24

The idea of a language being "more advanced" is rejected by linguists. The problem is that there is no objectively justified standard against which languages can be compared -- there's no goal that languages should be striving towards. Languages are indistinguishable in terms of what ideas that allow you to convey, and even though Saami might seem to be more ...


11

The assumption that language evolution is in any way analogous to darwinian species evolution seems to me to be completely incorrect. Here are two among the major differences: 1) Species evolution is driven by differential rate of reproductive success between individuals, themselves dependent of differential heritable traits. Languages evolution does not ...


9

For your specific example the rough outline is straightforward even if the exact details are largely unrecoverable: Mycenaean palaces were ruled by a wanax (Linear B 𐀷𐀙𐀏 wa-na-ka), and local chieftains called 𐀣𐀯𐀩𐀄 qa-si-re-u (/gʷasiléus/; Classical βασιλεύς) answered to him. With the Bronze Age collapse, the palaces disappeared and the figure of the ...


7

Here's the citation: Hockett, C. F. (1985). Distinguished lecture: F. American Anthropologist, 87(2), 263-281. The link is here, but it's also behind a paywall. Google Scholar profiles, personal webpages and CVs are the most common places where we find publication lists of a certain author, though this doesn't work for Hockett, who passed away in 2000 and ...


6

This is essentially the lexical protolanguage hypothesis of language evolution, favored by Derek Bickerton, Ray Jackendoff, and others. You can find a nice discussion of this in Tecumseh Fitch's 2010 book The Evolution of Language.


6

It's a "tag". Here is a paper on tags. Armagost 1972 English declarative tags, intonation tags, and tag questions is a good introduction, IMO. Your examples are "declarative tags" (section I), and there are other types (You won't, will you?"; "You won't, wont you?")". Basically, tags convey pragmatic information, about speaker attitudes and presuppositions.


5

If language-name plays a central role in determining what "language" one speaks (I speak English, as do hundreds of millions of others), then the number of languages is decreasing. Many languages are completely disappearing very rapidly, so that the bottom 80% of languages with only a couple hundred thousand speakers or fewer are likely to be mostly gone in ...


5

In the first place, what are called homonyms often aren't. For (your) example, to is only homonymous with too and two when it's unnaturally stressed— ordinarily it's /tə/, not /tu/. Others are homonymous only in certain dialects: merry, marry and Mary are often cited as homonyms, but they have distinct pronunciations in my native speech. More ...


5

There's a lot of types of signed languages (some more like sign vocabularies), so not all have the same properties. Also, they are not limited to deaf communities. Most famously, the Plains Indian Sign Language was used both within and across cultures. It certainly wasn't just a sign encoding of spoken language which is what many non-deaf sign languages are....


5

The debate ended in 2005. Shortly after this, Chomsky (2005/2008 (written in 2005, and circulated, published in 2008) wrote On Phases which did not acknowledge anything from his previous papers co-written by Hauser and Fitch. In Chomsky (2005/2008) he proposes this (p. 5 in the 2005 version, and I'd assume the 5th page of the 2008 version): Suppose ...


4

It's very plausible that human languages are more complex than non-human animal languages. Human languages have grammars which are sufficiently complex that we don't yet understand them very well, while other animal languages don't really seem to have grammatical systems. But you meant comparing complexity within the human species, rather than across ...


4

Claims about the evolution of language are all fairly speculative, but the statement is as accurate as any that are made about language. The distinction that you have to attend to is that between human language and generalized communication. Human language is distinct from other systems in being learned and symbolic, which distinguishes it from primate ...


4

I don't consider it easy to justify the distinction between demonstratives and determiners, since as far as I can tell, syntactically at least, there is none. But your example sentences show exactly why English has all these words: The person went to the store It's a good sentence to use in a context where there really is one obvious candidate for "...


3

The development of arbitrary morphological classification results from innumerable factors that obscure the relationship between form and function. For example, there may be a sound change that developed in the language that raises word-final mid vowels. Roots might arbitrarily end with /i/ vs. /e/, and there could be a rule of palatalization where /k/ → [č] ...


3

If you mean full-blown natural languages, the answer is negative unless you introduce a notion of advanceness which will handicap some languages with respect to others (e.g. by setting (the length of) a written language tradition as a criterion) If you mean natural languages as such, the answer is affirmative. Pidgins are by definition less advanced than ...


3

Was the work of Aristotle science? Were geocentric theories of the universe science? Science is related to methodology within a given framework of understanding, and to the ways of evolving that framework. It is necessarily historical and academic, whatever the subject, as it can only be a cooperative endeavor in constant evolution. Regarding language, there ...


2

As with the other respondees here, I do not know the answer to your question, but can speculatively suggest one main one. All natural languages accommodate the fact that there is a pay-off between time and effort on the one hand, and informativity or cognitive effect on the other. So we will prefer a shorter and less energy- or time-consuming way of saying ...


2

I also do not think language evolution can be Darwinian. But I am quite willing to believe that human language has a biological basis and that possession of language has been a survival characteristic for us humans. The problem with assuming that natural selection has been at work is that we can't tell any difference among the various human languages in ...


2

Presumably it's more difficult to learn to use boustrophedon: you have to learn to read and write in two directions, as well as learning two orientations for each letter. I don't see that it offers any particular benefit that would offset this extra difficulty. Also, if you're writing in ink on a paper-like surface, a consistently left-to-right writing ...


2

My answer is a little late but maybe someone will still read it... I believe language started just with sound some higher mammals use - sounds to show pleasure, fear, danger, aggression, and so on. Humans eventually distinguished loads more such sounds and according emotions, and probably added more types of proto-words - like proto-verbs. Emotions for ...


2

The early versions of Nicaraguan Sign Language were more or less like that - these deaf-mute people would sign sentences like "I go house Pedro", "this road not good", "I want food now" and so on. As it evolved, newer speakers have added complexity onto it: agreement between verb and object, markers for time and mood, spatial references, and so on.


2

Some languages make it more difficult (impractical, though maybe not impossible) to express some concepts. For example, most European languages have a wide range of tenses for verbs, including conditional tenses, while some other languages are missing these (Mandarin Chinese is the biggest example) - in some languages the workaround for a missing future ...


2

There are a number of mechanisms: Phonological changes: two (or more) words with unrelated etymologies which were not homophones may merge due to a series of sound changes. Semantic drift/semantic change: an example is the word your provided, "just." Both come from French "juste" and ultimately from Latin "iustus." This is not an uncommon or unusual ...


2

Robert B. Lees devised a "glottochronological constant" in: Robert B. Lees, “The Basis of Glottochronology,” Language 29, no. 2 (1953): 113–27. Abstract: It is shown that a linguistic dating system can be set up on the basis of several explicit assumptions about morpheme decay. Thirteen sets of data, presented in partial justification of these ...


1

I think the actual question should be phrased like this: why articles at all, why not using demonstratives when you really need to say "this person, not that one", and otherwise, just "person"? I happen to natively speak a language which has no articles whatsoever, and never felt there's a hole in grammar. Most languages, it seems, have no definite article. ...


1

In English, articles are used to mark definiteness and often number, demonstratives are used to distinguish a particular entity between multiple entities (adding deixis to definiteness and number), and both are considered determiners. Some languages mark definiteness with articles or demonstratives, and some mark it morphologically. Some don't mark it at ...


1

No, because we have no evidence of pre-speech language. We have lots of evidence for non verbal communication, but language is narrower than communication - it must have the capacity for abstract propositional idea exchange. The human brain is capable of using true signed languages, but the oldest sign languages we know of are only a few centuries old. It's ...


1

Languages often disappear when they coexist with an other language. Official languages are often institutionalized (national, supranational), whereas dialects are in general more volatile (currently Catalan vs. Spanish). Frisian in the Netherlands one official language, in Germany quite lost. In general in an ever smaller world dialects, regional/ethnic ...


1

I would like to add to what user6726 said, in that even "distinctive speech forms" is a vague idea. There's a case to be made that idiolects (one's personal language patterns) are languages, at which point the number of languages in the world is equal to the number of people in the world, more or less. It's not very satisfying, but the definition of "...


1

For sure, there was an advance in linguistic capabilities from great apes to humans, and this advance is determined by some genes. One gene, termed "The language gene" in popular science and FOXP2 in genetics is already identified. Its protein differs in two positions between humans and the other mammals (it is the same for great apes and mice!). The ...


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