The only textbook of its kind, An Introduction to the Languages of the World is designed to introduce beginning linguistics students, who now typically start their study with little background in languages, to the variety of the languages of the world. It is ideal for use in courses where students have mastered the basic principles of linguistics but lack background in the broad range of language phenomena found in the world's languages, such as vowel harmony and ergative constructions. It offers students an opportunity to explore, at various levels, structures of very different, highly interesting languages without necessarily possessing a speaking or reading knowledge of these languages. Lyovin explains the classification of languages, discussing not only genetic classification but typological and sociolinguistic classification as well. He follows this with an explication of writing systems. A chapter is devoted to each of the world's continents, with in-depth analyses of representative languages of Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, and America, and a separate chapter covers pidgins and creoles. Helpful features include an appendix of nineteen maps, student exercises, and suggestions for further reading.
Not a book to read, but a useful reference
By "kalkatungu" - January 4, 2004
This book introduces the languages of the world by continent in eight chapters. For every language genetic affiliation and the number of speakers is given. There is a striking imbalance in the treatment of the languages of the Americas, and those of other continents. In particular, the languages of Africa and Southeast Asia are only described very sketchily. At the end of each chapter (continent) an in-depth discussion of two selected languages is provided. Although the book is obviously designed as a textbook, it can only be recommended only as a reference, or as one among many textbooks for a specific course, because the style is too monotonous. It is also not a book to read through unless you are a language freak. Since the book came out in 1997, it is not up-to-date any more in every area. Still, the author's cautious and balanced approach makes it a reliable reference.
Broad and occasionally deep
By Dick Grune - July 6, 2010
The purpose of this book is to teach languages; some linguistics is taught in the process, but the emphasis is on languages. The main body of the book consists of six chapters, one for each continent (Oceania is grouped with Australia), and one for pidgin languages. The surrounding material consists of chapters on classification of languages and writing systems, and a set of language maps.
Each chapter in the main body starts with a summary of the languages found in the region concerned, followed by "sketches" of two languages from the region; exercises introducing a few more languages and selected literature references conclude the chapter. This approach gives quite a balanced view of the languages of the world.
The languages featured are: Europe: Russian and Finnish (with exercises about Turkish and Sanskrit); Asia: Mandarin Chinese and Classical Tibetan (+ Hmong and Japanese); Africa: Modern Literary Arabic and Swahili (+ !Xu (Khoisan)); Oceania: Hawaiian and... read more
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