the origin of language

The modern “you”

Tweet Most of the argument is about the singular “they,” but the singular “you” also has an interesting genesis, and this article in The Economist tells the story, or at least part of the story. The article concludes that social change has brought about this language change, though it does not draw any conclusions about why social […]

The History of Language

Tweet School is out in most places, so I will spend the summer posting about background subjects, with or without exercises to go with them. I’ll write for a while about where language comes from, and more specifically, where English comes from. On a recent trip to the Dordogne region of France, a group of […]

Talking to dolphins

Tweet A previous post discussed Stephen Frye’s new tv series, in which he dismissed the language abilities of apes.  The excerpt from a longer article below gives more respect to animals’ abilities. “It was a childhood fascination with astronomy which drove him to where he is today and resulted in him joining SETI, an independent, […]

The skeleton sentence expanded

Tweet Language probably began when people gave names to things, people, and actions. It has developed into a sophisticated, flexible instrument since then.  The language in the exercise below is akin to a primitive pidgin, but was probably the way our earliest ancestors spoke when language was first developing. Exercise: Take the skeletal sentence elements […]

Ghoti – a common English word

Tweet Obviously, the way to pronounce “gh” sounds like “f” — examples; rough, enough, tough. Obviously, the way to pronounce “o” sounds like “i” — example: women. Obviously, the way to pronounce “ti” sounds like “sh” — examples:  nation, emotion Put them all together and you have — FISH. Tracing the reasons why “ghoti” does […]

Pidgins and Creoles

Tweet When groups speaking different languages gathered to accomplish something (for example, trading in ports, or running a plantation when slave and owner speak different languages), they had to communicate.  Either they agreed to speak a common language (French, Russian, Chinese, Latin, English and many others have historically been that common language), or they scrambled […]

All Language Began in Africa, probably

Tweet Research by Quentin D. Atkinson, a New Zealand biologist, has concluded that human language began in Southern Africa, and all existing languages have developed from it.  His theory is based on analysis of the phonemes of languages along the route of emigration from Africa.  Phonemes are the sounds of a language, from the guttural […]