A quirky language-lovers tour of the twenty most-spoken languages in the world - what puts them a cut above the other six thousand?
If you were to master the 20 languages discussed in Babel you could chat to more than half the world's population. Actually, you could talk to another quarter of the world, who speak them as second languages.
As he did in Lingo, Gaston Dorren delves deep into the linguistic oddities and extraordinary stories of these global tongues, tracing their origins and tracking their sometimes bloody rise to greatness. He listens to their distinctly un-English sounds and deciphers their bewildering array of scripts, presents the gems and gaps in their vocabularies and charts their inventive coinages and surprising loans. He explains the oddities of their grammars, which order their speakers' worldview but often appear bafflingly complex to outsiders.
Learn why Russian has no word for blue, how Turkish stopped borrowing words, and why Arabic is possibly the hardest global language to learn. Look into the future of Chinese script and re-examine the Latin alphabet's gory past. Consider the difficulties of having four forms for 'I' as in Vietnamese, and the questions that arise from the way Tamil pronouns keep humans and deities apart.
Witty, fascinating and utterly compelling, Babel will change the way you look at the world and how it speaks.
Gaston Dorren is author of the bestselling Lingo (Profile, 2014) and contributes regularly to Onze Taal, the popular linguistics magazine. A true polyglot, he speaks Dutch, Limburgish, English, German and Spanish, and reads French, Afrikaans, Frisian, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Luxembourgish and Esperanto. For this book, he also learnt to speak Thai.
Humour & Gift