This is a course that explained how languages are divided into multiple families, and how they evolve over time. It is as much a history course as it ..Show More »is a linguistics course. It looks at how languages are born, change, merge, and die away. It dedicates a large chunk of its time on dialects and explains their relation to the "proper" version of their language. It is a very rich course, possibly one of the best value courses I've come across. Here's a list of the lectures in this course:
1 What Is Language? 2 When Language Began 3 How Language Changes—Sound Change 4 How Language Changes—Building New Material 5 How Language Changes—Meaning and Order 6 How Language Changes—Many Directions 7 How Language Changes—Modern English 8 Language Families—Indo-European 9 Language Families—Tracing Indo-European 10 Language Families—Diversity of Structures 11 Language Families—Clues to the Past 12 The Case Against the World’s First Language 13 The Case For the World’s First Language 14 Dialects—Subspecies of Species 15 Dialects—Where Do You Draw the Line? 16 Dialects—Two Tongues in One Mouth 17 Dialects—The Standard as Token of the Past 18 Dialects—Spoken Style, Written Style 19 Dialects—The Fallacy of Blackboard Grammar 20 Language Mixture—Words 21 Language Mixture—Grammar 22 Language Mixture—Language Areas 23 Language Develops Beyond the Call of Duty 24 Language Interrupted 25 A New Perspective on the Story of English 26 Does Culture Drive Language Change? 27 Language Starts Over—Pidgins 28 Language Starts Over—Creoles I 29 Language Starts Over—Creoles II 30 Language Starts Over—Signs of the New 31 Language Starts Over—The Creole Continuum 32 What Is Black English? 33 Language Death—The Problem 34 Language Death—Prognosis 35 Artificial Languages 36 Finale—Master Class
This course is very interesting, although it could be better. The first two parts of the book are excellent with a wealth of historical information ab..Show More »out the historical development of the English language going, well, back to the beginning. Really fascinating, and I felt like I learned a lot.
When the book gets to the later stages, however, it slips a bit. The professor lapses into more than a little political correctness, which is probably not surprising given his background. If you can take it or leave it, the discussion is still interesting.
The professor is not a bad lecturer, but he has one incredibly irritating habit: He says "if you like" all the time. It becomes glaringly obvious, especially given the length of the recording. Maybe the professor can fix this in the third edition.
Another irritation--although certainly not the professor's fault--is the trumpet music announcing each new chapter along with the fake applause (which also closes each chapter). Straight out of 1950s sound effects. Just plain awful and prevalent in the "Great Courses." But, fortunately, a small part of the recording.
Prof. John McWhorter, linguist and English lecturer at the University of Columbia fires off like a rocket bringing linguistics to the listener through..Show More » 24 short 15 minute mini-lectures from A-Z. He uses the alphabet to introduce the listener to some interesting facts about the mishmash of languages spoken in the world.
He starts the course at an enormous pace and peppers you with a lot of information. Initially I thought that I would opt out due to the pace against which he presents. I managed to stuck in there and was not disappointed. He knows a lot about languages.
From a South African perspective just the following: Xhosa is not pronounced Chosa as if it should start with a fricative, but with a clicking sound like that of the clicking languages that he describes. His pronunciation of the language called Afrikaans was also lacking. Despite that, he brings tremendous insight into languages and their structures. Highlights are "H for Hobbits" and "R for R-lessness"
If you want a fun-filled and highly informative course, this one is for you.
It has happened more than once that I had to consider either buying the ‘Audible’ audio version of a ‘Great Courses’ course or the downloadable video ..Show More »version of the same course. What was I thinking not buying this a course on writing in video format with an accompanying .pdf guide!? The content of Prof Marc Zender’s ‘Writing and Civilization: From Ancient Worlds to Modernity’ is so gripping, it left me spellbound. (That said, I do have a thorough background in Semitic and Classical Languages… but he was able to broaden my understanding of writing systems.)
He takes the listener through a journey of writing signs and systems in 24 lectures which are intricately connected and completely mesmerising! I think this course is probably one of the best structured courses I have listened yet. Starting with the basic concept of writing, dispelling myths surrounding Futhark (the runic alphabet), he proceeds to more difficult scripts such as that of the Chinese. Subsequently the listener is introduced to the decipherment of different ancient writing systems, such as Egyptian hieroglyphs, Cuneiform and later on Mayan hieroglyphs. By comparing the properties of different systems of writing, he is able to illustrate some fascinating universal aspects of writing. (He convincingly argues and illustrates that writing systems were invented at different times in different places, but also that some peoples borrowed their writings from others.) Prof Zender discusses failed attempts of decipherment, the reasons thereto, as wells as invented scripts and languages such as those of JRR Tolkien.
This course is a highly accessible as well as an excellent overview of writing over the ages. It is presented professionally. Yet I refrain from giving it 5 stars under ‘story’ and overall because not being able to see the examples that Prof Zender used, kept me an outsider to complete insights. While I do understand that Audible does not provide the accompanying .pdf guide to any of ‘The Great Courses’ not being able to follow the Mayan or Egyptian hieroglyphic examples in the course felt utterly frustrating. I believe that a shortened .pdf file without all the contents of the regular guide could be made available to give the listener the best value for his/her money.
All said, ‘Writing and Civilization: From Ancient Worlds to Modernity’ is a brilliant course, splendidly arranged, highly engaging, well presented and highly relevant for anyone interested in languages and its writing systems.
At the beginning of this book, Professor Fridland asks us to listen to her voice and then imagine what she is. Old, young? Where is she from? Educated..Show More » or not?
From her speech, I got a 22 year old California sufer gal (for sure) with litter interests beyond shopping.
Turns out she's older and from the south. But I got none of that.
This book was a terrible disappointment. Not only does the professor sound like a college student, she put together a terrible course.
Over and over she would say something like "And there are many words that these people use in ways no other society does." This screams for a "for instance" or example. But she gave them so seldom you would think they came out of her salary to insert.
I wish I could return this book, but I fear I've kept it too long. (I kept trying to get through it, but couldn't get more than 15% of the way through.
The idea of an audio book on language and dialects is a great idea that goes way beyond what print can do. Unfortunately, this book doesn't rise to the concept.
I really enjoyed this course. I have listened to many Great Courses and this is so far one of my favourites. I have also been working on my vocabulary..Show More » in the past year via other audio courses and workbooks, but this has been the most efficacious.
The course begins by teaching various memory techniques for retaining new word meanings. This includes keeping a vocabulary notebook, making personal connections, sound connections, etymological breakdown, and categorization. My main problem is recall, and these are not new techniques, but I have been motivated to employ them to much success.
Lectures are organized by words of a certain category, such as words relating to phobias, words for describing good and bad speakers, words for describing language, toponyms and eponyms, and "grab bags" of miscellaneous words. Professor Flanigan keeps things entertaining by telling the history behind words and memorable personal stories about his friends and family to exemplify key words, ending each lecture with a quiz. He speaks confidently and clearly and is an excellent teacher.
Immediately after finishing this course, I found myself recognizing key words left and right, words that I previously would have only had a vague contextual understanding of and would have thus brushed past. This has been a real confidence booster.
The only downside is, as with all The Great Course audiobooks sold by audible, there is no guidebook. This is a complaint I see by many reviewers of The Great Courses, but if you check out the prices on The Teaching Company's (the makers of TGC) the website in which the guidebook is included, you will see that purchasing them via audible without the guidebook is actually a very good deal. The lack of guidebook is probably the reason audible can charge such a low price without it being a negative for The Teaching Company's overall sales. However, it would have been nice for audible or the Great Courses to at least provide a list of the words, as I had to write them down while listening. Ultimately, being forced to write them down was probably a good thing, as taking notes really helped me to remember the words. Although it did get tricky to confirm the spelling, especially with the more obscure words, but I did manage to find them all with a little googling.
I would also recommend "How To Build a Better Vocabulary" by Maxwell Nurnberg and Morris Rosenblum. I have been working through this in parallel with this course and the words are similar both in selection and difficulty. It's very nice to have learnt a word from one place and have it reinforced elsewhere.