Monday, June 23, 2008

Book Review..The Story of French

The Story of French. Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow.
St Martin's Griffin.2006.450 pages and appendices.

This book is divided into four parts.It attempts to trace the origin,spread,adaptation and changes of the French language.And pretty much succeeds in doing that.
I found the chapters on the spread of the language to Africa and North America very interesting.There are also some thought provoking remarks on the rise of cultural diplomacy and soft power in later chapters dealing with the language adapting to post 1945 conditions.
"Of course like religion and ideology,language can contribute to(or detract from) a country's influence in traditional spheres such as diplomacy.Japan is the world's second economic power,yet its language (like its religion) has little influence,making Japan's overall influence in the world weaker."pgs 285,286.

The book contains a lot of facts and figures and information I'd never given much thought to or even heard of.Case in point is an organisation known as the Francophonie ,described in Chapter 16 as "often compared to the British Commonwealth"pg 339.Its a group of 53 nations organised on the basis that they share the French language.
Another example can be found on pg35 where the authors note the bad characters in Harry Potter had "names that are clearly inspired by Old French or that have a French etymology: Malfoy(bad faith),Voldemort(flight of death),Lestrange(stranger)".

All in all,if you are even vaguely interested in languages or if you ever wondered why people in Belgium,Senegal and Quebec speak French or pondered how languages evolve this book provides some answers.

The contents of a snack pack I found in the bargain bin of my local convenience store.While the majority of the snacks are rice based and crunchy,others contain seaweed or a fishy component and are quite hot and spicy.They go well with beer or other liquid refreshments at this time of year.

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