Books: Language Families of the World [audiocourse]
Language Families of the World by John McWhorter [audiocourse]
This is the latest (2019) Teaching Company audiocourse from John McWhorter, the pop linguist who's received many favorable reviews on this blog. This set is something of a travelog, with Professor McWhorter giving an overview of all the world's language families, exploring the wide variety of ways that languages function and develop.
Professor McWhorter is still the best presenter at the Teaching Company. His material is witty, engaging, and conversational. In this set he goes further than usual into little useless side anecdotes, but he's also very solid at taking just a moment or two to, I don't know, throw off a quick complaint about avocados before getting back to the matter at hand.
What's perhaps most impressive is that he has the most scattered, "listicle" style topic — just go over all of the language families we know about — and yet he makes something very cohesive from it. He starts off with the Indo-European family, to go over general topics for his English-speaking listeners in more-or-less familiar territory. Then he proceeds through the groups of families by order of (as best we can tell) when they first appeared. And he uses each family to gradually illustrate both the wide variety of "ways a language can be", and also a bird's-eye view of how historical linguists trace the origins of these language families.
It's a fun way to have another pass at some general linguistic concepts, and some concepts about historical linguistics in particular. And it is great to have one glimpse, however brief or general, of every family of languages in the world. Highly recommended.
For next week: I'm watching season one of One Day at a Time and season one of Westworld. (Oh, I have so many opinions about the latter.) I'm reading some Spanish-language Marvel comics and about to start another audiocourse of "Med School for Everyone".
Mood: contemplative · Music: none