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jump to last post 1-2 of 2 discussions (4 posts)

Why does our species have so many different languages?

  1. andrew savage profile image60
    andrew savageposted 5 years ago

    Why does our species have so many different languages?

    If each of us is a descendant of the same lower primate and region in a time from long ago, how did our culture fracture into the thousands and our tongue break into over seven thousand pieces?
    If we are all the descendants of the same ape or perhaps even a version of Adam and Eve, why do we not speak one language?

  2. SidKemp profile image93
    SidKempposted 5 years ago

    There are two parts to the answer on this one. The first is that linguistic drift is a natural phenomenon. Prior to rapid travel, instant communication, and wide-spread literacy, two villages could develop different accents or dialects that were mutually incomprehensible even if they were only 30 miles apart. We see evidence of this in studies of accents in England from the Middle Ages.  The drift occurs in the pronunciation of both vowels and consonants, in contractions, and, more slowly, in grammar and syntax. So it is quite possible that, over 50,000 years, 7,000 languages could have formed from one original as people migrated around the entire planet and lost touch with one another. (It would be very surprising if, after 20,000 years apart, a 'Kung Bushman and an Inuit Eskimo could understand one another!)

    The second possibility is that, when humanity spread out from the original tribe of Eve (either evolutionary or Biblical), the capacity for language existed, but language was not fully developed. So a few core languages might have developed completely independently. This might account for some core structural components of language. That is, things like some languages (like Chinese) being tonal, while other are atonal, some being syllabic (like Japanese) while others are alphabetic, some using clicks, like 'Kung, while others do not: Factors such as these might arise from very early independent evolution of complex languages.

    Two facts remain: Most changes in language are simplifications. Older languages in all language groups tend to be more complicated. (For example, English used to have singular, dual, and plural forms. Now it has only singular and plural.) And, even with the advent of modern communications slowing the change down, languages are still changing.

    1. andrew savage profile image60
      andrew savageposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      Do you believe that this fracturing of language is reversible to a degree? Will globalism help us to develop one unified language?

    2. SidKemp profile image93
      SidKempposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      The invention of writing and recorded media and speed-of-light communications creates a whole new picture. If education becomes universal, a common language may come into being. It's too early to tell & we'd lose a lot of cultural beauty on the w

 
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