Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Back Again

I am very sorry for posting so irregularly, I keep finding distrations that keep me from actually posting. For those of you who have continued to check up, thank you.

Long long ago I posted a theory on linguistics, I called it Linguistic Punctuated Equilibrium. Perhaps it is already known, but it is worthwile to know that many languages seem to make great and sudden shifts between periods of relatively little change. If you have time, please read it.

It is known that language changes in recognizable patterns, but how? One example of the change is that in predominantly Germanic languages the p in latin is often turned into an f or v. As in the Latin pater turned into the father in English and vader in Dutch. But why did the p change into these words. A possibility is that the new Latin words were mixed up with the existing Germanic words. Perhaps in the original Germanic language the word for father started with something that sounded like an f or v.

Another possibility is that people might have just started changing the sound itself, a lot of time did pass, and we cannot be sure that the Germanics learned Latin perfectly in the first place. But even then this change would have to be specific to Germanics. Romance languages have preserved the p, as in the French pere for father. In my opinion, it doesn't seem reasonable that this change of sound could come arbitrarily in all and just the Germanic languages. I am not sure of how much we know about the ancestral language of the West German language group, even less certain about the main ancestor of all Germanic languages.

The Germanics themselves did not extensively colonize the lands they conquered. As they moved in warbands of 80,000, they could not make large-scale settlements. Therefore, the languages of Italy, Spain, France, and Romania are more or less direct descendants of Latin. The Germanics however are different. First of all, it is obvious that there has been an extremely heavy influence of Latin on these languages. A major challenge is sorting out when each word entered the languages. The first great mixing of Latin into ancestral English would have been as the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes started settiling into the British Isles. Their direct contact with the Latinized people there and mixing with them would have caused a great Latin impact. One Latin impact that probably affected all the Germanics was political. Germanic rulers saw the value of learning Latin, and maybe even considered it a possible diplomatic tongue. They encouraged a literati of those who learned the language. Now how they learned it and how well may not be clear, probably through natives. Either way, as the literati learned the language, it may have eventually spread to commoners, where it could have mixed.

On my next post, hopefully today too, I will look into language "family trees".

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