A History of Iran; Empire of the Mind

A History of Iran; Empire of the Mind. Michael Axeworthy, Basic Books, 2008. Reviewed by Graham Mulligan The division between nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples and settled, crop-growing agriculturalists, created a tension that drives history. Nomadic wealth was in livestock, which meant it was moveable and they could escape threats or attack. By contrast peasant farmers were vulnerable, especially at harvest time, when the accumulated value of a year’s work could


Trip of the Tongue, Cross-country Travels In Search of America’s Languages

Trip of the Tongue, Cross-country Travels In Search of America’s Languages; Elizabeth Little; Bloomsbury, 2012   Little is an obvious fan of language study. This book traces her search for languages (in the US) that are disappearing or at least are in danger, in the face of the predominance of English. It isn’t an academic study and it isn’t as broad-based as the title might suggest, however it is an

Words and Rules

Words and Rules; The Ingredients of Language; Stephen Pinker, Basic Books 1999   Reviewed by Graham Mulligan   The subject of this book is regular and irregular verbs. Everyone leans their native language in roughly the same way; lots of words and concepts assembled together following patterns and rules. People don’t just “blurt out words but rather combine them into phrases and sentences. So, what’s the issue with the verbs?

Dreaming in Chinese

Dreaming in Chinese, Mandarin lessons in life, love and language. Deborah Fallows, 2010 Reviewed by Graham Mulligan Deborah Fallows is a linguist married to a journalist, James Fallows. They have lived in Shanghai and Beijing and struggled to learn some Mandarin. This is her collection of fourteen useful, commonly-heard words or phrases and some cultural tales that they inspired her to relate.

Xin nian kuaile

花開 富貴 竹報 平安 Huākāi fùgùi. Zhúbào píng ān This is the Year of the Dragon. Mandarin learning sites Here are some of my favourites: http://www.mdbg.net This is a good word dictionary and can be synced with Skritter.

The Last Lingua Franca

The Last Lingua Franca; English Until the Return of Babel Nicholas Ostler; Walker; 2010 Summary by Graham Mulligan Lingua Franca was the common contact language of the eastern Mediterranean in which Greeks and Turks could talk to Frenchmen and Italians. In 1204 Constantinople fell to the Franks who were from Venice. Many now regard English as a lingua franca spread by Anglo-American colonialism and economic interests. Indeed it is the