistics itself. Some years ago there was an article in, I think, Scientific American about this line of research, with a fascinating connection with glottochronological theory dating the Mother Tongue at the same very approximate time, 200 000 years ago, that mitochondrial genetic research has placed the individual mother from which all present human females are descended! Ruhlen's work wet my appetite enormously. Developments that might long be buried in academic journals are bought to light, and the presentation actually makes the reader acquire something resembling a living skill in the subject. You can work out the connections yourself between languages you never heard of.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't live up to its potential., 21 Mar. 1998
By A Customer
This book would have been much more enjoyable if it included a 1 or 2 page appendix describing the phonetic system used. I tried to read it on a plane, but without a self-contained way to sound out his examples, it was not as much fun as it could have been. In addition, much space seems to be devoted to the adolescent sniping that seems to be extremely prevalent in the academic linguistics community. It serves as a vivid reminder why I never got along all that well in the academic world. Nonetheless, there is some interesting material presented.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Concise, informative, readable, 29 Jan. 2008
By 
A. Shuttleworth "ali" (scotland) - See all my reviews
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Having a love of languages I found this book very interesting. From my own knowledge I was able to identify the families of the languages in the first table before it was explained and don't see any reason to believe this would not also be true in the other language groups that I am not familiar with (contrary to the one star reviewer). This book gave me what I was looking for - a concise introduction to world language distribution.

I also feel that it was necessary to alert the reader to the opposing views which one might find elsewhere, although this was maybe not so elegantly done as it might have been. The connection between language, linguistics and politics is another issue for other books.

This one seems to me a great introduction and walks the difficult line between scientific jargon and readibility very well
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4.0 out of 5 stars Goes further than most linguistic history analysts., 22 July 2014
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Convincingly argues and demonstrates that all languages derive from a single ancient language. Has interesting comparison charts between all languages and language groups from English to Khoisan in Southern Africa. Dont like the way he writes the book as a student text book where he asks you to compare languages yourself, so you have to label the charts on your own. Its more like a reference book than a book you can read, Ruhlen misses the anecdotal touch that can bring the book alive. He identifies 10 primary words which are common to almost every language. Digit(finger), Fly, Father, Mother etc. I'd like this expanded to 100 by someone, which would be my next buy.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Confusing and factional, 6 Nov. 2001
By A Customer
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This book invites the lay reader to classify languages by presenting the reader with a table of words from those languages. This is a waste of time, because current forms of words dont necessarily reflect the origin and it is hardly posssible to classify them with just a few nouns. The rest of the book is devoted to attacks on the good faith of those academics whose positions differ from the "obvious truth" that common sense has revealed in these examinations.
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The Origin of Language: Tracing the Evolution of the Mother Tongue
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