A varied and sometimes erratic record of what I'm learning inside and outside of the classroom

Monday, October 25, 2010

Evolution of Language

I found this two-minute video on YouTube from the Berkley outlining the basics of evolution--what facilitates it, and some brief supportive arguments. Please--enjoy.

So I'm watching this video, and little lightbulbs start going off in my head indicating current connections (haha--sorry about the pun; I couldn't resist) between evolution of biological species and evolution of language. I know we're supposed to go historical on this topic, but I hope I'm not too far off the beaten path.

I'm in a linguistics class (ELANG 223) and right now we're talking about historical linguistics and the way the English language in particular has changed throughout its history. English is a language that has come through the Germanic branch of Indo-European, the mother language of Germanic, Latin/the Romance languages (Spanish, Italian, French), Hellenic (Greek, etc.), Sanskrit (the Indian equivalent of Latin) and so on. It has been so cool to see some of the systematic variations that have occurred to make our language the way it is today. For example, Old English was a highly inflected language, which means it had a lot of case endings to indicate grammatical relationships, and a few of those have survived to explain some of the irregular plural endings of our words--oxen, for instance. There are explanations for the irregular forms that tortured so many kids in elementary school...Brian Regan, for example. :) If you don't care to digress, skip to the next video.

I'm kind of on a YouTube kick right now (obviously), so I looked up Evolution of Language, and found this intriguing little video:

I found it interesting that Darwin himself drew parallels between evolution of species and evolution of language. However, according to the video, it appears that evolution seems to push language and species towards opposite ends of the spectrum; increasing the number of species and decreasing the number of languages. It would appear that due to the breadth of communication made possible by technology, we may be moving toward a more homogenized world language-wise. Will the whole world one day speak the same language? What language would that be? How would that affect us? It's interesting to think about.

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