Languages: A Very Short Introduction

ISBN : 9780199590599

Stephen Anderson
152 ページ
116 x 174 mm
Very Short Introductions
  • Provides the basic facts about the world's major families of spoken languages and their distribution around the globe
  • Relates to some of the big social issues facing the world today, such as bio-diversity and the endangerment of species and cultures
  • Looks at the reasons behind why languages are declining, and why this really matters
  • Raises the question about how we identify a language, and considers how we differentiate a 'language' from a 'dialect'
  • Looks at signed languages and considers the similarities and differences to spoken language

How many languages are there? What differentiates one language from another? Are new languages still being discovered? Why are so many languages disappearing? 

The diversity of languages today is varied, but it is steadily declining. In this Very Short Introduction, Stephen Anderson answers the above questions by looking at the science behind languages. Considering a wide range of different languages and linguistic examples, he demonstrates how languages are not uniformly distributed around the world; just as some places are more diverse than others in terms of plants and animal species, the same goes for the distribution of languages. 

Exploring the basis for linguistic classification and raising questions about how we identify a language, as well as considering signed languages as well as spoken, Anderson examines the wider social issues of losing languages, and their impact in terms of the endangerment of cultures and peoples. 


1: Introduction: dimensions of linguistic diversity
2: How many languages are there in the world?
3: Phylogenetic linguistics: establishing linguistic relationships
4: The future of languages
5: Some problems in the counting of languages
6: The genotypes of languages
7: The diversity of signed languages
8: Conclusion: the unity of human language
Further reading


Stephen Anderson, Dorothy R. Diebold Professor of Linguistics, Yale University
Stephen Anderson has been the Dorothy R. Diebold Professor of Linguistics at Yale University for the last 15 years. He has written or co-authored six books in Linguistics, including Doctor Dolittle's Delusion (Yale University Press, 2004) a book on animal communication and its relation to human language intended for the educated general reader that was chosen as the Best Book in Psychology for 2004 by the Professional/Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Linguistic Society of America, and the Association for Psychological Science. He was also President of the Linguistic Society of America in 2007.