Cover image for
The World's major languages / edited by Bernard Comrie.
London ; New York : Routledge, 2009.
2nd ed.
xvi, 911 p. : ill., maps ; 26 cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Other Authors:
Comrie, Bernard, 1947-
9780415353397 (hbk.)

0415353394 (hbk.)

9780203301524 (ebk)

0203301528 (ebk)


Material Type
Call Number
Book P371.W927 2009

On Order



This volume features over 50 of the world's languages and language families. The featured languages have been chosen based on the number of speakers, their role as official languages and their cultural and historical importance. Each language is looked at in depth, and the chapters provide information on both grammatical features and on salient features of the language's history and cultural role.

This second edition has been updated and revised. Two new languages, Amharic and Javanese, have been included.

This accessible volume will appeal to anyone with an interest in linguistics.

Key features:

Attention is paid to both grammatical and sociolinguistic features Attention is concentrated on the world's major languages Designed to be accessible to all readers with an interest in language.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

The second edition of Comrie's classic linguistics reference is just as impressive and valuable a resource as the first. Each of its 52 essays, written by a recognized expert, focuses on a language, group, or family that is widely spoken and/or is of major cultural importance. Most of the original authors have remained since the 1987 edition (CH, Feb'88), and have updated or completely rewritten their chapters and bibliographies as needed. Two new languages, Amharic and Javanese, have been added. The hierarchical organization ("Indo-European Languages," "Romance Languages," and "French" are separate chapters) lets readers see how protolanguages were reconstructed and how their descendant languages developed. While standard elements are discussed in detail--geographic distribution, number of speakers, history, sociocultural background, phonology, morphology, and syntax--important or unique aspects of each language also are emphasized. Thus readers will learn about the Japanese written language, affective language in Tamil, and regional variations of English. Relevant charts listing alphabets, phonemes, verb conjugations, and noun declensions are abundant throughout, as are maps and many other examples of language usage. This excellent, thorough resource has an unsurpassed amount of detail for a single-volume survey. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Academic libraries supporting lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers. S. L. Johnson Eastern Illinois University

Table of Contents

1 Indo-European LanguagesPhilip Baldi
2 Germanic LanguagesJohn A. Hawkins
3 EnglishEdward Finegan
4 GermanJohn A. Hawkins
5 DutchJan G. Kooij
6 Danish, Norwegian and SwedishEinar Haugen
7 Latin and the Italic LanguagesR.G.G. Coleman
8 Romance LanguagesJohn N. Green
9 FrenchLinda R. Waugh and Monique Monville-Burston
10 SpanishJohn N. Green
11 PortugueseStephen Parkinson
12 ItalianNigel Vincent
13 RumanianGraham Mallinson
14 Slavonic LanguagesBernard Comrie
15 RussianBernard Comrie
16 PolishGerald Stone
17 Czech and SlovakDavid Short
18 Serbo-Croat: Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, SerbianGreville Corbett and Wayles Browne
19 GreekBrian D. Joseph
20 Indo-Aryan LanguagesGeorge Cardona
21 SanskritGeorge Cardona
22 Hindi-UrduYamuna Kachru
23 BengaliM.H. Klaiman
24 Iranian LanguagesJ.R. Payne and Behrooz Mahmoodi-Bakhtiari
25 PersianGernot L. Windfuhr
26 PashtoD.N. MacKenzie
27 Uralic LanguagesRobert Austerlitz
28 HungarianDaniel Abondolo
29 FinnishMichael Branch
30 Turkish and the Turkic LanguagesJaklin Kornfilt
31 Afroasiatic LanguagesRobert Hetzron
32 Semitic LanguagesRobert Hetzron and Alan S. Kaye
33 ArabicAlan S. Kaye
34 HebrewRobert Hetzron and Alan S. Kaye
35 AmharicGrover Hudson
36 Hausa and the Chadic LanguagesPaul Newman
37 Tamil and the Dravidian LanguagesSanford B. Steever
38 Tai LanguagesDavid Strecker
39 ThaiThomas John Hudak
40 VietnameseÃÉÃ1/4nh-Hoà Nguy.n
41 Sino-Tibetan LanguagesScott DeLancey
42 ChineseCharles N. Li and Sandra A. Thompson
43 BurmeseJulian K. Wheatley
44 JapaneseMasayoshi Shibatani
45 KoreanNam-Kil Kim
46 Austronesian LanguagesRoss Clark
47 Malay-IndonesianUri Tadmor
48 JavaneseMichael P. Oakes
49 TagalogPaul Schachter and Lawrence A. Reid
50 Niger-kordafian LanguagesDouglas Pulleyblank
51 YorubaDouglas Pulleyblank and O. lanike and O. la Orie
52 Swahili and BantuBenji Wald