We currently have 6,000 languages in active use across the world; by 2050 we will have lost half of them. Peter K. Austin, in — One Thousand Languages — takes us on a multicultural tour of the most interesting remaining languages.
Not every writing effort is magnificently rewarded.
Witness one review of the book on Amazon.com:
The real problem I have with the book, though, comes down to accuracy
and editing. I don’t know to what extent Prof. Austin supervised the
entirety of the book, but I was very disappointed with lack of
fact-checking and some egregious omissions. For example, some (but
sadly, not all) of the languages include a small inset with the numbers
from one to ten in that language.
For the section on Arabic, one of the
eleven “world languages” given their own section, the Arabic script is
not only backwards (read from left to right) but each letter is left
unconnected to others in the word. Arabic is NEVER written this way,
and there are 200+ million people in the world who could have corrected
this. Malagasy, the language of Madagascar, has 20 million speakers,
not 10 million (as the book claims). The Russian word for “one” (in
counting) is raz, not odin (in Cyrillic, of course). Et cetera.
In addition, most of the later languages in the book (ie, the
non-“world” languages) get short shrift. Languages are presented
individually as rather random collections of facts, with no real
consistency in how each language is described (eg, sample
words/phrases, grammar, geographical spread, linguistic history) – it’s
a crapshoot for any given language. Some of this is probably due to
lack of knowledge, but it would have been nice, for example, to have
the numbers from 1-10 for each language, just to get a feel for it.
How many people would blindly accept what is printed in the book without questioning the content or the intention?
The fact that one reviewer took major issue with the accuracy of the book proves just how important feedback and consideration is in the writing and editing process.
My philosophy as an author and publisher is — “more eyes on the page, more errors caught” — and Peter K. Austin, it appears, was not only snared, but also impaled by his lack of extra eyes.