Spoken Here: Travels among Threatened Languages Hardcover – 1 Aug 2003
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"Riveting... learned, thought-provoking, bouncing with ideas, yet funny and wry... Inspiring" (Independent)
"A fascinating and addictive book. It is more than that: it is a lucid, often eloquent journey through the crumbling linguistic foundations of humanity" (Daily Telegraph)
"Unusually penetrating and astute" (Spectator)
"An essential read" (Guardian)
"Powerful and important... Compelling'" (Sunday Times) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Shortlisted for the Pearson Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize in 2004. One of the most critically-acclaimed non-fiction titles of 2004, both fascinating and moving, this is award-winning journalist Mark Abley's story of his travels to visit the world's dying and threatened languages and the people who speak them. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Language is used to express the worldview of its speakers, bur does it also shape and influence it? Are the connotations that a word's meaning carries consciously passed on? Many traditional languages have in common that they are more complicated in their grammar than modern ones. Some prescribe human kinships in great detail and maintain a different vocabulary for each gender to use. Does these aspects have a bearing on the human interrelationships? The author pursues the answers from the elders, language teachers and linguistic experts. Of particular interest to him are languages that structure sentences around verbs rather than nouns, as we are used to. Placing the "action" in the centre of a phrase results in a different perspective on life, he argues, making it more inclusive of the surroundings and reducing the primary role of the self. The Boro language, spoken in northern India, has one-verb expressions that require full sentences when translated into English: "gagrom", for example, means "to search for a thing below the water by trampling" or "mokhrob" - to express anger by a sidelong glance. Mohawk must be one of the most complex languages in its use of verbs. In addition to describing the action "a verb must indicate the agent, recipient and the time of the action".Read more ›
It's hard to put a finger on why the book was a bit of a letdown. Abley is scrupulously fair-minded in his reportage, and has clearly done a great deal of research. He's careful not to blindly place language preservationists on a pedestal, and asks some genuinely hard questions. Although here's clearly a champion of these disappearing languages and draws a distinct parallel between biodiversity and linguistic diversity, he doesn't shy from shining the light on the failings or more objectionable sides of preservationists. That said, there are a few shortcomings. One of these is that he never really discusses how this whole issue worked in the past. When the Roman Empire ran amok, did Latin replace indigenous speech? More problematic is his focus on languages developed nations. For example, the spread of Spanish in South America, and English and French in Africa have had profound influences, but ABley sticks to North America, Western Europe, and Australia.Read more ›
Abley describes himself as a poet and a journalist and the former comes shining through in the accessible and lyrical writing style. In each of the long chapters where he focuses and one of the languages he successfully creates an image of the people and places in which the language lives and carefully ties that to the history and future of the language. He is respectful of the people he meets but rightly critical of some of the practices he encounters. Interspersed with the long chapters are shorter ones which give some of the background behind language and its study and act as a smooth segue between the longer chapters. These too are written accessible and never dull you with linguistics or academics.
If you are interested in the way language works and are as hopelessly monolingual as I am you should read this book; it will encourage you to get back into evening school and dust of those ‘teach yourself …’ books and have another go at sustaining language diversity.
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Funny, informative, sad, insightful, fascinating...
It's not a dry academic tome - linguistics and language regeneration can be a dry topic but Abley works wonders... Read more
I'm not a linguist but I do speak several languages, mostly smatterings of each and I understand the difficulties of translation from one to another and the frustration of not... Read morePublished on 18 Oct. 2007 by Wyvernfriend
At first when I started reading this book I found it a very moving account of the plight of endangered languages. Read morePublished on 28 Jun. 2005 by N. Jones
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