Empire Of The Word By Nicholas Ostler Summary

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Lizbeth Perez-Jaramillo 11/15/15 Book Critique Work: Ostler, Nicholas. Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005. Reviews: 1 2 Problems: The central question that lays in the foundation of Nicholas Ostler’s book, is why and how do some languages flourish while others reach a point of extinction and how the culture that carries it, sustains, expands and ultimately exerts hegemony. As Ostler puts it, “Every language has a chance of immortality, but this is not to say that it will survive for ever.” (pg 7) Ostler argues that language enables people to form communities each with its own unique history therefore teaching the younger generations their language is crucial for cultural…show more content…
Ostler also introduces paralinguistic factors that play a role in the rise or fall of a language, such as a change in population, religion, and script. Throughout the book, there is a series of maps that Ostler include which allows the reader to place the historical content to a geographic location. Also, in the beginning of each chapter, the author cites conversations and correspondences as an opening statement each related to a lack of understanding due to linguistic…show more content…
Some of the earliest texts from about 1500 BCE were written in Vedic Sanskrit. The spread of Sanskrit to South-East Asia “is the first example in history of a language traveling over a maritime network, through the establishment of trade and cultural link with people on the other side.” (pg 199) Ostler argues that the spread of Sanskrit was not a military invasion but rather due to Aryans “seeking refuge from imperial wars from the Mauryas and Asoka onward, the peaceful pursuit of trade, or a desire to spread sacred learning, of Buddhism certainly, and perhaps even earlier of Hinduism” (pg 199). However, the Sanskrit language was soon supplanted due to Muslim invasions by Turks, who brought forth a “new civilization that conversed in Turkic, prayed in Arabic but was literate above all in Persian” (pg 212). In the decline of Sanskrit, religion and influx of a civilization through peaceful trade, played part in its replacement.The influence that these Muslim traders brought introduce a new religion, Islam, along with a new prevailing language and eventually spread to the South-East. Despite the early success of Sanskrit, it began to ossify and what presently remains of the language can only be found in ancient Hindu and Buddhist

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