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Spoken Here

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  446 ratings  ·  68 reviews
Half the world's languages are threatened with extinction over the next century, as English and the rest of the world's top twenty languages drive all before them. What ways of looking at the world will die along with them, what cultural riches, what experiences, histories and memories? And how does it feel to be one of the last remaining speakers of a language that is on ...more
Paperback, 322 pages
Published January 6th 2005 by Arrow (first published 2003)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,520)
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A Canadian poet and journalist goes around the world visiting speakers of moribund languages. Aborigines of Northern Australia progressed within a few generations from the Mesolithic to their current lives of crime, welfare dependency, junk food and resultant diabetes, and watching television. Unsurprisingly, young people among them consider American rap music (and the language thereof) to be more relevant to their lives than traditional creation myths (and the languages thereof). Murals depicti ...more
This book does a good job presenting an overview of endangered languages, and draws you in with the stories from real speakers of each language he focuses on. However, its just overview. If you have a general interest in language and linguistics, without a lot of background, read this book and enjoy it. Abley is not a linguist, and he takes the time in the first chapter to "gently remind" linguists they should try to make their work more accessible...well perhaps he should consider tha ...more
The only complaint I have about this book is that it isn't longer.

Its premise is essentially that a lot of languages are dying out in the modern world. Should we care? And if so, why?

Turns out (as you might suspect) we should care.

In our rapidly flattening world, this author thoughtfully articulates why we should appreciate its curves. And he does so without having to resort to complicated academic arguments.

What I find most fascinating is how many ways a group's vocabulary and grammar can re
Friederike Knabe
Have you ever wondered how you would react if *your* language was threatened with extinction? Would you miss it at all? What more would you lose than words and phrases? Mark Abley tracked the world for 10 years to pursue these and related questions. His discoveries make for an intriguing read spiked with some learning about local tongues like Boro, Yuchi, Provençal or Manx.

Language is used to express the worldview of its speakers, bur does it also shape and influence it? Are the connotations tha
Greg Fanoe
This isn't actually a book about threatened languages, it's just one long screed against globalization. And not well-reasoned arguments against globalization either, just a series of assertions. With a smattering of constant insults against linguists that smack of anti-intellectualism. Worse, there's barely any content about the actual languages profiled here. It's basically just "hey, they say stuff different from us". I bought this book because reviews said that the book contained interesting ...more
Spoken Here - Mark Abley

"In "Spoken Here," award-winning Canadian writer Mark Abley journeys from Australia to the Arctic seeking out languages in peril - Manx, Mohawk, Boro, Yiddish, and many more. He also visits places where the languages are fighting back - Wales, the Faeroe Islands, the Isle of Man - and charts the triumphant return of Hebrew, once reduced to a language of religious ceremony. While examining the forces that threaten rare languages, Abley reveals some delicious linguistic odd
SPOKEN HERE: Travels Among Endangered Languages is a poigant story of journeys on the theme of language diversity undertaken by Mark Abley. His survey includes the loss of indigenous languages in Australia and North America and the dwindling minority languages of Europe.

The loss, becoming ever faster, of the world's minority languages is a true tragedy, and Abley is to be commended for his effort. There are many fine points about his work. Unlike the average academic discussion of language diver
Abley has a point about minority languages being worth saving. The problem to me is that he’s making the wrong argument for it.

His angle on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis seems wrong. (Though I don’t know what the latest research is,) There’s doesn’t seem to be much evidence to support it in its strongest senses. So what’s the big deal? Abley repeatedly makes the point that when we lose a language, we literally lose a way of thinking. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem so according to research, though
Aug 07, 2009 David rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: Washington Post Book World, 5 Jun 05
Shelves: read-lang-lit
Not a bad book, just disappointing. The author is too prominent instead of letting the people he is reporting on speak for themselves.
A quick and interesting introduction to language ecology/the alarming problem of language death.
The author isn't a trained linguist, which I think does more good than bad for this book. He's not afraid to make some pretty unscientific assertions for the sake of painting a more vivid picture or writing a more compelling story. On the pother hand, without and professional insight, what is there to say about endangered languages? That languages are disappearing and that's bad? I didn't feel like I was learning very much. During the worst chapters I was all too aware of how little information ...more
John Blunden
Being a Welsh speaker myself, I must admit, I was eagerly looking forward to this book. And, although it is very good, I must say that, at times, it frustrated me.
As Mark Abley goes from community to community in which languages are beginning to fade away, he blends non-fiction very nicely with history, social commentary and linguistic study. By looking at several factors in a language’s demise, Abley does not let this book stagnate. Had this simply been a linguistic study of dying languages, I
The format of the book is a bunch of chapters about various “endangered” languages. The argument of the book is that we should fight against language death, because it leads to culture death.
Abley does make the case that language is intimately connected to culture. If a language dies, so does a culture. But Abley doesn’t justify his assumption that language/culture death is bad. Languages die out all the time, and always have. Abley's analogies, like his likening of English to Wal-Mart, sugges
I started reading this book six years ago, and then something happened and I wasn't able to finish. I thought about it a lot in the intervening time and always knew I would come back to it. Part journalism, part travel writing, part linguistics, I would recommend this book to anyone with a lay interest in language and culture. Each chapter focuses on a different obscure language in danger of going extinct because its last native speakers are dying and their descendants have learned to communicat ...more
Lisa Houlihan
Even better than his Prodigal Tongue, Mark Abley's explorations of diminishing (and the very occasional not-yet-diminishing) languages fascinated me from beginning (aboriginal Australian) to end (Welsh). The political implications of Mohawk and Iroquois, the literary ones of Provenal and Occitan, the religious ones of Yiddish and Hebrew (and Ladino, Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Provenal and Judeo-Persian, of which I had heard of only the first), are endlessly intricate and packed with meaning and possibi ...more
Odd mix here. Not too sure if the author accomplished what he was aiming for......

I mean, he mentions a few times how he wasn't there for politics, but that still seems to be what this book is about.

It's supposed to be about threatened languages from around the globe, but it's really a not-so-subtle decry against globalization. (His comparison of English to Wal-Mart made that abundantly clear.)

Within the individual language chapters (there are 7 of them), the content isn't very language-based. I
I can't remember where I heard the title Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages, but it had been on my Amazon wishlist for quite a while before I checked it out of the library. It's a book by a Canadian journalist about his travels to various parts of the globe, learning about and meeting with speakers of over a dozen "languages in peril." Some of these languages are about to die out completely, while others are on the upswing and appear to be making a comeback, or at least holding thei ...more
Back in college, I took an English course titled "Literature and Globalization". In addition to reading literary works like Translations by Brian Friel and 1984 by George Orwell from a linguistic perspective, we worked on group research projects on various dying languages around the world. This book was our reading for that portion of the semester.

It's a great read - informative, entertaining, and illuminating. I enjoyed the variety of languages that Abley chose to focus on, as well as his appr
This is a nice little ‘fluff’ book for anyone interested in languages, especially languages that you may never have heard of before, such as Mati Ke or Yuchi, or at least know nothing about, such as Manx or Provencal. But if you have the slightest amount of linguistic training, you’d better avoid the book, as you’ll probably give yourself eyestrain while rolling your eyes after nearly every other sentence.
This book is a loving tribute to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis – or rather, one should say Sa
this book would get a 5 for content and a 2 for writing. the style is journalistic in a bad sense of the word and includes a few factual errors that i'm aware of -- nevermind that ones i'm not. the writer has an agenda and does exactly what kept me out of journalism, he cherry-picks his examples to bolster the opinion he already had before he did any research. ugh. plus there's quite a lot of subconscious/tongue-in-cheek looking down at the minority language speakers and language advocates. even ...more
Fairly in-depth look at various languages and their settings. The aim is not to completely provide a deep, analytic study but to provide enough detail to give a feel for the language - how it is constructed - which in turn informs the speakers' mind sets to the world they live in. And thus, ultimately, the tragedy of lose of each as the spoken language dies.
For the lay-person as contrasted with The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language by J. McWhorter which has an academic style.
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. The topic was interesting and has definitely left me wanting to know more about all the tiny languages of the world. But the book itself was kind of a slog. First, the author is Canadian and the book had over-much Canadian focus to be of general interest to this American reader. For example, the chapter on Yiddish focused in large part on the Jewish community of Montreal. A sort of interesting peak at an unfamiliar community, but maybe not the b ...more
Edit to my initial rating:

I've reviewed all my ratings for the sixty or so books on my language-related shelf and, in all conscience, I can't continue to give this one four stars. The topic is entirely too specific, and while there is nothing about the author's style that antagonizes, there is also little about it that is memorable in a good way. Nor is there an overarching theme to the book, so that it is ultimately nothing more than the sum of its chapters. I can't imagine revisiting this boo
David R.
A very interesting "travelogue", but in this case focused more on selected locations where a minority language is struggling to survive (or advance). Abley takes us to Wales, the Isle of Man, Montreal, Nunavut, southeastern France, Oklahoma, and other places. The situations are diverse. For speakers of Yuchi and Provencal, for example, the question is survival of their tongue as aging speakers die out. For those of Manx, it's a matter of establishing credibility in a revival effort. And for Wels ...more
I read all books I can find on languages, past and present. And I know I have read many before on threatened languages. Never in such detail, though, and never from an author whose travels have given him first-hand experiences in the areas where the languages are disappearing. Lack of good transitions in a dense text seems to be one of my common complaints, however, and I make it again here.
When I picked up this book, I expected a collection of stories from a man's "travels among threatened languages." Instead I got something that read like a linguistics student's poorly written thesis. Abley tries and fails to integrate creative imagery with complicated linguistic terms, leaving the reader thrown between a story and a deep analysis of sentence structure. I did find the information on these few "threatened languages" intriguing, if only their stories were delivered by a more adept ...more
Jul 08, 2015 Katie_marie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any language or fact-lover
Shelves: non-fiction, language, own
Can the language we use to express ourselves change the way we think? After reading this book I believe so. One native language from North America consists mostly of verbs which gives a perspective of a dynamic, constantly fluctuating environment. Other languages divide the colour spectrum differently than the English, germanic and romance languages and may not have a name for the colour yellow but several that distinguish between colours that we consider green.

The author explores endangered, ne
I thought this was a great book. I was interested throughout, and the writing was informative and researched without being over the heads of those of us without the benefit of linguistics training.

I thought Mr. Abley did a great job of covering lots of little known languages and areas, and definitely made some passionate pleas for their survival.

He definitely has a bit of negativity toward English as an all-encompassing, universal language, and that feeling comes through in several aspects of th
Juliet Wilson
This is a book for anyone fascinated by languages. The author visits speakers of some of the most threatened languages in the world, visiting Australia, USA, Canada, Wales, France and The Isle of Man. He explores why the languages are threatened, looks at the structure of the languages and what is unique to each of them, what the world would lose if each of these languages were to disappear. He also looks at how people are trying to keep their language alive and tries to assess whether each lang ...more
Douglas Prats
I don't think there's much I could add to all the other comments, except to add my recommendation. Very interesting book which any armchair or professional linguist would be interested in reading.
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Mark Abley was born in England in 1955. As a small child his family moved to Canada, and he grew up in northern Ontario, southern Alberta and central Saskatchewan. He studied literature at the University of Saskatchewan and, after winning a Rhodes Scholarship, at St. John’s College, Oxford. As a young man Mark travelled in more than twenty countries in Europe and Asia. Aspiring to be a poet, he be ...more
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