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On Wed, 14 Jan 2004 16:04:32 -0800, Gary Shannon <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Assuming a non-IE language, or even a
> language of an alien culture on a planet far from
> Earth, would [the conlang of a primitive culture] necessarily have a
> simpler, less developed grammar than more modern
> languages like Latin or Ancient Greek?

No. There is almost unanimous agreement that the "sophistication" (at best
a surface phenomenon) of a language does not correlate in any way with the
cultural or intellectual sophistication of the culture that uses it. It's a
concept still held on to by a few people, largely for rascist reasons, but
it's in no way a truly supportable position.

Language "sophistication" in the past has historically moved in cycles,
i.e. helper words become affixes, which in turn become morphological
operations, which in turn get mangled or deleted by sound changes, which
means a new set of helper words is needed, and the cycle repeats. I don't
know the current status of work investigating cases of the cycle moving
"backwards", but there's no clear reason in my mind why it wouldn't be
possible.

For example, I am willing to bet that this entire email message could be
translated into any natlang, living or dead, and it could be readily
understood by any person reasonably fluent in that language.

OTOH, I think the real anser to your question would depend somewhat on
exactly how far you dialled back the clock. Go back far enough, and the
speakers of your language aren't going to have the brain power and/or the
speach apparatus to converse in full-fledged language. However, I'd suggest
that you'd have to go back at least before Homo Sapiens (> 120kya) -- and
probably at least 100-250ky before that -- to get to that point.

For suggestions on plausible language patterns at that stage of hominid
development, I'd look into research on early childhood language
acquisition, and language acquisition in non-humans (e.g. chimps with sign-
language capability).





Paul