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The Last Lingua Franca: The Rise and Fall of World Languages Paperback – 3 Nov 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (3 Nov. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846142164
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846142161
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 43,052 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Frequently jaw-dropping and never less than convincing (Henry Hitchings Financial Times)

A linguist of astonishing voracity ... the predictions are striking (Economist)

Extensive and engaging...A sweepingly learned and garrulous guide to historical curiosities (James McConnachie Sunday Times)

A wide-ranging linguistic perspective. (Robert McCrum The Observer)

As Nicholas Ostler exhaustively documents...history shows that no language will dominate the world conversation forever...More provocatively, Ostler argues that, once the dominance of English has waned, no lingua franca will replace it. (Jonathon Keats New Scientist)

A thorough analysis of the rise and fall of different lingua francas, Ostler provides us with a series of rich examples showing how these 'common languages' achieve prominence and how they subsequently, and inevitably, lose this, left to shrivel for use only as mother tongues. (Colin Fraser Scotsman)

About the Author

Nicholas Ostler is the author of Empires of the World: A Language History of the World and Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin. He studied Greek, Latin and Philosophy at the University of Oxford and holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from MIT. With a working knowledge of twenty-six languages, Nicholas now runs an institute for the protection of endangered languages.


Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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By E. L. Wisty TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 5 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The decline of English, when it begins, will not seem of great moment". Thus with huge understatement, Nicholas Ostler begins his tour of lingua-francas culminating with his forecast for the future of English in that role.

Beginning with an overview of the current status of English around the world, Ostler then turns to the past. There is a lengthy case study of Persian, over two chapters successively considering the earlier use of the language followed by its rise as a lingua-franca amongst the predominantly Turkic speaking Islamic realms stretching from Anatolia through Central Asia to India.

Mechanisms for the spread of lingua-francas are surveyed, firstly by means of trade and then as a vehicle of religion - Pali amongst Buddhism, Latin in Western Europe, and Aramaic in the Middle East. Pathways of subsequent decline are analysed, characterised as "ruin" - economic decline, "relegation" - conscious political acts (such as the attack on Persian by the English in India, the Russians in Central Asia and nationalist Turks post WW1), and "resignation" - social changes (for example the decline of Latin, and later French and German as European lingua-francas).

In turning back to the future, Ostler casts his eye over the other major lingua-francas around the world today, and concludes that no one of them poses any threat to displace English. So what lies ahead? Will English consolidate and deepen its position as a genuine Worldspeak? Will it continue more or less as now, or perhaps even fragment into dialects? Or will it "resign" - retreat once again back to primarily a mother tongue losing its lingua-franca role?

Here Ostler sees a new hitherto unknown mechanism coming into play - technology and the internet.
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The Last Lingua Franca from Nicholas Ostler is a tremendous book, packed full to the brim of interesting facts and what to me seemed like obscure details worth knowing.

Never knew that Persian had been such an important language in the middle (and a bit further) east, good on you to the Malays for not embracing English too tightly when the time came to decide.

On the other hand, the book is so packed of facts, that the type used seems rather small, dense, and the sentence/paragraph structure can sometimes lead you to having to reread a section several times to actually fit the details into your noggin!

Overall well worth a read, but it won't be read in a day.
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By E. L. Wisty TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 5 Nov. 2011
Format: Hardcover
(Readers may wish to note that the paperback edition is under a separate listing here.)

"The decline of English, when it begins, will not seem of great moment". Thus with huge understatement, Nicholas Ostler begins his tour of lingua-francas culminating with his forecast for the future of English in that role.

Beginning with an overview of the current status of English around the world, Ostler then turns to the past. There is a lengthy case study of Persian, over two chapters successively considering the earlier use of the language followed by its rise as a lingua-franca amongst the predominantly Turkic speaking Islamic realms stretching from Anatolia through Central Asia to India.

Mechanisms for the spread of lingua-francas are surveyed, firstly by means of trade and then as a vehicle of religion - Pali amongst Buddhism, Latin in Western Europe, and Aramaic in the Middle East. Pathways of subsequent decline are analysed, characterised as "ruin" - economic decline, "relegation" - conscious political acts (such as the attack on Persian by the English in India, the Russians in Central Asia and nationalist Turks post WW1), and "resignation" - social changes (for example the decline of Latin, and later French and German as European lingua-francas).

In turning back to the future, Ostler casts his eye over the other major lingua-francas around the world today, and concludes that no one of them poses any threat to displace English. So what lies ahead? Will English consolidate and deepen its position as a genuine Worldspeak? Will it continue more or less as now, or perhaps even fragment into dialects?
Read more ›
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An excellent, expertly-written book about the current status of English as an international language (lingua franca) and about its future prospects. Very thorough, with an extensive look at many other examples of (mainly past) lingua-francas. Very detailed treatment of e.g. the little-known case of Persian (little known by Europeans that is) makes it demanding reading, but the whole book gives a comprehensive account of the issues and makes for compelling reading - and it provides much food for thought.
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