Cover image for
The atlas of languages : the origin and development of languages throughout the world / consultant editors, Bernard Comrie, Stephen Matthews, and Maria Polinksy [i.e. Polinsky] ; foreword by Jean Aitchison.
New York : Facts On File, c2003.
Rev. ed.
224 p. : col. ill., col. maps ; 30 cm.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 219-220) and index.
Other Authors:
Comrie, Bernard, 1947-

Matthews, Stephen, 1963-

Polinsky, Maria.


Material Type
Call Number
Reference Book P107.A881

On Order



This book fully documents the origin and development of language throughout the world, how certain languages have died out and how new words emerged. In addition the book documents ancient and modern alphabet systems.



The origins of language have long been the subject of myth and conjecture. Today, scientists and scholars are rendering these origins less obscure with clues from linguistic and archaeological evidence. Written by a panel of eminent linguists, The Atlas of Languages, Revised Edition guides the general reader through the mysterious and exciting world of languages and linguistics. In a detailed account of the language families of each region of the world, this comprehensive work identifies and explains interesting and sometimes unique features of vocabulary and grammar. The evolution of more than 200 languages and their deep-seated similarities as well as surprising differences are revealed in clear, precise language. The writing systems of the world are also examined in some detail, and the issue of disappearing languages is addressed. Languages that are threatened with extinction, as local languages vanish along with traditional ways of life, are identified, and efforts to preserve and revive them are reviewed within this framework. Illuminating the informative text are 100 photographs, 30 full-color maps that reflect the historical and contemporary geographical distribution of languages, and fascinating box features that highlight points of general interest. A glossary of linguistic terms and 40 tables illustrating the evolution of the world's major alphabets complete this fascinating reference. Excerpted from The Atlas of Languages by Bernard Comrie, Stephen Matthews, Maria Polinsky All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Jean AitchisonBernard ComrieStephen MatthewsStephen Matthews and Maria PolinskyStephen MatthewsOwen NancarrowMaria Polinsky and Geoffrey SmithPeter AustinJohn StonhamGeoffrey Smith and Stephen MatthewsRoger WoodardStephen Matthews and Maria Polinsky
Forewordp. 6
Introductionp. 8
Chapter 1 Development and Spread of Languagesp. 16
Chapter 2 Europe and Eurasiap. 36
Chapter 3 South and Southeast Asiap. 56
Chapter 4 Africa and the Middle Eastp. 72
Chapter 5 Pacificp. 90
Chapter 6 Australiap. 108
Chapter 7 The Americasp. 124
Chapter 8 Pidgins and Creolesp. 142
Chapter 9 Writing Systemsp. 160
Epiloguep. 208
Glossary of termsp. 218
Bibliographyp. 219
Indexp. 220
Acknowledgmentsp. 224