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
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.
Yes but not if Mrs Fridland narrates it. One of the other reviewers pointed out how annoying her voice is and I have to agree. It's shrill, weirdly ch..Show More »ipper,and just not comfortable to listen to for more than a few minutes.
Probably not. It did have some very interesting parts, but I agree with another reviewer that it got too political. Even though I don't necessarily di..Show More »sagree with most of her political views, I didn't decide to listen to the lectures because I wanted a political commentary on language - I was just interested in the development of American English.