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The Languages of Native North America

Title: The Languages of Native North America

Author: Marianne Mithun
Format: Paperback
List Price: $58.00
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The Languages of Native North America

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Editorial Reviews
Product Description:
This book is a comprehensive and authoritative survey of the native North American languages. These several hundred languages show tremendous genetic and typological diversity, and offer numerous challenges to current linguistic theory. The book includes an overview of their special characteristics, descriptions of special styles, a catalog of the languages that details their locations, genetic affiliations, number of speakers, and major structural features, and lists published material on them.

Product Details
  • Paperback: 795 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; New Ed edition (June 7, 2001)
  • ISBN: 052129875X
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.0 x 8.8 inches
  • Average Customer Review: based on 4 reviews.

Customer Reviews
Avg. Customer Review:

Far and away the best book on Amerindian languages, November 28, 2004
Reviewer: Matthew Menzenski "conlanger" (Ithaca, New York)

As someone who creates languages for fun, I've read a lot of linguistics books, searching for ideas and inspiration. Recently, I became interested in polysynthesis, but could find no detailed information on it. Then I found this book. The first three hundred pages are full of unique linguistic features. Polysynthesis is covered in great detail, as is almost every rare grammatical structure. The sheer scope of this book is tremendous. Mithun claims to include every attested North American language, and I believe her. Also, the extensive references (almost 150 pages) make it easy to locate information on specific languages (like full grammars, phonologies, et cetera). Highly recommended to anyone interested in linguistics, and a must-read for any conlanger.

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful:

The astonishing diversity of human speech, May 3, 2003

Reviewer: S. Gustafson "Holy Roman Emperor" (New Albany, IN USA)

People who are interested in unusual languages, like myself, probably have some familiarity with Marc Okrand's Klingon, created to be the speech of an alien race. This artificial language throws in some less than common sounds, and creates a somewhat unusual syntax, and attempts to sell the result as the speech of an alien race.

A few minutes with this book will suggest to the reader who takes an interest in these things that Klingon is a profound failure. Here we have a record of people here on Earth who have created alternative linguistic structures that are even more unfamiliar to English speakers. This book will open your mind to the astonishing variety of ways human verbal communication can be categorised and organised. We have languages with no clear distinction between nouns and verbs, and languages that can give tense and conditionality to adjectives. We have languages that use different pronouns for a 'we' that includes the person being addressed, and a 'we' that excludes that person.

For a reader with interests in these matters, this will be a fascinating, if somewhat dry, read. Your joy at being introduced to this fascinating variety will be tempered, though, by the ever-present elegiac note in these pages. Literally hundreds of these tongues are still spoken only by a handful of aging people; hundreds more have gone silent.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

A Great Linguistic Reference, March 17, 2003

Reviewer: Laura Redish (Twin Cities, MN)

This book is chock full of linguistic information about the many diverse Amerindian languages and has an excellent bibliography. My only regret is that it includes almost nothing on Amerindian sociolinguistics. It would probably be difficult and dry reading for people not already interested in linguistics; most of the book is fairly technical.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:

Great reference, February 12, 2002
Reviewer: A reader
Marianne Mithun is *the* expert on Native American languages. This book is an excellent resource for grad students, undergrads, professors, and anyone else interested in the languages of the Americas. Mithun describes in detail language phenomena and language families, and includes an extensive bibliography in case you can't find what you're looking for in this book.

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