Books : reviews

Peter K. Austin.
1000 Languages: the worldwide history of living and lost tongues.
Thames & Hudson. 2008

1000 Languages presents a linguistic world tour that explores the sources, interrelationships and characteristics of our diverse languages. It encompasses all the global languages, including the major and minor ones of every region, and discusses the topical issue of endangered and extinct tongues.

There are over 6,000 languages in use around the world, ranging in size from those with hundreds of millions of speakers to those with only one or two. All have rich vocabularies to describe the environment, actions, thoughts and feelings of the people who speak them. In this highly illustrated and accessible work, a team of scholars examines a wealth of distinct languages. Organized by region, each main entry details number of speakers, geographical spread, growth and development, and key features. Two comprehensive chapters consider endangered and extinct languages, and an extensive map section shows the dissemination of language groups. Linguists estimate that by 2050 half of our languages will be extinct, so there could be no more important time to examine the diversity, complexity and beauty of human language.