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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(197mm x 130mm x 16mm)
Weidenfeld & Nicolson History
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Country of Publication:
UK Kirkus Review »
This is a classic text by Philippe Wolff, who, until his death in 2001, was a leading expert on mediaeval history. Wolff's book covers such crucial events in European history as the fall of the Roman Empire and the Norman Conquest, and he examines how the social and political turmoil these upheavals produced affected the languages spoken in Europe. This is potentially a very interesting subject, and Wolff provides a fascinating account of how linguistic historians reconstruct languages of which there is absolutely no record, simply by studying the similarities in the languages they gave rise to. But in fact what is most interesting about this book on the history of language is how much the style of 'popular' history has changed in the 30 years since Wolff wrote it. Compared to writers such as Simon Schama or Antony Beevor, Wolff's tone is rather hectoring and schoolmasterly. He also assumes, rather off-puttingly, that anyone intelligent enough to want to read history books in their leisure time will have a working knowledge of Latin and Ancient Greek, as well as being able to speak at least two modern foreign languages. Because of this, the book can be at times rather obscure and impenetrable. However, if you are prepared to overcome these not inconsiderable obstacles to your enjoyment of the book, this is an interesting angle on some often overlooked periods of history. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Philippe Wolff
Philippe Wolff was a Prix Ponchard-winning author and a Professor at Toulouse University.