Print

Print


Jens Wilkinson wrote:
> I have a question, which isn't purely about IALs, but
> I hope it will come as a diversion from talk about
> immigration and clocks. 
> 
> It's sort of an interesting point that both of the
> world's two most widely spoken languages are both
> heavily isolating. I don't know why this is, but I
> came up with four hypotheses, and wonder if anybody
> either has comments or could point me to places where
> I can get more information about this. 
> 
> (1) Isolating language is an evolutionary advance over
> inflected or agglutinative languages. I personally
> doubt this, because it seems to go against
> commonsense, as presumably the first human languages
> involved unchanging word forms, and the inflections
> only came later. But who knows. 
> 
> (2) To the contrary, isolating languages are decadent.
> This fits to some extent with the common perception
> that language is deteriorating. But it doesn't really
> make sense. Why would language progress into infected
> or agglutinative forms, and then subsequently go
> backward? 
> 
Languages change. Who is to say what kind of language is more 'advanced'?

> (3) The most persuasive idea to me, which has
> ramifications for IALs, is that isolating languages
> tend to be languages that are spoken by people of
> different linguistic backgrounds, or which could be
> considered "contact languages." This fits with the
> fact that pidgins and creoles tend to be isolating.
> And Mandarin is spoken by people of different language
> backgrounds. And English is also, though probably
> English was tending toward becoming isolating before
> its internationalization. A major piece of evidence
> against this is that Latin and Greek were both used as
> contact languages, but were both (I think) highly
> inflected. 
> 
In the case of Latin, you need to distinguish between the literary form 
and the common form ("Vulgar Latin").

> (4) A fourth hypothesis, which I've wondered about, is
> whether it might be possible that literacy has driven
> languages to becoming more isolating. Perhaps
> languages that are primarily spoken, like proto-Indo
> European for example, would tend to be inflected or
> agglutinative, and that increasing literacy has made
> languages more isolating. There is a lot of
> conflicting evidence, though, because literacy was not
> widespread until fairly recently, and there were
> isolating languages before then. 
> 
> So in summary, I don't really have a good idea about
> this. But I assume there are historical linguists who
> are working in this area. Does anybody know more about
> this? 
> 
> Jens Wilkinson
> Neo Patwa language: http://patwa.pbwiki.com
> 
> __________________________________________________
> Do You Yahoo!?
> Tired of spam?  Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around 
> http://mail.yahoo.com 
> 
> 
> 
>