Category Archives: Language Families

Primitive People Are Smarter Than You Think

We have a very primitive but wise group of Asians living amongst us around here called Hmong. This is a Chinese minority group that has moved down into Laos in the last 300 years. They did not even have a written language until the 1950’s and they have always lived quite a primitive life in the jungles.

Nevertheless, they are quite wise. I read an ethnography on them one time. It said that the Hmong believe that women who get pregnant before 19-20 are more likely to have problems in childbirth. The people who figured this out had no knowledge of modern medicine. But we now know that females continue to develop until age ~18-19. Pregnancies before this age are more problematic because the female’s hips are not wide enough to carry a baby yet. The final widening of the hips sufficient to carry a baby does not occur until age ~19.

You will notice this if you see 16-18 year old girls with killer curves and skinny bodies. They look incredibly hot but their bodies are not natural. It’s not normal to be skinny and curvy. You want curves, you got a bigger woman. You want thin, you get a stick. These girls look this way because the body in a formal sense is fully developed by age 16 in the sense of sex drive, full breast and pubic hair development, menarche and the full curvy body shape with narrow stomach, wider hips and a projecting butt is present by age 16.

Except for one thing. The hips have not yet widened to full adult proportions. So the 16-18 year old girl look is not natural or normal. It is a phase of incomplete development and makes little sense biologically. Since it is not biologically correct, there are increased pregnancy issues at this age range.

When I learned that the Hmong have a traditional belief that females should not get pregnant until 19-20, I was stunned. These humans had learned this via trial and error over the centuries. They didn’t need modern medicine to tell them the facts. They figured them out on their own.

Similarly, the Hmong have a traditional belief that one cannot learn a new language after age 40. This has been a problem in my area because non-English speaking Hmong in this age group simply refuse to enroll in English classes and so never learn to speak English much at all. The men often pick up a bit of English anyway because they are often working, but the women tend to stay at home, so older Hmong women are often Hmong monolinguals.

I told my mother of this Hmong belief and she said, “Aha! See? They figured that out on their own. And they are probably right. By age 40, it will be awfully hard to pick up a new language.” And studies in formal linguistics are showing this to be true.

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Filed under Anthropology, Applied, Asians, Biology, Cultural, Girls, Health, Hmong, Hmong, Hmong-Mien, Language Families, Language Learning, Linguistics, Medicine, Race/Ethnicity, SE Asians

Sanskrit: A Language of Perfection

I disagree on one thing though. I believe that Sanskrit was learned as a first language for a long time in India. I can’t prove it, but this is what I believe.

In fact there is a village in India to this very day where Sanskrit is spoken as a first language. The entire village consists of Sanskrit native speakers. What’s odd is that it seems to be a low caste village in a rural area. The idea that Sanskrit is some super-language that is too complex to be learned by humans is negated by the fact that these impoverished, possibly malnourished (note effects on brain development) 82 IQ low caste rural learn Sanskrit perfectly well as a first language.

The truth is that there is no natural human language that is too wild, nutty, or complex to be learned by children. If a language was developed naturally by humans,  then it can be learned by human children. Any human children. Anywhere. Period. The child’s brain is like a sponge up until age 7-8 and any human language can be picked up quite effortlessly during this age range. There is indeed a Critical Period for language learning that begins to close at age 8 and continues to close until mid-adolescence when it is closed for good. However, I still believe that you will learn a language better if you start learning it at age 15 than at age 40.

Judith on Sanskrit, magic and the quest for the perfect language.

Judith Mirville: I learned Sanskrit (mostly in the intention to demystify the present-day New Age system of magic that claims of ancient Indian lore and just cannot.

For instance chakras as we claim to know them were just unknown to classical expounders of yoga, when you find the word used only once by Patanjali it only means the body’s axis of rotational momentum as both dancers and judokas learn to know to achieve perfect balance, it has nothing to do with any invisible organ made of subtle matter) : it is not so difficult if you realize first it was never meant to be spoken as a natural language, but learned as a second language as a kind of Esperanto that actually worked.

It is an artificial, contrived language that cannot have anything to do with divinity (actually the word deva can mean any spirit like the Greek daimon), though some part of it can be used for magic, which is something very different (and even as a language for magic, classical Arabic or Greek is superior).

It is not true it is too complicated for humans, it is complicated to use it because human bureaucrats (not divine beings) built it like a perfect computer programming language without allowing any divine intervention : it is perfect for the expression of all forms of political correctness first and foremost.

If you are a good computer programmer mastering several coding languages you can pick up Sanskrit much faster, because its rules are formulated in the same way as in a computer language manual (but that doesn’t fetch into very high mathematics, more into mere accounting, hence my analogy with computer languages). Unfortunately there is no divine imprint on Sanskrit, due to its utter lack of simplicity and also to its lack of cleanliness of design.

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Major Religions Agree with the Mossad Motto: “By Way of Deception, Thou Shalt Do War”

Actually the motto of (((Mossad))) is a mistranslation and actually means the Jewish version of the Muslim taqiya, which is also seen as strategic lying, although taqiya usually meant more to be silent and pretend to obey so as not to get killed or harmed. A better translation of the (((Mossad))) motto might be: By Way of Silence, Thou Shalt Do War. The silence is enforced at gunpoint, as in the Mafia’s Omerta. You talk and you die. Real simple. So you don’t talk.

Hinduism more than any other religion actually demands that wars be waged by deception and not only that, it demands that such wars should be waged as a proper manner of religious course. Boy, that’s one nasty pagan religion.

And the Muslims actually practice, “by way of deception, thou shalt do war” more than the Jews do, which is interesting because Muslims like to attack Jews for having this belief, but it’s actually a Muslim attitude that is apparently being projected onto their enemies, the Jews. Jihad is essentially to be waged by deception at all times. There is no other way to do jihad.

Even worse, both Hinduism and Islam say it is actually for rulers to tell the truth to the people, so a proper Hindu or Muslim must believe in the necessity of feeding the people nothing but lies.

Wow, downright (((Straussian))). Along with the execrable (((Leo Strauss))), it also sounds a lot like the out and out slimy (((Edward Bernays))), who could be seen not only as the father of propaganda but as the founder of the major news media, especially in the West, since what is peddled is generally propaganda and lies anyway as opposed to the truth. Might sneak a little Kojeve (yuck) in there, but only a small bit.

Common strain running through all this cringy stuff: It is essential that rulers must lie to the people at all times. This is in fact a virtue and actually the sin is to not do so.

Incredible.

Judith Mirville: May I make a rectification?

The Mossad’s motto is a Biblical quote that is not to be rendered as making war by was of deception, the word used is circumspection, silence, omerta if you want to make a really spiteful translation. This is exactly the same meaning as the Arabic word taqîya — tachbuloth in Hebrew — which is normally used for reverent meditative silence before God in divine contemplation and can also be used as the art not to talk compulsively of what you do and think about for the state too. But it has very little to do with deception in the sense of virtual reality creation.

The quote is Proverbs 24:6 (I leave you the choice among so many translations). Of course that doesn’t prevent Mossad and countless other Jewish agencies from having actually waged war through deception since long, long before Israel existed.

The Hindu sacred scriptures are far, far, far fuller of calls not only to wage war through deception but to to make your living and grow prosperous through deception (Maya) : the material universe was created out of a trick of jugglery by God and proper imitation of God is developing one’s trickster’s abilities.

The Islamic hadiths about war are also much more explicit than the Hebrew ones as to jihad being essentially deception. The two last religions, more than the Jewish one, condemn as a main vice the very urge to tell the truth to the general public, to whomever it doesn’t belong.

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Filed under Afroasiatic, Arabic, Hebrew, Hinduism, Islam, Israel, Jews, Journalism, Judaism, Language Families, Linguistics, Middle East, Race/Ethnicity, Regional, Religion, Semitic, War

More on the Remains of Ancient Australoid “Indo-Pacific” Languages in India

Jm8: Might there have also been more than one language family among the proto-Australoid peoples of India I wonder (including Austroasiatic) (like there are in Australia and Papua today), since India is big and had been inhabited for a very long time (being among the longest inhabited areas outside Africa)?

It would be interesting to investigate the distribution of Austroasiatic influence over the various Dravidian languages to see where in India it is stronger.

This article suggests that Austroasiatic is not indigenous to India (but rather to south east Asia).

I had though that the Veddoid/early Australoid languages of India might be lost forever and only (maybe) partly reconstructible (in as few aspects) from their influences on other languages that replaced them. But if they were Austroasiatic (and represented by those languages surviving in Andra Pradesh), then that is not the case.

“The Vedda/Australoid people are speakers of the Munda branch of Austroasiatic. There is an Austroasiatic layer in both Dravidian and Indic. It is the oldest layer.”

That’s interesting. I thought Austroasiatic was associated with Southern Proto (Paleo?)-Mongoloids (like some of the Northeast Indian tribes — and Vietnamese is Austroasiatic). But maybe it predates the split between Australoid and Proto-Mongoloid peoples (some Paleomongoloid descendants of course still somewhat resemble Australoids, or did not that long ago in prehistory), which would be interesting. It’s it a very old and deep language family? I know there are some tribes in East Central India (Andra Pradesh I think) that speak Austroasiatic, and they look phenotypically a bit like something transitional between South Mongoloid and Australoid.

“I am not aware of theories showing Dravidian close to Australian languages.”

It might be discredited now (I’ll try to look into it, and the Austroasiatic influence on Dravidian, which is interesting). The theory (I think) was only that there might be a substratal influence of something like one of the Australian families on Dravidian (but still that Dravidian came mostly from somewhere the Middle East — or consistent with that idea anyway).

It might make sense that there is a substratal influence from “Indo-Pacific” languages such as those from the Andaman Islands and West Papua in Dravidian, but I have never heard of it. That would be an older layer underneath even the Munda layer in Dravidian.

There was no split between Australoids and Proto-Mongoloids. The former simply transitioned into the latter. Austroasiatic is associated with the Paleomongoloids and Neomongoloids of SE Asia. Austroasiatic is indeed old and deep, and the evidence for Austroasiatic is about as good as the evidence for Afroasiatic and Altaic. This doesn’t make sense because Afroasiatic and Austroasiatic are generally recognized families, but Altaic is not, although there evidence for the two former is no better than the evidence for the latter.

They were not lost forever as Kusunda, Nihali and the Vedda language substrate seem to be the remains of the tongues of the original Australoid speakers. The original tongues were not Austroasiatic – those languages came later. However, at the moment, most of the highly Australoid people in India speak a Munda language like Santhal. Apparently the Munda languages were once widespread over the whole continent, but most of them were replaced by Dravidian and Indic intrusions. In the more settled people, Dravidian and Indic replaced Munda languages, but in the tribals, the earlier Munda tongues lingered perhaps due to their inaccessibility living in the forest and the fact that the scheduled tribes are mostly outside the caste system.

Yes and the split between the Munda languages and the rest of the Austroasiatic is very deep. Austroasiatic can almost be split into Munda and non-Munda as two basic parts of the family. And there is not a lot left connecting the Munda languages to the rest of the family.

Kusunda, Nihali and the substrate of the Vedda language of Sri Lanka are thought to be the remains of the languages of the original Australoid speakers. These languages may be related to the Andaman Islands languages and Papuan languages. I know there is a connection between Kusunda and Andaman Islands languages and West Papuan tongues. There is some theorized relationship with such “Indo=Pacific” tongues and Nihali and the Vedda substrate also.

Yes, the Mundas came into India relatively lately and surely replaced nearly all of those original Andaman/Papuan languages of the Australoid people.

At the moment, Kusunda and Nihali are isolates, and even the Andaman tongues are split into two different families, so right now there are already separate language families among these Australoid people.

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The Influence of the Tongues of Australoid/Vedda People in India on Dravidian Languages

Jm8: I wonder what influence the languages of the proto-Australoid/Veddoid peoples had on modern Dravidian languages. It seems pretty clear that Dravidian came primarily from a Near Eastern family also ancestral to Elamite (Elamo-Dravidian) in Iran and reached India around the Neolithic. But I wonder if Veddoid peoples’ languages could have a substratal influence on Dravidian (or at least some Dravidian languages—esp those farther south or the tribal ones), even perhaps playing a role in its divergence from its Elamo-Dravidian root; depending on where Dravidian truly diverged (e.g: If it diverged within the Indian subcontinent—like around Pakistan/NW India—, where proto-Australoid peoples lived).

The influence of those peoples might be hard to assess. I recall a while ago reading about an old theory that Dravidian had some grammatical similarities to certain Australian Aboriginal languages (Northern maybe?).

But did these similarities also exist I wonder in the one surviving Dravidian language of the North, Brahui in Pakistan, whose speakers presumably have much less native proto-Australoid ancestry?

One might possibly also check for similarities to Andamanese languages (a bit of a long shot I know).

The Vedda/Australoid people are speakers of the Munda branch of Austroasiatic. There is an Austroasiatic layer in both Dravidian and Indic. It is the oldest layer.

I am not aware of theories showing Dravidian close to Australian languages.

There is a moribund language spoken in Nepal called Kusunda which appears to be related to West Papuan the Andaman Islands languages.

Keep in mind that in mainstream Historical Linguistics (which has deviated far away from anything sane anymore anyway), there is no Papuan language family. Instead, Papua is divided into 37 separate language families and 20 isolates. They also say there is no Australian language family,  although I believe R. W. Dixon made a case for one. Instead we have 20 different language families and four isolates in Australia. And they do not posit that the Andaman languages form a coherent family. There are two separate families even in the Andaman Islands, with Ongan and Greater Andamanese, with no demonstrated relationship between them. I have looked at the Andaman languages, and trust me, some of them are extremely far apart.

The people positing that Papuan, Australian and Andaman are language families or even that all three together form a single family called Indo-Pacific (Joseph Greenberg’s hypothesis) are all long-rangers whose views are not accepted in mainstream linguistics. However, Steven Wurm accepts a much-modified and more conservative view of Greenberg’s theory.  In addition, it appears that Trans New Guinea, West Papuan, Greater Andamanese and some Timorese languages, all included in Greenberg’s Indo-Pacific, show striking similarities which to my mind could only be genetic.

At any rate mainstream Linguistics is very conservative as far as Historical Linguistics goes. The existence of Elamo-Dravidian, which should be obvious to anyone looking, is not even regarded as proven.

I have looked at Dravidian quite a bit, and I did not think it was even close to the putative Nostratic family of Northern Eurasia. Instead it seemed to be closer to Afroasiatic than anything else. If Elamite was spoken in Western Iran, and before that the proto-Dravidians were in the Levant (according to the old theories), then it would make sense that Dravidian would be closer to Afroasiatic than anything else.

Keep in mind that Afroasiatic is a very old family – it may be 13-15,000 years old. And the fact that it is even regarded as proven at all (yes there are some ultra-splitters who are now saying that Afroasiatic is not even real) shows how wrong Historical Linguistics is when they say that any relationships older than 8,000 years cannot be proven because they are beyond the means of the comparative method of Historical Linguistics. If anything over 8,000 YBP is unknowable as far as the comparative method is concerned, then how did we prove Afroasiatic which goes back 15,000 YBP?

But Comparative Linguistics has gotten totally offtrack. Whereas traditionally, we simply observed languages and threw them into families based on obvious similarities and only after that reconstructed, now they have it backwards. No matter how much the languages look alike, we can’t put them into a family unless we have reconstructed all the way back to the proto-languages and found regular sound correspondences. Only then do we prove relatedness.

But Linguistics never worked that way before. Relatedness was posited simply on observation, and only later was the hard reconstruction work with regular sound correspondences done.

According to Lyle Campbell, Joanna Nichols and others unfortunately at the top of Historical Linguistics nowadays, Sir William Jones could not have even posited the existence of an Indo-European family because we had not yet reconstructed Proto-Indo-European and its regular sound correspondences yet. See? They’ve got it backwards.

Anyway even IE is not well understood. How’s that Laryngeal Theory working out for you guys? Coming right along, right? Didn’t think so. Just as I thought.

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Filed under Aborigines, Afroasiatic, Anthropology, Asia, Australia, Comparitive, Dravidian, India, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Iran, Isolates, Language Classification, Language Families, Linguistics, Nepal, Pacific, Pakistan, Race/Ethnicity, Regional, South Asia

Galician, Portuguese, and the Possibility of a Third Language Between Them

Dwan Garcez: Portuguese and Galician are the same language.

This person is Portuguese, and what they are saying is Portuguese nationalism or Portuguese linguistic nationalism. Portuguese and Galician were one language until 1550 when they split. But that time period of 450 years is about the same as between Ukrainian and Russian and Belorussian and Russian. Russian, Belorussian and Ukrainian are regarded as separate languages. And that is about the same time split as between English and Scots as Scots split off from English right around that time. Scots is regarded as a separate language from English. English has only 42% intelligibility of Scots.

Boy, I do not agree with that for one second. If you want to be sure you are not understood when you go to Lisbon, speak Galician!

If you leave Galicia, you will only be understood for six miles inside the country. After that, forget it. People who live on the border in Galicia say that they can understand their friends across the border in Portugal fairly well but not completely, and they usually both speak in Spanish to avoid communication problems.

Furthermore, Ethnologue has decided that Galician and Portuguese are different languages.

Portuguese people cannot understand well the Galician/Portuguese mix spoken right around the border with Galicia. Some Portuguese can hardly understand Tras Os Montes Portuguese at all. In fact, the Alto-Minho and Tras Os Montes dialects of Portuguese are not well understood in Portugal or in most of Galicia. This is really Galician but it is not well understood to the north in Vigo and Santiago de Compostela. Residents of the Minho, though they really are Galicians, say they do not speak Galician. Their lect is even further from Portuguese. You could make a case that Alto-Minho/Tras Os Montes is a separate language, but it would be a hard sell.

Already at least one Galician dialect has been split off into a separate language. Fala is recognized as a separate language and there are good grounds for making that case.

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“The Proof Is in the Pudding”

What is the origin of this saying?

The original phrase is “The proof of the pudding is in the eating” and was generally used to say that one had to taste one’s food in order to know if it was good.

Actually at the time the saying originated, pudding was not the dessert we know now. Instead it was a meat item resembling a sausage. Back in those days, meat items were easily contaminated and the only to way determine such a thing was to take a bite out of it.

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Repost: Historical Linguistics Mired in Stick in the Mud Conservatism

I have some folks in the field of Linguistics who are apparently my out and out enemies. Why they want to play like this is not known. I don’t want to fight with them. I’m not sure I want to be friends with them either since they are such total pricks and anonymous cowards, but jerks are better than enemies. They started it.

Here they profess to take this paper apart, but they do no such thing which is as usual for these pitiful jokers. Even the title is false. I’m not a STEMLord you boneheads. I’m  terrible at physical sciences. I got my degree in the same hokey social science that they did.

I am simply a social sciences dissident like Steven Pinker. Many of our fields are mired in all sorts of unproven or out and out false politically correct nonsense which passes as dogma simply because it is a political proper belief. This is because they believe what they want to believe. On the other hand, they get social science nihilistic on other things and insist that this or that is not proven, endlessly moving goalposts so it can never be proven. Or they state that many things are unprovable and unmeasurable. I can’t even begin to list the number of things in this field that are apparently unmeasurable. It’s hard to imagine that there is any question in science that is unprovable or unmeasurable. It just sounds like more goalposts-moving.

Historical Linguistics is one of the more brutal subfields in Linguistics, probably because you can hardly prove much of anything.

It involves looking at languages and arranging them into families and then arranging them in the families in a proper fashion. So an essential aspect of Historical Linguistics is the discovery of new language families and the elaboration of existing ones. The former is pretty much over in this field because this silly discipline has decided that there will be no more large or old language families discovered. Nonsensically, this has resulted in an utterly idiotic proliferation of insipid “isolates” which are languages that cannot be proven to be related to others. But actually, long-rangers have already stacked most all of the world’s languages into decent families and in their view there are no isolates left.

In addition, there are all sorts of idiotic small families with a couple to separate members, and said family is not related to anything else. I guess nothing’s related to anything then! The bizarre fact is that this preposterous fake science takes great pride in this silly nihilism. Obviously every language is related to every other language ultimately because surely language arose only once in mankind’s history.

Nevertheless, Linguistics insists that this obvious fact is not proven, so I guess it’s not even a fact. Instead the dead solid truth is that somehow there scores of isolates and silly small language families that have no relations. Surely that is a false conclusion. The only way it could be true is if language arose scores of times all the way down to a few thousand years ago.

There were scores of bands of humans who had no language whatsoever except grunts and sign language, and they all independently developed language scores of times in the last ~50,000 years. It was an incredible case of parallel development, the most amazing the world has ever seen. Because this is the only  way that Linguistics’ crazy conclusion could be true. So Linguistics is now stating essentially is that this is what happened – language being independently developed all over the world down to the last several thousand years. Dumb, huh?

Historical Linguistics also involves the reconstruction of dead languages or earlier aspects of existing languages. The dead languages have left no record and are often 7-10,000 years old. The earlier phases of existing tongues also have often left no record.

So it is unprovable guesswork guessing at what ancient languages looked like, with no real way to prove if anyone is right or wrong because the languages no longer exist.

On top of that, the field has become mired in stick in the mud conservatism such that I doubt if any new ancient language families are going to proven in my lifetime. The conservatives keep moving the goalposts, and no evidence is ever good enough. Linguistics is ecstatic about this because endlessly moving the goalposts so you can never prove anything anymore means that Linguistics is now really groovy and scientific and this cures their physics envy.

Really it’s just another fake science in the social sciences, although a lot of the more basic work is indeed factually and empirically based. So the field encompasses a lot of excellent empirical based work. In addition, there are a number of preposterous leftwing shibboleths that everyone in the field has agreed are settled truth. Linguistics has adopted these silly ideas because they are leftwing and PC, and the field is at the heart of SJW Central Command. Mixed in with these silly politically based agreed upon facts (for which there is typically no evidence whatsoever) there is this prideful stubbornness and ultra-conservative attitude in Historical Linguistics because the way to be all sciency is to deny forever more any new language families. Because that cures our physics envy and makes us feel all sciency.

Actually many of the long-rangers have gathered excellent evidence for their work, all of which is rejected. For instance, Altaic now has a 1,000 page etymological dictionary of all things and there are many reconstructed forms and a great deal of commonality in basic morphology, core vocabulary, pronouns and language structure. We also have quite a few actual paradigms which are impossible to derive in unrelated languages. The long-rangers churn out many papers and here is where the real science is. They are doing dramatic work and proving  a lot of new things.

On the other hand, the fake science folks on the other end chant over and over in Gregorian fashion, “You didn’t prove it. You didn’t prove it. You didn’t prove it.” No matter what evidence is assembled and presented, the response is always this autistic nihilism of “You didn’t prove it.” The arguments of many of the deniers have been destroyed already. The deniers now take the preposterous position that there has been mass borrowing of personal pronouns in Asia and the Americas in particular. Such mass borrowing of personal pronouns would have had to have taken place on a scale almost never seen on Earth. In fact, personal pronouns are borrowed only very rarely. In Altaic we have pronoun paradigms cascading down through person and number, all lined up like the Marines in perfect formation.

This is waved away with “You didn’t prove it.” In fact, the standard line in Linguistics as voiced with complete seriousness by one of the top linguists in the field is that the stunning pronoun paradigms in Altaic were all borrowings. That statement is insipid on its face. It doesn’t even qualify as theory because it’s not even possible. They might as well say, “Bats flew out my butt” as there  was mass borrowing of entire pronoun paradigms.

In addition, Altaic has a huge amount of core vocabulary in common including forms that match in say Turkish and say Evenki. Apparently the Evenki and the Ottomans borrowed from each other. How? Bats flew out my butt.

Typically and for many decades now, all of these cognates in core vocabulary are said to be borrowings. There are specialists who spent most of their careers ferreting out these “borrowings” most of which are actual cognates. These men frittered away a lot of their careers on a theory that is obviously false. For the only way Altaic could not be true is if this vast amount of borrowing actually took place. The level of borrowing of core vocabulary postulated for Altaic is on a scale that is far beyond the language borrowing we have seen anywhere else on Earth. In other words, it didn’t happen. Bats flew out my butt. Once again it fails even the hypothesis stage because hypotheses are supposed to be plausible and anti-Altaic fails that those grounds alone.

Being a Historical Linguistics conservative is the hip and cool thing to be in Linguistics, and the peer pressure in the field is worse than an eighth grade playground. If you take a liberal position that says that some ancient language family like Altaic exists, the peer pressure on you as a fraud, idiot, kook, crank and loser is unbelievable. I am amazed that there are any liberals left promoting daring new ideas on ancient language families.

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Simplification of Language with Increasing Civilization: A Result of Contact or Civilization Itself

Nice little comment here on an old post, Primitive People Have Primitive Languages and Other Nonsense? 

I would like to dedicate this post to my moronic field of study itself, Linguistics, which believes in many a silly thing as consensus that have never been proved and are either untrue or probably untrue.

One of the idiocies of my field is this belief that in some way or another, most human languages are pretty much the same. They believe that no language is inherently better or worse than any other language, which itself is quite a dubious proposition right there.

They also believe, incredibly, that no language is more complex or simple than any other language. Idiocy!

Another core belief is that each language is perfectly adapted for its speakers. This leads to their rejecting claims that some languages are unsuitable for the modern world due to lack of modern vocabulary. This common belief of many minority languages is obviously true. Drop a Papuan in Manhattan, and see what good his Torricelli tongue does him. He won’t have words for most of the things around him. He won’t even have verbs for most of the actions he sees around him. His language is nearly useless in this environment.

My field also despises notions that some languages are better suited to poetry, literature or say philosophy than others or that some languages are more or less concise or exact than others or that certain concepts or ways of thinking are better expressed in one language as opposed to another. However, this is a common belief among polyglots, and I would not be surprised if it was true.

The question we are dealing with below is based on the notion that many primitive languages are exceeding complex and the common sense observation that as languages acquire more speakers and civilization increases, one tends to see a simplification of language.

My field out and out rejects both statements.

They will tell you that primitive languages are no more complex than more civilized tongues and that there is no truth to the statement that languages simplify with greater numbers of speakers and increased civilization. However, I have shot these two rejected notions to many non-linguists, and they all felt that these statements had truth to them. Once again, my field violates common sense in the name of the abstract and abstruse “we can’t prove anything about anything” scientific nihilism so common in the intellectually degraded social sciences.

Indeed, some of the most wildly complex languages of all can be found among rather primitive peoples such as Aborigines, Papuans, Amerindians and even Africans. Most language isolates like Ket, Burashaski and Basque are pretty wild. The languages of the Caucasus are insanely complex, and that region doesn’t exactly look like Manhattan. Siberian languages are often maddeningly complex.

Even in China, in the remoter parts of China, language becomes highly differentiated and probably more complex. I know an American who was able to learn Cantonese and Mandarin who told me that at age 35, for an American to learn Hokkien was virtually impossible. He tried various schemes, but they all failed. He finally started to get a hold of the language with a strict eight hour a day study schedule. Anything less resulted in failure. Hokkien speakers that he spoke too said you needed to grow up speaking Hokkien to be able to speak the language well at all. By the way, this is another common sense notion that linguists reject. They say there are no languages so difficult that it is very hard to pick them up unless you grew up with them.

The implication here is that Min Nan is even more complex than the difficult Mandarin or even the forbidding Cantonese, which even many Mandarin speakers give up trying to learn because it is too hard.

Min Nan comes out Fujian Province, a land of forbiddingly high mountains where language differentiation is very high, and there is often difficult intelligibility even from village to village. In one area, fifteen years ago an American researcher decided to walk to a nearby village. It took him six very difficult hours over steep mountains. He could have taken the bus, but that was a four-day trip! A number of these areas had no vehicle roads until recently and others were crossed by vast rivers that had no bridges across them. Transportation was via foot. Obviously civilization in these parts of China is at a more primitive level, and it’s hard to develop Hong Kong-style cities in places with such isolating and rugged terrain.

It’s more like, “Oh, those people on the other side of the ridge? We never go there, but we heard that their language is a lot different from ours. It’s too hard to go over that range so we never go to that area.”

In the post, I theorized that as civilization increased, time becomes money, and there is a need to get one’s point across quickly, whereas more primitive peoples often spend no more than 3-4 hours a day working and the rest sitting around, playing  and relaxing. A former Linguistics professor told me that one theory is that primitive people, being highly intelligent humans (all humans are highly intelligent by default), are bored by their primitive lives, so they enjoy their wildly complex languages and like to relax, hang out and play language games with them to test each other on how well they know the structures. They also like to play tricky and maybe humorous language games with their complicated languages. In other words, these languages are a source of intellectual stimulation and entertainment in an intellectually impoverished area.

Of course, my field rejects this theory as laughably ridiculous, but no one has disproven it yet, and I doubt if the hypothesis has even been tested, hence it is an open question. My field even tends to reject the notion of open questions, preferring instead to say that anything not proven (or even tested for that matter) is demonstrably false. That’s completely anti-scientific, but that’s the trend nowadays across the board as scientistic thinking replaces scientific thinking.

Of course this is in line with the terrible conservative or reactionary trend in science where Science is promoted to a fundamentalist religion and scientists decide that various things are simply proven true or proven not true and attempts to change the consensus paradigm are regarded derisively or with out and out fury and rage and such attempts are rejected via endless moving of goalposts with the goal of making it never possible to prove the hypothesis. If you want to see an example of this in Linguistics, look at the debate around  Altaic. They have set it up so that no matter how much existing evidence we are able to gather for the theory, we will probably never be able to prove it as barriers to proof have been set up to make the question nearly unprovable.

It’s rather senseless to set up Great Wall of China-like barriers to proof in science because at some point,  you are hardly proving anything new, apparently because you don’t want to.

Fringe science is one of the most hated branches of science and many scientists refer to it as pseudoscience. Practitioners of fringe science have a very difficult time as the Scientific Establishment often persecutes them, for instance trying to get them fired from professorships. Yet this Establishment is historically illiterate because many of the most stunning findings in history were made by widely ridiculed fringe scientists.

The commenter below rejects my theory that increased civilization itself results in language simplification, as it gets more important to get your point across as quickly  as possible with increasing complexity and development of society. Instead he says civilization leads to increased contact between speakers of different dialects or language, and in such cases,  language must be simplified, often dramatically, in order for any decent communication to occur. Hence increased contact, not civilization in and of itself, is the driver of simplification.

I like this theory, and I think he may be onto something.

To me the simplification of languages of more ‘civilized’ people is mostly a product of language contact rather than of civilization itself. If the need arises to communicate with foreign people all of the time, for example in trade, then the language must become more simple in order to be able to be understood by more people.

Also population size matters a lot. It has been found that the greater the number of speakers, the greater the rate of language change. For example Polynesian languages, although having been isolated centuries or even millennia ago, still have only minor differences from one another.

In the case of many speakers, not all will be able to learn all the rules of a language, so they will tend to use the most common ones. And if the language is split in many dialects, then speakers of each dialect must find a compromise in order to communicate, which might come out as simple. If we add sociolects, specific registers for some occasions, sacred registers, slang etc, something that will arise in a big and stratified civilization, then the linguistic barriers people will need to overcome become greater. So it is just normal that after some centuries, this system to simplify.

We don’t need to look farther than Europe. Most languages of the western half being spoken in countries with strong trade links to one another and with much of the world later in history are quite analytic, but the languages of the more isolated eastern part are still like the older Indo-European languages. Basques, living in a small isolated pocket in the Iberian Peninsula, have kept a very complex language. Icelanders, also due to isolation, have kept a quite conservative Germanic language, whereas most modern Germanic languages are ridiculously simplified. No one can argue in his sane mind that Icelanders are primitives.

On the other hand, Romanian, being spoken in the more isolated Balkans, has retained more of the complex morphology of Latin compared to West Romance languages. And of course advance of civilization won’t automatically simplify the language, as Turkish and Russian, both quite complicated languages compared to the average European tongue, don’t seem to give up their complexity nowadays.

On the other hand, indigenous people were living in a much more isolated setting compared to the modern world, the number of speakers was comparatively low, and there was no need to change. Also, neighboring tribes were often hostile to one another, so each tribal group sought to make itself look special. That is the reason why places with much inter-tribal warfare like New Guinea have so many languages which are so different from one another. When these languages need to communicate, we get ridiculously simple contact languages like Hiri Motu.
So language simplification is more a result of language contact rather than civilization itself.

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The Chinese Language: The Wily Tiger That Cannot Be Tamed

Putonghua is the official version of Mandarin which the Communist government determined was to be the official language of the nation. It was created in 1949 and modeled mostly but not entirely on the variety spoken in Beijing.

Although Putonghua seems to be killing off a lot of dialects or even microlanguages, I have a feeling that this is mandatory. Nevertheless the process of accelerated language change in China (Why?) seems to be even catching up with Putonghua. For instance, Putonghua of course was modeled on the Beijing language. However, this was Beijing Mandarin of 1949, and it was also the language of the suburbs, not to the city.

Since then, Putonghua has taken off on its own and so has Beijing Mandarin with the strange result that the hard Beijing Mandarin of hutongs in the center of the city is now often unintelligible to Putonghua speakers! So this is a case of a standard language and the lect it was modeled off taking off via independent evolution such that 70 years later, the original lect is no longer intelligible with the Standard that was modeled on that very lect!

Chinese lects are wildly different, and tones adds another mess into the matter. This has shown up even in Putonghua, where some Putonghua varieties are now unintelligible with the rest of Putonghua due to severe influence of the local lects on the standard and possibly regional evolution of the standard! Hence even Putonghua seems to have split off into several languages itself! Thus Guangdong Putonghua, Anhui Putonghua, Shanghai Putonghua, Jianghuai Putonghua and Zhengcao Putonghua are no longer fully intelligible to Putonghua speakers outside the region!

In addition, Taiwan Mandarin, Tibetan Mandarin and Malay Mandarin have all taken off on their own independent evolutionary tracks such that these are no longer fully intelligible to Standard speakers either! So since 1949, Putonghua has split into at least 8 different languages that lack full intelligibility with each other!

It seems the Chinese tried to lasso that wily creature called the Chinese language to rein it in and domesticate it somehow, but the wily creature keeps slipping away due to its endlessly morphing patter.

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