Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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Jennifer
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer »

The more I think about it, the odder it gets. How can a language's syntax change so radically over time?

I can definitely, inherently "get" how vocabulary will be changed/corrupted over time, especially in the days before mass communication, when you could only speak with people in your immediate vicinity, so folks started adopting certain pronunciations in isolation from other regions. (I wonder: if the internet, or at least radio/TV, had existed when Rome fell, would various local dialects have still evolved into the modern "Romance languages," or would they have remained closer to true "Latin," without the gradual pronunciation changes which lead to today's Romance languages -- Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and French are the major ones? On a similar note, what if technology had largely been the same EXCEPT they had the printing press, so that when Rome fell, the majority of people in the provinces were literate in Latin -- if everyone kept reading and writing in that language after Rome fell, would it have remained "Latin" or would it still have changed into various Romance languages?).

So yeah: given isolated populations starting with the same language, especially one where the majority of people are illiterate and can neither write things down for future people to read nor read what people wrote in the past, over time their pronunciations will change, eventually enough to make them completely different words and vocabularies.

But how did different forms of syntax develop? I'm pretty sure the syntax of the Romance languages is that of Latin -- I had a well-duh insight just last night, regarding my previously mentioned difficulty grokking Spanish verbs because they conjugate theirs so differently than English -- we add entire extra words to a verb, whereas Spanish merely changes a suffix, so that a certain conjugation of "to try" requires a minimum of three words in English -- we will try -- but in Spanish you can say it in one word, the "trataremos" conjugation of "tratar": duh, that's the same way verbs work in Latin!

What specifically sparked THAT visit from Captain Obvious last night was my reading a book which mentioned Caligula's infamous quote "oderint, dem metuant" -- let them hate, so long as they fear. Latin also relies on verb conjugation WITHOUT the English method of adding extra words, and Spanish descended from Latin, silly me, how did it take me so freaking long to figure that out? (In Spanish, per Google translate, it only requires one word more than Latin: "déjalos odiar, mientras teman." OTOH, the Romance language of French added almost as many words as English: "laissez-les haïr, tant qu'ils ont peur.")

From that alone, it looks like French has corrupted away from the Latin far more than has Spanish. Oddly enough, it looks like Italian is also much more "corrupted" than Spanish, even though Italian speakers descended from the ones who stayed in Rome or at least on its peninsula: oderint dem metuant in italian is "lasciali odiare, fintanto che hanno paura."
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Jadagul
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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My sense is that most languages move from more inflected versions to more particle-marked versions over time. Church Latin is more preposition-heavy and less inflection-dependent than classical Latin was; Koine Greek is a lot more preposition-heavy than Attic or Dorian Greek were.

Grammar drifts over time as you either need to clarify distinctions, or stop needing to. You can see it live in English right now; "this shirt needs washed" is a grammatical variant, as is the whole AAVE progressive "be" and distinct handling of double negation. The collapse of "who/whom" down to nearly-invariant "who" has basically happened over your lifetime.

(And then there's also various creolization processes; part of the reason English grammar is fucked up is that it's a mix of old Anglo-Saxon, old Norse, old Norman French, and old Parisian French. The pronoun "they" comes from Norse, not old English; I believe the "-s" pluralization and the way we handle negation are both heavily Norman-influrenced.)
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Jennifer
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer »

Another thought: how much, if at all, will future languages change, now that mass communication and sound recordings both exist (and assuming it continues; no worldwide nuclear war or other catastrophe bringing down the worldwide comms grid and everyone's electricity, and so on)? Speculation: maybe in a thousand years, everything will have melted together into a single world language. We already have various languages borrowing words from others. English is close to a lingua franca in most of the modern business/tech world, though if China ever truly opened up (taking down the great firewall from its internet, so its people could also communicate freely with the rest of the planet), I expect you'd also see a lot of Mandarin words or phrases working their way into various languages too.

Or, conversely, will the various languages -- at least those languages which currently have mass media, with movies and prerecorded songs and such produced in their language -- mostly STOP the sort of "corruption" which eventually made Latin die out in favor of various corrupted "Romance languages?" Specifically, will this "corruption" halt because the sort of subtle pronunciation differences which over time evolved into different languages will not be an issue when you can actually hear recordings of how those words were pronounced by earlier generations? How much difference, if at all, is there between modern American English pronunciations, versus those you'd hear on radio recordings from a hundred years ago?
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Aresen
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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Jennifer wrote: 15 Oct 2020, 18:33 Another thought: how much, if at all, will future languages change, now that mass communication and sound recordings both exist (and assuming it continues; no worldwide nuclear war or other catastrophe bringing down the worldwide comms grid and everyone's electricity, and so on)? Speculation: maybe in a thousand years, everything will have melted together into a single world language. We already have various languages borrowing words from others. English is close to a lingua franca in most of the modern business/tech world, though if China ever truly opened up (taking down the great firewall from its internet, so its people could also communicate freely with the rest of the planet), I expect you'd also see a lot of Mandarin words or phrases working their way into various languages too.

Or, conversely, will the various languages -- at least those languages which currently have mass media, with movies and prerecorded songs and such produced in their language -- mostly STOP the sort of "corruption" which eventually made Latin die out in favor of various corrupted "Romance languages?" Specifically, will this "corruption" halt because the sort of subtle pronunciation differences which over time evolved into different languages will not be an issue when you can actually hear recordings of how those words were pronounced by earlier generations? How much difference, if at all, is there between modern American English pronunciations, versus those you'd hear on radio recordings from a hundred years ago?
Language will continue to change because of new concepts and objects entering the culture. Consider the sentence. "I downloaded recycling instructions from the internet on my iPad." That would be incomprehensible to someone in 1970.

But local dialects will gradually disappear as mass communication smooths out the language over the whole world. In British Columbia alone, we have several First Nations languages that are down to a few score speakers. One died out last year because the last person who spoke it died.
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Jennifer
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer »

Aresen wrote: 15 Oct 2020, 20:29
Jennifer wrote: 15 Oct 2020, 18:33 Another thought: how much, if at all, will future languages change, now that mass communication and sound recordings both exist (and assuming it continues; no worldwide nuclear war or other catastrophe bringing down the worldwide comms grid and everyone's electricity, and so on)? Speculation: maybe in a thousand years, everything will have melted together into a single world language. We already have various languages borrowing words from others. English is close to a lingua franca in most of the modern business/tech world, though if China ever truly opened up (taking down the great firewall from its internet, so its people could also communicate freely with the rest of the planet), I expect you'd also see a lot of Mandarin words or phrases working their way into various languages too.

Or, conversely, will the various languages -- at least those languages which currently have mass media, with movies and prerecorded songs and such produced in their language -- mostly STOP the sort of "corruption" which eventually made Latin die out in favor of various corrupted "Romance languages?" Specifically, will this "corruption" halt because the sort of subtle pronunciation differences which over time evolved into different languages will not be an issue when you can actually hear recordings of how those words were pronounced by earlier generations? How much difference, if at all, is there between modern American English pronunciations, versus those you'd hear on radio recordings from a hundred years ago?
Language will continue to change because of new concepts and objects entering the culture. Consider the sentence. "I downloaded recycling instructions from the internet on my iPad." That would be incomprehensible to someone in 1970.
I don't know if linguists make an official distinction here, but: I'd say what you're talking about is "additions" to a language, which IMO is not the same thing as "changes." Like, it's true that a 1970 person wouldn't understand what you were talking about ... but YOU could understand whatever the 1970 person was discussing, and also understand an English-language radio broadcast from 1920 (especially compared to trying to understand Shakespeare's English, or Chaucer's a couple centuries before that).

We have new words to describe new technologies, but (barring youth slang, which always comes and goes), whatever words we used in 1920 to describe things which existed back then can still be used to describe things now. Like, that thing you eat off of is a "table" now, and it was a "table" 100 years ago, and for at least two more centuries before that. Compare that to Latin's corruption over the years: "mensa" in Latin became "mesa" in Spanish and Portuguese (a tiny change, but still a change) ... compared to the Italian "tavolo" and French "table."

The only real changes in the language for the past 100 years that I can think of involve very early names for then-new technologies: "aeroplane" becoming "airplane," for example.
"Myself, despite what they say about libertarians, I think we're actually allowed to pursue options beyond futility or sucking the dicks of the powerful." -- Eric the .5b
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Jadagul
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jadagul »

We've lost the subjunctive. We've lost "whom". The way we use the pronoun "they" has changed/expanded dramatically.

You can also look at the way internet-speak has grown on the internet and then infiltrated spoken language; things like "tbh" and "because 2020" have become standard spoken phrases. (The way we use the word "Because" has changed a lot! We couldn't say "because noun" fifty years ago.)
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