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The Power of Babel

My Intro to Linguistics class has turned out rather disappointing for me. We spend a good chunk of class time doing phonology expercises I am really not that interested in, and the rest of the time is spent in rather uninspired adherence to the textbook. I had expected a livelier environment with more discussion of ideas and a better sense of the big picture.

To find out more I started looking at books, and I am now reading The Power of Babel by John McWhorter, an associate professor of linguistics at UC Berkeley. So far (I am at page 55), I find it enormously enjoyable and informative. The only thing I have issues with at this point — and it may be addressed later in the book — is that the author assumes the existence of a proto language from which all existing languages derive without providing a context for me to make up my mind about the validity of the theory. Since it is a big assumption, I'd like to be convinced of it before I read all sorts of interpretations that are based on that assumption. Regardless, it's a very good read and I am fascinated by the explanation of how languages transform. McWhorter is careful about using the term transformation instead of evolution, and I like that. I hope the rest of the book is as interesting and entertaining as the first 55 pages.

The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language
by John McWhorter
Harper Collins
ISBN 0-06-052085-X