Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Patterns of Language

In many ways, languages develop in similar patterns as discussed in the biological evolutionary theory. Isolation causes them to become different, hybridization can mix to languages into something that is both similar and different to their "parents". On the other hand, languages develop in far more different ways. How does a language change, how do the changes come in the first place, how is language related to the people who speak them? These are just some of the question of the study of historical linguistics, and linguistics in general.

Each and every person pronounces each and every word in a slightly different way, this pronunciation is based on genetic and environmental characteristics. In a way, these differences are passed down. The genetics part from parent to child. The environment part is determined by whoever the person is around. So now we know how individual differences in pronunciation and speaking occurr, but this doesn't explain why we have such major changes in language.

Lingual change can involve particular ways of saying something somehow become more different than the original and spreading quickly. This could occurr through some time of mass media, the famous doing it, or something else. According to my Linguistic Punctuated Equilibrium (LPE), these things would have to occur in quick strong bursts. However,the probability that a major and rapid change happens due to this is small. In old times mass media was not as influential, and it was not until the Crusades ended that the feudal powers really started losing control, shifting power more from rural to urban areas.

The other cause is simply external influence. This type of influence is more compatible with LPE as it can increase and decrease in its amount. At the same time, we can see astonishing proof. Old English would have started with the enormous mix of the Germanic languages, together with Celtic and Latin influences, and later even the Vikings. All of this mixing would have created a tremendous explosion in the richness of the culture, and the language. Middle English started at about 1100. Two major events at that time had an impact on England, the direct one was the Norman invasion. The Norman rulers, with their different language, definitely had an impact on the English language. The more long-term but far greater impact was the beginning of the Crusades. Now the doors to the East were opened, and pretty soon came a tsunami of goods, ideas, and words. Finally, we come upon the 15th century with the rise of Modern English. The reason for this change were the gradual shifting of power from eastern Europe to the west, the rise of a stable series of empires over the East-West routes, and the world exploration that was slowly starting.

Now we'll discuss how foreign influence can lead to actual lingual change. For the first stage, the invasions of the Germanics into England. The Latin and Germanic and Celtic cultures were very different from each other. With such close contact and overlapping, the three created a new culture that took things from all three and blended them. To cooperate in day-to-day activities and to administer the people properly, they would have to know each others' languages. But how would this lead to a new language? The answer can be found thousands of miles away in Hawaii.

During the early 20th century the population of Hawaii became increasingly diverse. Immigrants from Asia, Europe, and the Americas migrated to this island group, often to work as farm laborers. These mixed with the native Hawaiians and the settled Whites. Obviously, this would have created a complex patchwork of different peoples. What happened next, linguistically, happened among the children of Hawaii. Since these different people were more or less evenly spread out, their children often played together. In this constant interaction, these children actually created a whole new language that was a mix of the original ones. Linguists who studied this language labeled it Hawaiian Creole. They were astounded by how quickly a whole new language could emerge in just one generation, only a few years.

This quick rise of a language not only backs up my LPE theory, it also explains how the English language originated. It is possible that what happened in Hawaii happened in England in the mid 1st milenium AD, only on a much larger scale and perhaps taking a few more generations. Children, who can learn languages must faster, and do not distinguish as much between words of one language and another, can really act as a blender of words. The same can happen anywhere where there is about an equal number of differnt cultures spread about in one area.

Since I already have taken so much space, I will look at the reasons for the rise of Middle and Modern English later. And of course, there is the question of how grammar changes.

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