Languages Are Good For Us
A celebration of the huge linguistic diversity that is open to all of us at birth, and that has inspired and fascinated humans since the invention of speech
This book opens with the first sounds a child hears in their mother’s womb and their capacity for quickly learning more than one language. Hardach explores how this capacity has always been a necessary and normal aspect of human behaviour, from the earliest evidence of writing in different languages on Mesopotamian clay tablets to the role of trade in transmitting words across cultures and continents through families of multilingual merchants.
She takes us into the ‘book cemeteries’ of medieval synagogues; describes the riddles of hieroglyphics and cuneiform, and the long struggle to decipher them; discovers the enigmatic lost language of Cypro-Minoan Britain; and reminds us, in an era of resurgent nationalism, that in the British Isles many languages have mingled in fruitful and fascinating ways.
This is a book about languages and the people who love them. It is about the strange and wonderful ways in which humans have used languages since the days of the earliest clay records. About the linguistic threads that connect us all. Above all, it is about pleasure.
'Sophie Hardach tells wonderful stories about words that have travelled vast distances in space and time to make English what it is. Impeccably researched and engagingly presented, this fascinating book shows how languages arise, grow, borrow, mix and blend. If you aren't sure what the point of learning another language is, then you need to read this book!' David Bellos, author of Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything.
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