Friday, January 13, 2017

Old and Original Languages (from Quora)

Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : 1) Old and Original Languages (from Quora) · Creation vs. Evolution : 2) Origin of Language (from Quora, Debating with Barry Hampe)

How did people first figure out what words in foreign languages mean?
I wonder how people first learned the meaning of words in a different language, especially for those with abstract or complicated meanings.

Own answer:
In history, most regions have been in contact for so long that one way of learning a foreign language is most often available, which is asking a previous bilingual.

Now, you are asking about situations in which language acquisition needs to start all over.

This is not quite just a historical question, it is also about situations which occur today. A missionary or an ethnologist finds a new people in Amazonas or New Guinea. They have to start all over.

Now, the thing is missionaries and ethnologists are usually good linguists, so they know how to arrange for systematic study.

Presumably the first time it happened was just after Babel, and they weren’t very good linguists back then.

So, presumably they did it like ethnologists or missionaries do - Jan Miś gave an example for concrete words - and sometimes fail.

I recall trying that method when starting to learn English.

I already knew that “blomma” was “flower”. I wanted to know how to say stem or stalk and pointed to one, and the boys I was with thought I pointed to the flower and told me “flower”.

Who was the earliest human whose name we know?
Asking this just out of curiosity.

xkcd Airplane Message says that Iry Hor was the earliest human whose name we know. But Wiki entry for Iry-Hor says that he is the earliest ruler of Egypt known by name. Is there any other person from maybe outside Egypt or non-ruler that we know to be the earliest person whose name we know?

Own answer:
If Adam was the earliest man of all, and we know his name, it was Adam.

If not, how can any early man’s name in any other ancient culture than the Hebrew be guaranteed to be not “mythical”?

How did the earliest humans communicate without a language system?

Own answer:
As far as the Bible tells us, there never ever was any such situation.

Adam was created with full linguistic not just potential but also competence in the Adamic language which arguably was Hebrew.

As far as evolutionism goes, there would be different guesses.

I don’t think any of them is convincing.

[other answer]
Michael DeBusk
Armchair linguist, and not an expensive fancy armchair either
Written Nov 22
No one knows, but we can assume by watching our fellow apes. They vocalize, use gestures and postures, and have very expressive faces, just as we do.

Ape Communication

Hans-Georg Lundahl
That guess is one of the major issues which seriously alienated me from Evolutionism.

The problem is : how do you develop anything like a human language from such a situation?

How were languages made by humans?

Own answer:
Do you mean "language" or "languageS"?

If you mean language as such, Bible says humans didn't invent it, God gave it. Evolutionists keep guessing otherwise, but can't get together a concrete how.

If you mean languageS, one very common process is being sloppy about details in the language you learned from your parents. Or even doing a variation on purpose because it sounds cool. Some of these changes catch on so well they become only option for future generations. When many of these have piled up, you have a new language. At least in speech. When it comes to writing, the diversity of spoken language can continue to be bridged by a common written one, until for some reason there is a break.

A less common one is to be confronted with having very many different languages, and trying to bridge. I personally think the earliest attempt at Indo-European would have been an attempt at a bridging language. Perhaps it only got as far as vocabulary items and case endings and personal endings on verbs (shared with Fenno-Ugric, mostly) catching on, while they otherwise kept their languages as previously. One late example which hasn't caught on is of course Esperanto.

If you mean languages invented just for fun, take a look at how Tolkien did it. Fauskanger on his site has gathered some of the info available from various hints of that author. And Tolkien need not have been the first conlanger.

What were the earliest human languages like, and how do we know?

Own answer:
There are two views on this one.

The Catholic view is that the first human language was probably Hebrew and certainly a language with full range of expression, given by God to Adam, except that Adam got to name the animals.

How we know? From the Bible.

The Evolutionist view is the first human languages were more limited in expression, intermediate in range between the human languages we know and the voice signals made by animals.

How they know?

From the comic book Rahan showing a situation in which personal pronouns were avoided? From the Jungle language in Tarzan being shared both between "great apes" and "men of Opar"? No, these are fiction.

From assessing the brain capacity and concluding from there that such and such a hominid could not yet have spoken a fully human language? No, since it is not clear that Australopithecus Africanus ever spoke any language, nor that Homo Erectus could not have spoken languages as we know, from studying their brains - or rather skull cavities where the brains once were. And from the genome of Neanderthals which has been sequenced, we know they were genetically as capable as we of having a normal language.

So, only from assuming that early humans evolved from non-human ancestors, that is how.

No human population alive today speaks a language which could reasonably by a linguist be characterised as belonging to subhuman and pre-human hominids. Unlike what certain colonials and non-linguists thought that the linguists would find.

[other answer]
Baggio Wong,
studied at West Island School
Written 7h ago
Tim Doner gives an interesting talk about language origins, and if memory serves, talks about reconstructing (potentially) how old languages sound. It’s worth a listen if you have time.

Tim Doner - Family Matters: A Look at the Indo-European Languages
Polyglot Conference

Essentially, again, this is from memory, there’s no way of knowing how old languages sound.

But we can guess.

By comparing similar words in related languages, it’s possible to deduce how certain syllables are constructed and pronounced.

But I’m by no means knowledgeable - the video presents the topic in a really interesting way.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
You have a problem.

If the Bible is true, Proto-Indo-European can’t have been spoken in 4000 BC (a modern Creationist would consider that finds dated to 4000 BC are misdated due to a lower carbon 14 content back then). Unless PIE were the language given by God to Adam, but theologically, Hebrew is lots likelier.

If on the other hand Evolution is true, you haven’t answered the question, as there is no chance Proto-Indo-European can have been spoken by the earliest humans about 100 000 years or 200 000 years earlier than Proto-Indo-European in 4000 BC.

Baggio Wong
Hans-Georg Lundahl Ah, that seems like very specialized knowledge on the topic. I didn’t know. Thanks for the addendum. And, no, I don’t have an answer the the question, I don’t really know myself, so I can’t definitively answer per se, I’m just pointing to a video I watched a long time that might be interesting. :)

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Thank you very much, if it is the video I think it is, I liked it too.

It is just that it is about a language group which started out much more recently than the earliest humans.

I am just watching another one, on a related topic.

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