History of Language and Theories - Culture--per7

The History of Language and
Katie Agnos
Chapter 6
Language Formation
• The process of classifying languages includes:
linguists and linguistic geographers studying
relationships among languages.
• One way to find similarities is to look for sound
shifts (a slight change in a word across
languages within a subfamily)
• For example: Italian, Spanish, and French are all
members of the Romance language subfamily of
the Indo-European language family
Language Formation
• William Jones and Jakob Grimm together
proposed the existence of an ancestral IndoEuropean language called Proto-IndoEuropean
• This discover would give us the hearth of
ancient Latin, Greek and Sanskrit.
• A Proto-Indo-European hearth would link
modern languages from Scandinavia to
North Africa and from North America
through parts of Asia to Austrailia.
Instructing the Vocabulary of Proto-IndoEuropean and Its Ancient Ancestor
• Linguists use a technique called backward
reconstruction to track sound shifts and
hardening of consonants “backward”
toward the original language.
• Deducing a large part of the vocabulary of
an extinct language, (language without
native speakers) may be able to re-create
the language that preceded it; this is called
deep reconstruction.
Reconstructing the Vocabulary of ProtoIndo-European and its Ancient Ancestor
• Vladislav Illich-Svitych and Aharon
Dolgopolsky, two Russian scholars, have had
great impact on the deep reconstruction of
the Proto-Indo-European language.
• They did this by using words they assumed to
be the most stable and dependable parts of a
language’s vocabulary and reconstructed an
inventory of several hundred words.
Reconstructing the Vocabulary of ProtoIndo-European and its Ancient Ancestor
• The two Russian scholars established key
characteristics not only of the Pronto-IndoEuropean language but of Nostratic
• Nostratic is believed to be the ancestral
language not only of Pronto-Indo-European,
and thus the Indo-European language family
as a whole, but also of the Kartvelian
languages of the souther Caucasus region.
Locating the Hearth of Proto-IndoEuropean
• German linguist August Schleicher
compared languages to the branches of a
• He suggested that new languages form
through language divergence.
• The process of language divergence has
happened between Spanish and
Portuguese and is now happening with
Quebecois French.
Locating the Hearth of Proto-IndoEuropean
• When people with different languages
have consistent spatial interaction,
language convergence can take place,
collapsing two languages into one.
• Languages become extinct either when all
descendants perish or when descendants
choose to use another language,
abandoning the language of their
Locating the Hearth of Proto-IndoEuropean
• Linguists theorize that the hearth of the
Proto-Indo-European language was
somewhere in the vicinity of the Black Sea
or east-central Europe.
• Colin Renfrew, a British scholar,
developed his own theory regarding the
diffusion of Proto-Indo-European and
Locating the Hearth of Proto-IndoEuropean
• The Renfrew hypothesis claims that from
Anatolia (present day Turkey) diffused
Europe’s Indo-European languages.
• Others contrast Renfrew’s location of the
hearth of Proto-Indo-European language and
even the role of agriculture in its diffusion.
• Stephen Oppenheimer used genetic evidence
and argued that people came out of Central
Africa, following now-flooded coastlines of
East Africa, the southern Arabian Peninsula,
and into India about 80,000 years ago.
Oppenheimer’s Theory
• Oppenheimer’s research supports theories
by some linguists indicating that the
hearth of the Proto-Indo-European
language could lie in India.
• He then claims that people from India
migrated into Europe and Renfrew’s
hearths less than 50,000 years ago.
Tracing the Routes of Diffusion of
• The study of the diffusion of Proto-IndoEuropean is typically on Europe for two
reasons : one, it is clear the language diffused
into Europe over time; and two, there is a
significant body of historical research and
archaeology focused on the early peopling of
• Presence of Europe’s oldest language (Celtic)
in the far west supports the idea that the
newer languages came from the east.
Tracing the Routes of Diffusion of
• One explanation is the conquest theory.
• This theory states that early speakers of
Proto-Indo-European spread from east to
west on horseback, overpowering earlier
• An alternative agricultural theory
proposes that Proto-Indo-European
diffused westward through Europe with
the diffusion of agriculture.
Tracing the Routes of Diffusion of
• Some linguistic geographers continue to
favor the dispersal hypothesis.
• This holds that the Indo-European
languages that arose from Proto-IndoEuropean were first carried eastward into
Southwest Asia, next around the Caspian
Sea and then across the Russian-Ukrainian
plains and on into the Balkans.
Tracing the Routes of Diffusion of
• We still don’t know where the Proto-IndoEuropean language was born, or the
location of its hearth.
• Some scholars have even suggested that
Nostratic is a direct successor of a protoworld language that goes back to the
dawn of human history, but this notion is
highly speculative.
The Languages of Europe
• The Indo-European language family is
widely spread across the globe.
• It dominates Europe, significant parts of
Asia, North and South America, Australia,
and portions of Southern Africa.
• About half of the world’s people speak
Indo-European languages.
The Languages of Europe
• French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, and
Portuguese are examples of Romance
• Romance languages lie in the areas that
were not subsequently overwhelmed.
The Languages of Europe
• English, German, Danish, Norwegian, and
Swedish are examples of Germanic
• Germanic languages reflect the expansion
of peoples out of northern Europe to the
west and south.
• Some Germanic peoples spread into areas
dominated by Rome.
The Languages of Europe
• Russian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Ukrainian,
Slovenian, Serbo-Croatian, and Bulgarian
are examples of Slavic languages.
• Slavic tongues came to dominate much of
eastern Europe over the succeeding
The Languages of Europe
• The French linguistic region extends into
Belgium, Switzerland, and Italy, but in
France, French coexists with Basque in the
southwest, a variant of Dutch in the north,
and a Celtic tongue in the northeast.
• Celtic languages survive in the western
region of France called Brittany, in the
northern and western parts of Wales, in
western Ireland, and in the Western
Highlands and islands of Scotland.
The Languages of Europe
• Greek and Albanian are also IndoEuropean languages.
• The Basque language, Euskera stands out
in Europe.
• One reason is it covers a very small land
area and second, it is in no way related to
any other language family in Europe.
• The Basques have a strong identity tied to
their language and independent history.
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