DailyDirt: Old Languages, New Languages

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Learning a new language as an adult is notoriously difficult to do, but there are various benefits for being bilingual. However, as the world communicates more globally, people are choosing to speak more common languages, and some languages are being spoken less and less. There may be no way to translate certain expressions, and we may lose some linguistic quirks if we don’t try to preserve spoken languages that have few remaining native speakers. Here are just a few links on language diversity to check out if you’re bored with l337 speak.

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Comments on “DailyDirt: Old Languages, New Languages”

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21 Comments
Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

Language Evolution Is A Two-Way Street

Some people mourn the passing of older, less-well-known languages (e.g. ones unique to small tribes). But remember that people do not voluntarily lose ways to express themselves, they merely replace old ways with new ones. Even the worst case you might think of—replacing an indigenous language with English, or Spanish, or Mandarin, or whatever—inevitably means the creation of a new flavour of the adopted language, specific to that cultural milieu, perhaps with a few distinctive words and usages inherited from the older language(s) in that area.

In other words, any worries about the spread of English, in particular, leading to any kind of monoculturalism can be laid to rest. As James Nicoll said, “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Language Evolution Is A Two-Way Street

“In other words, any worries about the spread of English, in particular, leading to any kind of monoculturalism can be laid to rest.”

I’m not so sure. Language strongly defines the sorts of thoughts that people are capable of having. If English were to become the only language spoken, it wouldn’t mean that every culture would be just like western ones, but it would mean that there are cultural concepts that would cease to exist.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Language strongly defines the sorts of thoughts that people are capable of having

Because new concepts naturally come about over time. However, if the language doesn’t support them, then it takes a lot longer since the majority of people won’t be able to hold the concept in their minds until the language catches up.

I’m not saying that language is a straightjacket, but that language is a map. If a map omits a certain territory, that doesn’t mean that nobody will ever go there, it just means that few people will and those that do will have difficulty explaining the territory to everyone else.

The real triumph of Orwell’s “1984” is, in my opinion, how well he illustrated the connection between language and thinking and how language can be manipulated to alter or forbid certain thoughts.

Anonymous Coward says:

Some people say that are capacity to comprehend certain concepts about the universe is limited by the language in which we think…

I’ve always been fascinated by constructed languages, such as Lojban, since they are designed to be an auxiliary language but unfortunately we’re stuck with the natural language of English which is riddled with bigotry and ambiguities.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 (Irrelevant response omitted)

“How do people think up new languages, then?”

I thought you were literally asking how it’s done…

I’m now going to assume that you’re referring to how language affects our capacity to comprehend certain things about the universe?

This would take a very long time to explain, but in a nut shell natural languages are not designed for ‘precisely’ communicating complex topics (math, science, etc) since it all needs to be translated into whichever natural language you think in.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 (Irrelevant response omitted)

BTW, me not fully understanding what you meant by your initial question and you not explicitly defining your question is a perfect example of why natural languages fail so miserably as a means of communication across the net; Since before the written word was invented, everything was verbally and emotionally communicated.

In a constructed language, such as Lojban, you are able to not only precisely communicate what you are thinking but also convey which ever emotion your are feeling within in your text without the use of emojis.

Anonymous Coward says:

The fewer languages there are in the world, the fewer wars will be fought.

Had the Russians successfully eradicated the Ukrainian language during the two centuries that they ruled the region, there would likely be no war there today — a war that has pitted the Russian-speaking people (mostly of Ukrainian descent) against the Ukrainian speaking people.

Anonymous Coward says:

Language exchange occurs through cultural medium exchange.

There are hundreds of common everyday English words integrated into the Japanese language but you do get abit of back crossing, “anime, weebo, otaku ,kawaii ninja ect ect” These words are all spread through cultural exports. People who watch anime tend to pick up and use said Japanese words.

This is the real reason why I don’t think you will see a Widely used Mandarin/English hybrid least not without major political upheaval.

The Chinese government strongly censors the release of foreign culture. only 10 Western Movies were released in china last year and many more were banned due to the government coming down hard on such imports. Likewise there are also almost no noteworthy Mandarin Chinese cultural exports worth consuming due to hyper-authoritarianism stifling artists ability to challenge social taboos.

(kung-fu movies are largely Cantonese exports from Hong-kong)

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