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Western languages AD 100-1500

af Philippe Wolff

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674306,066 (3.17)2
A brilliant historical survey of the development of language in the West, translated from the French by Frances Partridge. When did men stop speaking Latin? How did the actions of society or religion influence vocabulary? What effect did the conquest of the Anglo-Saxon countries by William the Conqueror and his French-speaking knights have on language? Speech and writing play a fundamental part in man's activities. Social life is inconceivable without some system of signs enabling us to communicate with each other, and language is chief among these signs. From Cicero to Gutenberg, WESTERN LANGUAGES AD 100 - 1500 shows how it is impossible to claim any real understanding of the development of the West without knowing about the development of its languages.… (mere)
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Western Languages: AD 100-1500 covers exactly what the title implies -- development of languages in Western Europe form the Roman Empire and Latin to the various modern languages at beginning of the modern era.

This book has much to recommend it. The author provides clear examples, wonderful maps, and simple terminology. He provides a nice overview of the political/historical context for the developments in each of the major languages (Spanish, French, German, Italian, and English). Where there are gaps in knowledge, he states that as opposed to making wild speculations.

On the downside, the actual writing is a bit strange at times. The book was originally written in French, so the strangeness may come from the translation. Another problem is the lack of footnotes to various points. There are 12 footnotes for a 200 page book! And similarly, the lack of references in English at the back of the book. The book also left out some of the Western European languages such as the Celtic languages and Basque.

Overall, I'm glad I read the book and I learned somethings from it, but I really wish it had a more scholarly bent to it with better footnotes and references. ( )
1 stem LMHTWB | Jan 22, 2012 |
Ohhhh, I've written this book (this essay, anyway) before. Take a field distant from the one you're ostensibly writing in; do a crash course; misunderstand everything; apply it to the material at hand anyway because nobody in your field would know any better; and what you end up with, in Wolff's case, is a bit of historical review that purports to demonstrate the utility of linguistics for getting a new perspective on history, but really just misuses an outdated-anyway version of the field.


This is a half-decent review of medieval history with some tidbits about language thrown in, some correct and some false. ( )
  MeditationesMartini | Jul 2, 2010 |
Surprisingly readable tour of Latin, the rise of the Romance languages and the changes the Germanic ones went through. ( )
1 stem timspalding | Jul 16, 2009 |
Perhaps a bit of an awkward translation from French, and not really intended for a general audience, this was mildly interesting & informative. ( )
  jaygheiser | Jul 23, 2008 |
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Philippe Wolffprimær forfatteralle udgaverberegnet
Partridge, FrancesOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet

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A brilliant historical survey of the development of language in the West, translated from the French by Frances Partridge. When did men stop speaking Latin? How did the actions of society or religion influence vocabulary? What effect did the conquest of the Anglo-Saxon countries by William the Conqueror and his French-speaking knights have on language? Speech and writing play a fundamental part in man's activities. Social life is inconceivable without some system of signs enabling us to communicate with each other, and language is chief among these signs. From Cicero to Gutenberg, WESTERN LANGUAGES AD 100 - 1500 shows how it is impossible to claim any real understanding of the development of the West without knowing about the development of its languages.

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