5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 7 February 2005
The more I use this book the more disappointed by its presentation I become. I come to it, not as a language expert, but as somone who expects the information to be reasonably detailed, accurate and well presented/laid out. The authors are clearly knowledgeable on their subject and there is a lot of good information in there but accuracy and detail have been sacrificed for a presentation which is muddled and "space hungry" eg
a. All the maps adopt a strange "jig-saw cut out" pseudo 3 dimensional convention by which coasts on one side are shown as "cliffs" in a different colour. Since the maps rely on colour as a means of differentiating language locations this justs muddles the picture. In any case why do it - it adds absolutely nothing and can only remove accuracy!
b. Yet there is often little or no real attempt at accuracy when it comes to showing language locations with languages often magically following international boundaries. eg on page 41 Belgium is shown as being completely Flemish speaking!!
c.Space is wasted on totally extraneous information - eg half of page 53 is taken up with a picture of some fir trees and an icy river with the statement that this is "a view of the Siberian Yenisei river where the isolated language Ket is spoken". Yet we are told NOTHING more about "Ket" other than its family and that it is "isolated". It isn't even mentioned on the page with the map of Eurasia which supposedly covers the Yenisei area - on which this river is not even shown!! So much for this being an "Atlas"!!
d. There are plain "errors" - eg the map of "Minority Languages" on page 213 has a pointer referring to Gascon which is aimed at the Basque area
e. Yet, on the other hand, "conventions" which may be commonplace among language experts are adopted without explanation (there is a thin 1 page glossary of language terms) eg the use of something akin to "?" after a Chinese word (but not on words of other languages in the chart which mean the same - so does it show "tone"?) on page 28 which appears again on page 38 in front of an "Afro-Asiatic word "?amen = remain". so what does it mean there?
f. The use of colour is totally over the top! Charts are often shown in poor colour combinations for reading - eg black print on blue background (pages 136/7). All the maps in the section on S and S.E Asia adopt a yellow background for seas/oceans -possibly because this is the "signal" colour for this chapter (ie it is adopted at every opportunity for backgrounds, print fonts and charts). Luckily this is the only geographical area so treated and we do not have to put up with Purple seas for the Pacific or Green seas for Europe!! So why do it for that 1 chapter??
Regarding "completeness" the authors "excuse" themselves in the introduction "since it is not feasible to give the locations ..of all 6000 or so languages ..... the maps show only major languages or those .... mentioned in the text" My wife and I have just returned from a holiday in Guyana where we stayed with some Amerindians and I immediately looked up their language "Makushi". Not a mention. Was I just unlucky? But I look at all that "waste space"
I guess for the price and given the competition this book is Ok but there is still an opportunity for a good, adult Atlas of Language!