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    Inhaltsangabe

    Language, in its seemingly infinite varieties, tells us who we are and where we come from. Many linguists believe that all of the world’s languages - over 7,000 currently - emerged from a single prehistoric source. While experts have not yet been able to reproduce this proto-language, most of the world’s current languages can be traced to various language families that have branched and divided, spreading across the globe with migrating humans and evolving over time.

    The ability to communicate with the spoken word is so prevelant that we have yet to discover a civilization that does not speak. The fitful preservation of human remains throughout history has made tracing the ultimate origin of sophisticated human cultures difficult, but it is assumed that language is at least 300,000 years old. With so much time comes immense change - including the development of the written word. There’s no doubt that over centuries, numerous languages have been born, thrived, and died. So how did we get here, and how do we trace the many language branches back to the root?

    In Language Families of the World, Professor John McWhorter of Columbia University takes you back through time and around the world, following the linguistic trails left by generations of humans that lead back to the beginnings of language. Utilizing historical theories and cutting-edge research, these 34 astonishing lectures will introduce you to the major language families of the world and their many offspring, including a variety of languages that are no longer spoken but provide vital links between past and present.

    PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

    ©2019 The Great Courses (P)2019 The Teaching Company, LLC

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    Very informative and entertaining

    This series of lectures is extremely informative, and I'm pretty sure its the best overview of the world's language families and maybe even linguistics in general, at least through practical experience, that there is out there. It's also very entertaining, if you're into this kind of thing (and if you're reading this, you probably are). It's quite similar to his Lexicon Valley podcast, most episodes of which are now findable as Spectacular Vernacular (long story) so if you want a lot of the same information for free and generally a similar experience, check that show out, particularly the old episodes he did with Slate, which are the ones listed as Spectacular Vernacular on streaming services, you'll need to scroll past some new episodes to find his (the last of which was called "Russian is my mount Everest"). The only reason I rated this 4 and not 5 stars, though to be honest I'd be happy with 4.5, is that he doesn't always do the diligence I'd like to stay neutral on unsettled issues, or to present the majority opinion as clearly being that of the majority. The clearest example of this is with the Altaic "family", which is broadly regarded not to be a family in linguistics, though it's certainly still debated. I have absolutely no problem with that he has his own opinion about these issues, or that he presents it, but I wish he'd have been clearer on the fact that it's not really 50/50 and unsettled, there's a fairly wide consensus that that's not a family and only some who say it is. There are other instances of this that I caught based on things I know about, and probably more that I didn't because I didn't know any better. Despite that, this was still extremely entertaining and informative and I'd reccomended you to check it out, taking some things with a grain of salt. Some of these things to watch out for: the status of Altaic as a family, the notion of newer and older languages (with the exception of creoles, which are truly objectively newer), his general tendency towards lumping (which he's very upfront about, to his credit), and some other smaller things. Enjoy!