BABEL takes you to the 20 mightiest languages of our time. Half of the world population are native speakers of one of these 20. Well over three quarters can speak at least one of them. And just over 90% live in countries where one of them is used by central government.
BABEL explores them all, from French to Japanese, from Spanish to Swahili and from Arabic to Tamil. It casts a surprising light on our neighbours and acquaintances, while introducing you to far-flung strangers that are well worth the journey.
Playful yet thorough, BABEL investigates one pertinent issue per language. What does it actually mean for Russian to be ‘related’ to English? How do non-alphabetic scripts, such as those of India and China, do the same job as our 26 letters? If Belgium and Canada have trouble keeping the linguistic peace, how do multilingual countries such as Indonesia manage? How did tiny but colonial Portugal spawn a major world language – and why didn’t tiny but colonial Holland? Why do Japanese women talk differently from men? And how did this book gain the author two Vietnamese nieces?
BABEL travels, observes and eavesdrops on the wide world of large languages: the letters and sounds, the cultures and conflicts, the deliberate reforms and the unplanned changes. A blend of inquiry and story-telling, BABEL exudes the same linguistic fascination that characterised LINGO.
BABEL is due out on 1 November (UK) and 4 November (US). Foreign-language editions (Spanish, Russian, Norwegian, Dutch and Mandarin) will come out in 2019.