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The Genetic Classification of Languages
Transcript of The Genetic Classification of Languages
They are similar because they each developed out of the same “proto-language,” which was Latin.
The languages that are directly descended from the language of the Romans therefore are genetically related, and are called Romance languages
Scholars demonstrated the relationship of the IndoEuropean languages by first comparing basic words in many of the languages of Europe and India.
All linguists accept the validity of the IndoEuropean language family.
is the art of grouping things together according to some set of criteria.
Ways to classify languages:
based on where they are spoken; also be used to see where there are pockets of people belonging to particular ethnic groups features of the languages
according to features of the languages.
For instance, languages can be classified according to whether or not tones are used to distinguish meaning among words
according to their sound systems; for instance, how many vowels or consonants they utilize, or whether they use specific sounds,
such as the clicks found in some African languages.
by how the words of a typical sentence, for instance the Subject (S), Object (O), and Verb (V), are ordered.
In this scheme, English would be characterized as an “SVO” language.
What do we mean by the genetic classification of languages?
The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure, more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong, indeed, that no philologer could examine all three, without believing that they have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists. . . .
SIR WILLIAM JONES (1746–1794)
The Genetic Classification of Languages
Obviously, there are a nearly endless number of ways to classify languages. Butone of the most fascinating ways to classify them is GENETICALLY.
It will be a long time, if ever, before this debate is resolved.
This form of classification attempts to group together languages that have descended from a common ancestral tongue.
Each Romance language is more closely related to the other Romance languages than it is to a non-Romance language such as German or English.
German, meanwhile, is clearly more similar to languages like Swedish, Danish,
Icelandic, Dutch, and English than it is to any of the Romance languages.
By studying the systematic nature of their similarities, scholars have deduced the existence of a language they refer to as ProtoGermanic
Scholars believe ProtoGermanic was probably spoken about 2500 years ago.
genetic classification of languages can reach back even further in time.
The Germanic and Romance languages are, in fact, more closely related to each other than they are to most of the other languages of the world.
The Germanic and Romance languages are just two branches of a much larger family of languages known as IndoEuropean.
IndoEuropean itself can be shown to be related to other language families, in a higher-level grouping known variously as Eurasiatic or Nostratic.
The age of these higher-level language groups must be at least 10,000 years old.
After so much time, languages have diverged so much from both their ancestral and sibling languages that it is impossible to demonstrate relationships among them.
It is possible to recover a dim glimpse of a time when the first human language was spoken.
It is possible to reconstruct at least a few words of such a language.
Such ancient words are, and will always remain, unrecoverable.
. . .
In any case, it is clear that language families provide unique evidence of the
relationships among groups of people far into the past – much further than any detailed
recorded history. And the higher-level language groups obviously indicate relationships
further back in time. However, most of the language families presented in most of these maps are still uncontroversial.
Thank you for your attention!