2009/11/16 John Lategan <[log in to unmask]>

> Hello everyone,
> I'd like to ask a few questions regarding language evoulution within a
> conculture.
> The conworld is similar to earth and, for the moment, time is the same as
> earth-time. The first trace of language appeared about 5 000 years before
> the 'present'.
> So, now for my question:
> Can a parent language exist as an every-day language in one nation;  while
> its daughter languages are spoken in neighbouring nations?
> rephrased: Does a parent language have to die for its daughters to be used?
> A real-world example would be: Latin being spoken at the same time as
> French, Italian, Romanian &c.
As others replied already, yes, it's possible. Don't forget though that the
parent language is not a fixed entity. It carries on evolving, and might
become very different from what it was when the daughter language split.

Also, as David mentioned, using the verb "to die" for languages is a bit of
a misnomer. In truth, Latin isn't "dead". French, Spanish, Italian, etc...
are all versions of Vulgar Latin that just carried on evolving to the point
people stopped calling them "Latin" (and this changed happened sooner rather
than later probably because a fixed form of Latin was still used as a
literary language, and was considered by scholars to be "true"Latin). But in
truth Vulgar Latin never "died". It just changed its name.

> My second question is:
> If a language evolves, is it likely that it will loose case in favour of
> prepositions?
> I know Icelandic still has 'intense'-case, but solely because it is so
> isolated and wasn't influenced. If a culture is not isolated, and the
> language evolves, will it loose most of its cases (eg: the Causal,
> ablative,
> instumental and comitative cases)?
Not necessarily. Some languages do tend to lose case, whether they've been
influenced or not, while others keep theirs, and others still develop new

Look at Russian for instance: hardly an isolated language, and yet its case
system is anything but moribund!

And what about Modern Greek? In 2000 years it's lost only 1 case out of its
original 5!

So even among European languages, you come across cases ( ;) ) of languages
that have not been isolated and yet kept a very much alive case system.

Truly, case systems disappear when sound changes destroy the distinctions
they were making, not because the language is influenced by others (e.g.
Latin lost its case system not because of any outside influence, but because
of internal sound changes: the loss of vowel phonemic length and the
disappearance of the final -m lay waste in the case system of many nouns,
and a few other sound changes and some analogy did the rest). It's
especially true if the language has other means of indicating syntactic
relationships that work just as well (if Latin hadn't had such a rich
prepositional system, maybe its case system would have hold on better, as
otherwise it would have disappeared without anything taking its place. This
is all very hypothetical though: it's not that uncommon to see distinctions
disappear without a trace, without anything taking their place).

I hope this answers your questions.
Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets.