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Publisher's Summary

This volume celebrates six such languages - Ancient Greek, Latin, Old English, Sanskrit, Old Irish, and Biblical Hebrew - by first introducing listeners to their most distinctive features, then showing how these linguistic traits play out in short excerpts from actual ancient texts. It explores, for instance, how Homer's Greek shows signs of oral composition, how Horace achieves striking poetic effects through interlaced word order in his Latin, and how the poet of Beowulf attains remarkable intensity of expression through the resources of Old English. But these are languages that have shared connections as well. Listeners will understand how the Sanskrit of the Rig Veda uses words that come from roots found also in English, how turns of phrase characteristic of the Hebrew Bible found their way into English, and that even as unusual a language as Old Irish still builds on common Indo-European linguistic patterns.

Very few people have the opportunity to learn these languages, and they can often seem mysterious and inaccessible: Drawing on a lucid and engaging writing style and with the aid of clear English translations throughout, this book aims to give all listeners, whether scholars, students, or interested novices, an aesthetic appreciation of just how rich and varied they are.

©2020 Coulter H. George (P)2021 Tantor

What listeners say about How Dead Languages Work

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  • 09-29-21

Surprisingly fun

This book was more fun than it had any right to be, given how dry the subject matter is often treated.

4 people found this helpful

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Useless but interesting

So this book is completely useless, but it is interesting-ish. It took the writer of this book a full ten minutes just to say that the only reason you should learn a dead language is to read it. No shit dude. It honestly teaches you absolutely nothing about how to actually read anything, but it does bring up some interesting points about language in general that make it still worth listening to.

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Enjoyable for lovers of linguistics

I found this book fascinating. The author goes through Ancient Greek, Latin, Old English, Sanskrit, Old Irish and Hebrew giving examples of what makes each language unique.

There are some parts that get tedious like when dictionaries of words or word forms are read. I think these sections lend themselves better to print than in audio form but on the whole it didn't detract enough for me to stop listening.

The flip side is that it is nice having the narrator pronounce the words which can be difficult to tell strictly from reading.

All in all I would recommend this book to all English speakers who want to know more about these languages and language in general.