The Great Courses: Linguistics

8 books in series
4.5 out of 5 stars 6,644 ratings

The Story of Human Language Publisher's Summary

Language defines us as a species, placing humans head and shoulders above even the most proficient animal communicators. But it also beguiles us with its endless mysteries, allowing us to ponder why different languages emerged, why there isn't simply a single language, how languages change over time and whether that's good or bad, and how languages die out and become extinct. Now you can explore all of these questions and more in an in-depth series of 36 lectures from one of America's leading linguists.

You'll be witness to the development of human language, learning how a single tongue spoken 150,000 years ago evolved into the estimated 6,000 languages used around the world today and gaining an appreciation of the remarkable ways in which one language sheds light on another.

The many fascinating topics you examine in these lectures include: the intriguing evidence that links a specific gene to the ability to use language; the specific mechanisms responsible for language change; language families and the heated debate over the first language; the phenomenon of language mixture; why some languages develop more grammatical machinery than they actually need; the famous hypothesis that says our grammars channel how we think; artificial languages, including Esperanto and sign languages for the deaf; and how word histories reflect the phenomena of language change and mixture worldwide.

©2004 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2004 The Great Courses
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    • The Story of Human Language

    • By: John McWhorter, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: John McWhorter
    • Length: 18 hrs and 15 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 2,728
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 2,473
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 2,439

    Language defines us as a species, placing humans head and shoulders above even the most proficient animal communicators. But it also beguiles us with its endless mysteries, allowing us to ponder why different languages emerged, why there isn't simply a single language, how languages change over time and whether that's good or bad, and how languages die out and become extinct.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • You'll Never Look at Languages the Same Way Again

    • By SAMA on 03-11-14

    Regular price: $41.95

    • Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths of Language Usage

    • By: John McWhorter, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: John McWhorter
    • Length: 12 hrs and 18 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 598
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 539
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 520

    Conventional wisdom suggests English is going to the dogs, that bad grammar, slang, and illogical constructions signal a decline in standards of usage - to say nothing of the corruption wrought by email and text messages. But English is a complicated, marvelous language. Far from being a language in decline, English is the product of surprisingly varied linguistic forces, some of which have only recently come to light. And these forces continue to push English in exciting new directions.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • This course will turn you into a linguistics fan!

    • By Quaker on 11-15-13

    Regular price: $34.95

    • The History of the English Language, 2nd Edition

    • By: Seth Lerer, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: Seth Lerer
    • Length: 18 hrs and 27 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 272
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 235
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 236

    This course offers an overview of the English language that is literary, historical, cultural, political, and scientific in its scope and designed to give you greater insight into the written and spoken word.The lectures provide a thorough understanding of the history of the English language - from its origins as a dialect of the Germanic-speaking peoples through the literary and cultural documents of its 1,500-year span to the state of American speech today.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Sparkling

    • By Amazon Customer on 02-26-15

    Regular price: $41.95

    • Language A to Z

    • By: John McWhorter, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: John McWhorter
    • Length: 6 hrs and 17 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 1,293
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 1,178
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 1,150

    Linguistics, the study of language, has a reputation for being complex and inaccessible. But here's a secret: There's a lot that's quirky and intriguing about how human language works-and much of it is downright fun to learn about. But with so many potential avenues of exploration, it can often seem daunting to try to understand it. Where does one even start?

    • 4 out of 5 stars
    • A genious Miscelany of linguistic topics

    • By Jacobus on 05-06-14

    Regular price: $14.95

    • Writing and Civilization: From Ancient Worlds to Modernity

    • By: Marc Zender, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: Marc Zender
    • Length: 12 hrs and 9 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 166
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 146
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 144

    At just over 5,000 years old, writing is actually a relatively recent invention. It has become so central to the way we communicate and live, however, that it often seems as if writing has always existed. But the question remains: Who invented writing, and why?In these 24 fascinating lectures, you'll trace the remarkable saga of the invention and evolution of "visible speech," from its earliest origins to its future in the digital age.

    • 4 out of 5 stars
    • A Spellbinding survey of writing systems

    • By Jacobus on 07-10-14

    Regular price: $34.95

    • Language and Society: What Your Speech Says About You

    • By: Valerie Fridland, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: Valerie Fridland
    • Length: 11 hrs and 48 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      3.5 out of 5 stars 97
    • Performance
      3.5 out of 5 stars 85
    • Story
      4 out of 5 stars 82

    In these 24 thought-provoking lectures, you'll investigate how social differences based on factors such as region, class, ethnicity, occupation, gender, and age are inseparable from language differences. Further, you'll explore how these linguistic differences arise, and how they both reflect and generate our social systems.

    • 3 out of 5 stars
    • Like nails on a chalkboard

    • By R.B. on 04-08-15

    Regular price: $34.95

    • Building a Better Vocabulary

    • By: Kevin Flanigan, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: Kevin Flanigan
    • Length: 18 hrs and 48 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 1,344
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 1,175
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 1,129

    Building a Better Vocabulary offers an intriguing look at the nuts and bolts of English, teaches you the etymology and morphology - or the history and structure - of words, and delves into the cognitive science behind committing new words to long-term memory. By the end of the 36 enjoyable lectures, you will have a practical framework for continuing to build your vocabulary by discovering new words and fully mastering the nuances of familiar ones.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Simply amazing. Also, bad reviews can be explained.

    • By Christie on 09-29-15

    Regular price: $41.95

    • English in America: A Linguistic History

    • By: Natalie Schilling, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: Natalie Schilling
    • Length: 5 hrs and 55 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 146
    • Performance
      4 out of 5 stars 132
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 128

    Think about this: How would you address a group of two or more people? Would you say: "you", "you all", "yous", "you lot", "y'all", "you guys", "you'uns", "yinz", or something else? Would that change depending on whom you were talking to or where you were? Your answers can provide revealing insights into who you are, where you grew up or live now, and your social, economic, and educational background. Welcome to the enthralling world of linguistics.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Exceptionally interesting course!

    • By Rachel Doyle on 02-10-17

    Regular price: $9.95