John McWhorter, The Great Courses – Language Families of the World


Language, in its seemingly infinite varieties, tells us who we are and where we come from. Many linguists believe that all of the worlds languages – over 7,000 currently – emerged from a single prehistoric source. While experts have not yet been able to reproduce this proto-language, most of the worlds current languages can be traced to various language families that have branched and divided, spreading across the globe with migrating humans and evolving over time.

The ability to communicate with the spoken word is so prevelant that we have yet to discover a civilization that does not speak. The fitful preservation of human remains throughout history has made tracing the ultimate origin of sophisticated human cultures difficult, but it is assumed that language is at least 300,000 years old. With so much time comes immense change – including the development of the written word. Theres no doubt that over centuries, numerous languages have been born, thrived, and died. So how did we get here, and how do we trace the many language branches back to the root?

In Language Families of the World, Professor John McWhorter of Columbia University takes you back through time and around the world, following the linguistic trails left by generations of humans that lead back to the beginnings of language. Utilizing historical theories and cutting-edge research, these 34 astonishing lectures will introduce you to the major language families of the world and their many offspring, including a variety of languages that are no longer spoken but provide vital links between past and present.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

Author: John McWhorter, The Great Courses
Narrator: John McWhorter
Duration: 15 hours 54 minutes
Released: 19 Jan 2002
Publisher: The Great Courses
Language: English

User Review:

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John McWhorter is (in a turn of phrase he might appreciate)…kinda sui generis. Some teachers are great performers. And some performers are great teachers. McWhorter is all of the above. His courses are so much fun, and so full of illuminating information. My only complaint is that they are of finite length, and that they eventually have to come to their ends. As for this particular course – well. What a whirlwind survey of the worlds languages. And what rare form McWhorter is in, as he covers them all with panache and brio. My only faint plaint is that, as an unrepentant popularizer, he sometimes tries a little too hard to keep things simple, if not a little dumbed-down. These might not be 101 courses, but theyre not 301s, either. I think we can handle a little more technical jargon, and a little deeper dive into the linguists toolkit. But these are trifling kvetches. This course is simply fabulous, and you just need to 1. Get it, 2. Listen to it, and 3. Lather-rinse-repeat with the entire McWhorter catalogue.