This is a delightful little manual about the author's conlang, Toki Pona. A small community has coalesced around the language since she posted it onliThis is a delightful little manual about the author's conlang, Toki Pona. A small community has coalesced around the language since she posted it online and this self-published book is the result of numerous requests she received to create a book.
The language itself is pretty cool, but I'm even more interested in the stories behind conlangs like this. However, it seems to me that she is rather reserved about the whole thing and interviews are hard to find. (This book doesn't really say much about her motivations and creative process.) I gather she created it while fighting depression as a way to channel her thinking. Toki Pona is extremely minimalist and has a very zen-like feel. Phonologically, it sounds primitive--you can imagine being shipwrecked on an island where the hunter-gatherer natives speak Toki Pona. It also includes a neat heiroglyphic writing system that reminds me of the Mayan glyphs.
Wow, a fair number of angry 1-star reviews of this book here on Goodreads. I suspect these are anti-Chomskyites or bitter social scientists who didn'tWow, a fair number of angry 1-star reviews of this book here on Goodreads. I suspect these are anti-Chomskyites or bitter social scientists who didn't like Pinker's criticism of relativism in the final chapter. Or possibly, johnny-come-latelys who are carrying over their critique from his later book, The Blank Slate. As a pop-sci overview of modern linguistics (ie. the whole point of the book), this is excellent.
Some random thoughts on criticism: Within the field Pinker certainly has staked out his own position as a defender of many of Chomsky's ideas (Chomsky the brilliant linguist, not Chomsky the idiot leftist tool), but the only reason to whine about that and give 1-star is if you aspire to be the ideologue you claim Pinker is. After all, these ideas are fundamental to the field and this is a very well-written book. As it happens, I agree with Pinker's views but to prove I don't review along party lines like one of these jackass whiners, check out my review of The Mismeasure of Man where I take heat for defending Gould despite not swallowing his relativism wholesale. (Incidentally, Pinker criticizes Gould several times herein.) I think Pinker does an admirable job trying to transcend false dichotomies like nature vs. nurture, which is why it annoys me so to see such ignorant reviews criticizing him for doing the opposite. ...more
This is an old grammar-translation style Teach Yourself book. Although it was originally written in 1939, it stayed in print for several decades thereThis is an old grammar-translation style Teach Yourself book. Although it was originally written in 1939, it stayed in print for several decades thereafter and still remains a pretty good resource. One could learn Spanish using only this book, but these days it is more suitable as a grammar supplement to an audio-heavy modern course like Pimsleur. (Also note that it doesn't drill the 2nd person at all. It uses Usted exclusively, although it lists the 2nd person in conjugation tables.)
I like how compact this little volume is. Each lesson is 2-3 pages long, covering a logical chunk of grammar, and ends with a set of exercises in translation in both directions. The answer key is complete, which effectively doubles the number of example sentences since you could do them all again in reverse. At the midway point, the Spanish-English exercises become a narrative story about a tourist visiting Spain.
I spent about an hour per lesson, usually spread over several days. About two-thirds into the book the quality of my answers to the exercises really started to decline, particularly my command of verb tenses and idioms. I would have gotten a lot more out of those lessons by revising more but I just kept going instead. I expect to come back and re-read the latter half of the book at some point, but I need a break for now....more
My wife brought this home for me from Cornwall. Little more than a pamphlet, it is a decent overview of the history of Cornish. Ellis' full-length treMy wife brought this home for me from Cornwall. Little more than a pamphlet, it is a decent overview of the history of Cornish. Ellis' full-length treatment, The Cornish Language and Its Literature, was published in 1976 so this pamphlet has the benefit of covering the happenings in the Cornish revival since then, most notably the contributions of Celtic scholar, Nicholas Williams.
This book is perfect for native English speakers with little Latin knowledge. Since I've got a couple years of Latin under my belt now and have read oThis book is perfect for native English speakers with little Latin knowledge. Since I've got a couple years of Latin under my belt now and have read other similar books, I didn't get a whole lot out of it. However, it is ideal as a survey text for folks studying Italian, French, Spanish, or Latin and want some historical context behind their practical study....more
This book is based on a series of radio shorts from 2005 called Talkin' About Talk produced at the College of Charleston. The College has made the recThis book is based on a series of radio shorts from 2005 called Talkin' About Talk produced at the College of Charleston. The College has made the recordings available on their website and through iTunesU.
The book (and radio program) are exactly what it says it is: quick introductory essays on a range of topics in the broad field of linguistics that are good starting points for interested laypeople.
The only minor criticism I have is that it can be a bit rah-rah, overly positive about the quality, effectiveness, and success of our language teaching methodologies and educational institutions. Considering the radio programs were part of a marketing/outreach effort for an event (the CAL "2005 Year of Languages" campaign) sponsored by those institutions, that's not much of a surprise....more
I coincidentally found this at a book sale a week after being assigned the first chapter in a Mythgard class. The first chapter is a lot of "Tolkien wI coincidentally found this at a book sale a week after being assigned the first chapter in a Mythgard class. The first chapter is a lot of "Tolkien worked on this OED entry, then that one, and this one too"--informative but dry. The rest of the book about his reviving and coining of words and is more interesting reading. The "Word Studies" section is a handy resource for students and scholars of Tolkien to be aware of the connotations, associations, and allusions Tolkien was thinking of when he chose a particular word....more
First, this book exists in several incarnations in the Teach Yourself series. If the author is Diarmuid Ó Sé then the substance of the book and audioFirst, this book exists in several incarnations in the Teach Yourself series. If the author is Diarmuid Ó Sé then the substance of the book and audio recordings are the same. So, this newer "Complete Irish" is the same content as the 90's era "Teach Yourself Irish" by Ó Sé. Save a few bucks and buy a used copy of the old book and find the audio online.
Second, the generally positive ratings this book (in all its forms) has received on Goodreads must be from casual, inexperienced language learners. It has a very disorganized grammar presentation, haphazard vocabulary and pronunciation assistance, and incomplete glossary. As just one example, the recording of the months of the year from Chapter 6 only includes 10 months!
If this was the only book on the planet for learning Irish, I could use it. Since I own better materials, I'm moving on. Perhaps I'll come back to it just for the easy Irish reading material after I complete a decent course (Progress in Irish and Buntus Cainte for instance).
I did this series twice--once last summer right before a trip to Italy and just now for review in preparation for more serious study. My snobbery makeI did this series twice--once last summer right before a trip to Italy and just now for review in preparation for more serious study. My snobbery makes me want to look down on this course as too simple and slow, but I have to confess it is effective. Each lesson is 30 minutes for a total of 15 hours. You can listen to one per day and rarely does a lesson need to be repeated because repetition is already built into the content. I do it while getting ready in the morning.
Frankly, the phrases that it teaches are largely geared toward getting American businessmen laid. I suppose that could be a plus or a minus depending on your needs... I'll be continuing on to series II and III while working through a grammar book at the same time....more
Pretty cool book, but it got a little formulaic in the middle. Thankfully, the ending was rescued by the awesome chapter on swears with sexual connotaPretty cool book, but it got a little formulaic in the middle. Thankfully, the ending was rescued by the awesome chapter on swears with sexual connotations.
Being a language dilettante with a soft spot for dead or rare literary languages, I was pretty fascinated with Yiddish going in. Learning about Yiddish culture has cooled that somewhat since it seems so heavily permeated with religion.
Since Yiddish heavily borrows from German and Hebrew, perhaps I'll take a stab at learning it when I already have some proficiency in those. The relative wealth of Yiddish material online is a big plus....more
I suspect Fenollosa's argument breaks down if one looks too closely at his chosen examples (in Chinese), but the heart of this brilliant essay is whatI suspect Fenollosa's argument breaks down if one looks too closely at his chosen examples (in Chinese), but the heart of this brilliant essay is what he has to say about poetic diction and metaphor as the foundation of language.
I find it interesting that seemingly unrelated things I've read have made similar points--for example, much of what the Inklings (Tolkien, Lewis, Barfield) or Esperanto writers (eg. Piron's essay Esperanto from the Viewpoint of a Writer) have to say on poetics....more
Technically I have a few more chapters to go, but I'm gonna go ahead and review it.
If Wheelock's Latin were a basketball player, it'd be great at mak
Technically I have a few more chapters to go, but I'm gonna go ahead and review it.
If Wheelock's Latin were a basketball player, it'd be great at making foul shots, but utterly unable to dribble.
The good: Wheelock does a good job of teaching you Latin grammar. The bad: it does a good job teaching you Latin grammar--and nothing else. This book teaches you to "read" Latin sentences like algebraic equations--break a contextless sentence into its component parts and solve for the subject, verb, etc. This approach goes against everything we know about how the brain acquires language.
When it does offer reading passages with some context, many are epigrams or poetry which feature tricky syntax. Not until you've completed the entire 40 chapters of grammar do you encounter more than one paragraph of contiguous, simple Latin prose. Each chapter ends with a rambling page or two about some ancient Latin graffiti--pages and pages wasted on what amounts to a few sentences that could have been dedicated to useful, graded reading passages. It also tries to insert as much unadapted Latin as possible, as early as possible. Because, you know, new Latin students should cut their teeth on Cicero just as ESL students do with Shakespeare...
Considering that the main thing one can do with Latin is read in it, any course intended for beginners should be focused on developing reading proficiency, but this is not the aim of this book. Wheelock teaches you to translate Latin into English with the aid of a dictionary. If that's all you want, Wheelock is for you. If your goal is to have read at least one simple book--or even a short story--in Latin after a year of study, then this is not the book for you.
It's not that this book is horrible, it is not. However, I think the approach is all wrong for "a book which provides both the roots and at least some literary fruits of a sound Latin experience for those who will have only a year or so of Latin in their entire educational career" (Preface). With this goal in mind, labeling the various uses of the ablative or subjunctive clause types would not be high on my list of importance. Ernest Blum outlines the why and how of a program that would address the scenario Wheelock intended to with his book....more
This is a tricky book to rate. I quite liked it but it has some problems, most of which it shares with aspects of Tolkien's "On Fairy-Stories" and "MyThis is a tricky book to rate. I quite liked it but it has some problems, most of which it shares with aspects of Tolkien's "On Fairy-Stories" and "Mythopoeia" (Tree and Leaf) and C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy.
Barfield traces the development of the Indo-European mindset through explication of the etymologies of choice word groups--first geographically with a focus on England, then conceptually. His thesis is that the history of this language group "is the shifting of the centre of gravity of consciousness from the cosmos around him into the personal human being himself."
Clearly, Barfield is in agreement with his friends that the mythological has been unfairly abused by the scientific or rational mindset, particularly since the 19th century. I don't necessarily disagree with this assessment but, like Tolkien and Lewis, implicit in his argument is the idea that the mythological can and should be on par with (or superior to) the rational. I don't think this position is tenable. Barfield writes:
Plato had deduced the sense-world from what we have called the inner world, and [...] his philosophy had remained admittedly bankrupt as far as detailed knowledge of the mechanism of the outer world was concerned. Nineteenth-century science, on the other hand, deduced the inner from the outer [...], but was wellnigh bankrupt as far as the inner world was concerned.
Barfield does not seem to recognize that this is an unequal comparison. For while science has explicitly demonstrated the failings of Platonism when it attempts empirically-verifiable assertions, the best Barfield can offer for evidence of science's "bankruptcy" is his dissatisfaction with it.
These 'romantic' notions might be absurd, but they were at least pleasant. 'We do not care for seeing through the falsehood,' wrote Addison, 'and willingly give ourselves up to so agreeable an imposture.'
If Barfield and friends offer up imaginative fiction as a compliment to science, an Hegelian compromise between the Platonic and "mechanic" outlooks, then fine. Instead, the above sentiment (and others I could quote from Tolkien and Lewis) belie such a desire....more
I'm not sure when I will get to this one, but after a trip to Ireland it has certainly moved up the amorphous to-read queue. While in Ireland, I boughI'm not sure when I will get to this one, but after a trip to Ireland it has certainly moved up the amorphous to-read queue. While in Ireland, I bought several books in Irish, including a Roddy Doyle and Harry Potter in Irish.
There is so much great information in here that it requires repeat readings over several years, especially Part II. (I'm on my first pass.) Consider tThere is so much great information in here that it requires repeat readings over several years, especially Part II. (I'm on my first pass.) Consider this book a meta-manual for learning how to learn languages.
It is divided into four parts. Part I is a "natural history" of language. Part II covers the "hybrid heritage" of English as a language which straddles the Germanic and Romance branches of the Indo-European language tree. Part III covers language problems and planning movements. Part IV is a "language museum" of comparative vocabulary tables.
The most fascinating feature of this book is how it frames being a native English speaker as a positive, not a negative. While speaking English might be a disincentive to learn other languages, it can also be a great base to learn from due to its hybrid Germanic/Romantic vocabulary. As such, the book covers Swedish, Danish, Dutch, and German in the Teutonic track and French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian in the Romance track, not to mention plenty of discussion of parent languages like Latin and Old English.
The Loom of Language shares much information and spirit with The Seven Sieves. The latter is also very good, but Loom is more comprehensive and easier to find. There is even a scanned copy available on Archive.org.
As I said above, Part II is a treasure trove. Bodmer distills everything a student needs to know about sound correspondences, etc. to make connections across the outlined languages and accelerate learning. The only annoyance is that the huge tables in Part IV aren't available online somewhere as spreadsheets (the book was written in the '40s) so one could import them into a spaced repetition system like Anki for efficient learning. I'm working on typing these out for my own purposes, but this will take awhile.
I have so much to say about how awesome this book is, but instead I will point you to my review of Wheelock and say that Lingua Latina is everything WI have so much to say about how awesome this book is, but instead I will point you to my review of Wheelock and say that Lingua Latina is everything Wheelock is not. Next, I will exhort you to check out the following resources about learning Latin, from which all my opinions are derived anyway (and which is supported fully by my subjective experience):
Update: Well, I've officially finished this; still love it. The final two lessons cover poetic meters and grammatical terms. Before starting Lingua Latina II I'm going to switch it up a bit and power through a bunch of Latin readers, get some big chunks of Latin prose under my belt....more
This is a companion reader to the first 24 chapters of Lingua Latina I: Familia Romana. Each Colloquium is graded to the level of the Familia chapterThis is a companion reader to the first 24 chapters of Lingua Latina I: Familia Romana. Each Colloquium is graded to the level of the Familia chapter and expands on the various story lines of that book. As such, it can't really stand on its own, but is still a great supplement.
I think it is most useful as a double-check that you understood everything from the Lingua Latina chapter. After I had studied the chapter, listened to the recording, and worked through all the exercises, the last thing I would do is read the story in Colloquia. If I understood everything I knew I could move on to the next chapter; if not, I would revise as needed....more
I read this very shallowly, not yet being proficient in a single romance language (though I'm working on my Italian). I expect to return to this bookI read this very shallowly, not yet being proficient in a single romance language (though I'm working on my Italian). I expect to return to this book regularly through the years. It is a very practical strategy for leveraging your existing knowledge of a romance language to build proficiency in the others.
The 7 "sieves" are strategies build on identifying commonalities between these languages (ie. in vocabulary, sound correspondences, spelling & pronunciation, morphosyntax, affixes). The book covers French, Catalan, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian, though it would be easy to expand this list using the text as a model. It walks you through the 7 sieves with sample texts for illustration of each concept and provides a "miniportrait" of each language with a sketch of the history, pronunciation, and structure.
Though I only glanced at them this time, I like that the book provides very useful word lists for the relevant sieves. Many resources make the obvious suggestion of trying to recognize cognates, etc. This book tells you exactly how to spot them when they are non-obvious due to sound and/or spelling changes. It also has an analysis of the core "Pan-Romance" vocabulary as well as common "Profile Words" for each language. A profile word is what it calls a word that is specific to a single language....more
A nice overview of the history of the use of Latin in under 200 pages. Perhaps a bit too short for my tastes, but enjoyable. The first section deals wA nice overview of the history of the use of Latin in under 200 pages. Perhaps a bit too short for my tastes, but enjoyable. The first section deals with Latin in Ancient Rome. The second section is about Latin through the Middle Ages and Renaissance and focused primarily on Christianity, which is reasonable given history but I would've preferred more information about secular literature and less on how Latin is used for scientific terminology. The third section is a short grammar sketch with accompanying word and phrase lists which I found largely pointless....more