How many languages?

chantal   Tuesday, June 17, 2003, 09:23 GMT
Welcome back Clark
We missed you
Clark   Tuesday, June 17, 2003, 10:22 GMT
Thanks. I just had a busy week and weekend.
Tabisora   Tuesday, June 17, 2003, 15:19 GMT
I'll go on!
Anyway I already wanted to, but I'm more and more conviced that it's possible to be fluent in several languages as long as they're not 30! :)

Though, funny things happen sometimes.
For example, if I've been speaking in Japanese for some time, then if I go speaking in English, I make a few slips of the tongue: I use a Japanese noun in a English sentence with an english grammar and pronounciation!

Ben III, about my japanese, well now I can have a causual conversation with oral subtilities and write about 2000 kanjis (thanks to a very effective learning method I've found). But as it is considered as a rare language, it's very hard to find some resources and I'm quite stuck for the moment. Fortunately, I will go to a languages school in Paris after my secondary-school leaving exams.

Clark, welcome back!
Do you think the theory about the single language which changed into several ones is true? Many languages have absolutely no similarity, except because of influences due to colonialisation or stuff.

Au fait Chantal et Clark, vous parlez Français?
chantal   Tuesday, June 17, 2003, 16:31 GMT
Oui, je parle français.
Clark   Tuesday, June 17, 2003, 18:50 GMT
Un peu; j'apprends français a l'école (c'est mon especialitation).

I speak a little French (it is my major at college). I can understand to written word most, then I can speak it decently as well as writing it, and then comprehending it is the most troubling for me. Spanish is so much easier for me to understand. I can turn on a Spanish television show and be able to understand most of it, but I have never taken Spanish except for one semester of college and one year in high school. It really makes me a bit angry that I cannot understand French better, but I keep telling myself that French is spoken very fast, and it is very "contracted" to my ears. For example, "eux-autres" is pronunced, "zohtra."

Anyways, I am not sure that I believe that language started as one and then split off into what we have today (or should I say what we had at the peak of the world's languages as today that are dramatically less languages than there has been in the past). Even though I am a Christian, I am still open for ideas that stray far from the Christian belief system. With hearing about scientists say that man originated in Africa x-amount of years ago, it leads me to think that language could have started with one group of people and then that language evolved into thousands of dialects. God could have created man in southern Africa, and then decided to have the bible written, but using examples that the people of the time would understand, so the writers based creation in their neck of the woods (Mesopotamia, etc...).

Yes, there are so many languages that are so different from each other, but take Gaelic and French. These two languages are very different from each other, yet they are still in the Indo-European family. I think it is very possible that one language started them all, and as people migrated north, the languages evolved, and dialects arose, and then the dialects evolved, and then eventually you get a lot of languages in a lot of different places.

As for the evolution in skin colour, I think this is possible, but I am a bit skeptical because I do not know much about the process of changes in the skin colour due to pigmentation, melanin and the sun. It seems to me that people would still be relatively dark because if you take the darkest of Africans and the whitest of Europeans, there is a HUGE difference, and several million years does not seem like there would be that much change. But then again, I am no scientist, and I do not believe in evolution of species.
Kabam   Tuesday, June 17, 2003, 20:39 GMT
Hello Clark. I'm pleased to see you again too.
According to scientists, there have been human of different colours from the begining of humanity. So the complexion isn't the result of an evolution. However, the distribution of people in different geographical areas had been decided mostly by their physical features. A black skin withstands the sun better, a slit eye is more protected against the wind, etc.
Anyway, scientist are now conviced that our ancestors are not monkeys who progressively learnt to walk with their two feet, but some monkeys who were already capable to do so.
The ievolution seems not to be that important, then.

Tabisora, if you're that fond of languages, vas-y !!!! The will is what counts most in achievement so I'm sure you'll have no problem. Bonne chance. :)

Chantal, you said you're neither French nor English, so where are you from?
Clark   Tuesday, June 17, 2003, 20:52 GMT
What is the reason behind oll of the complexions then? If the theory about all of the world's people originating from a single group, then there would have to be some sort of evolution in the skin colour as humans started to migrate into N.Africa, Asia and then to Europe and the Americans.
chantal   Tuesday, June 17, 2003, 21:11 GMT
I read this book 'Our language' by Simone Potter.
He speaks about Indo-European languages. He remindes us that of the living languages, Lithunian is the most archaic, preserving in its structural pattern the primitive features of Indo-European most faithfully.
Lithuanian spoken by people whose homes were shut off for many centures from the outside world by primeval forests and impassable marshes, has not changed as much as Hindi and Modern Greek.
Lithuanian still preserve seven case-forms in its nouns, four tenses and four moods in its verbs, an elaborate series of participles and a highly involved system of inflexions.
The distinguished 19th century philologist August Schleicher (1821-68) of the University of Prague, used to spend his summer vacations talking to Lithuanian farmers and recording songs and tales from their lips. He tried hard to reconstruct Indo-European on the basis of Sanskrit for the consonants, Greek for the vowels, and Lithuanian for the inflexions. He had the greatest difficulty, as he himself confessed, with the links or connecting words. Nevertheless, with more zeal than discretion, SChleicher published his nine-line fable of the Sheep and the Horses, Avis akvasas ka, in what he conceived to be the 'Aryan primal speech'.
chantal   Tuesday, June 17, 2003, 21:30 GMT
La suite...
The attempt was laudable but temerarious, and it was soon critizied by the Jung-grammatiker, or Neogrammarians. Most 'comparatists' today, I suppose, would write *ouis ekuos que* as the most likely forms for 'sheep and horses' in Proto-Indo-European, and they would follow convention by marking the phrase with a star to denote that the forms are hypothetical and that they merely represent assumed forms which may have to be modified later in the light of new knowledge.
Yet Schleicher's methods were sound. He proceeded from the known to the unknown, and by talking with Lithuanians he was able to acquire a feeling for a more highly inflected language than his native German to gain a deeper insight into the earlier stages of Indo-European than most of his contemporaraies.

Clark, does "Schleichre" partly respond to your questions about languages and the existence of a Proto-Indo-European language ?
Tabisora   Tuesday, June 17, 2003, 21:34 GMT
About French pronounciation,
we can say the French from france and the one from Quebec are in a situation quite similar to British and American English: different accents and different words and ways to put the things.
Clark, I guess the French you listen to is the one from Quebec.
As a matter of fact, in France we never use "eux-autres", "nous-autres", etc but we just say "eux", "nous", etc.
I can tell you that the words are much more contracted in Quebec. As a proof, we have trouble undertanding the Quebeckers (especially if those who are from the country) whereas they say we pronounce too many syllabes! That's why you'd probably have less trouble with oral comprehension if you listened to a French radio for example.
Though, the way of speaking in Quebec must be closer to what you're probably taught at school.
e.g, they say "parlez-vous français?" whereas we find this too literary to reverse the subject and the verb and rather use, as I did above "vous parlez français?".
Quebec: boîte à malle (probably taken from "mail box")
France: boîte aux lettres
chantal   Tuesday, June 17, 2003, 21:35 GMT
it's nice to see you Kabam !
Anglais étant ma deuxième langue, ma première langue était le Persan. . J'ai appris le français beaucoup plus tard.
Clark   Tuesday, June 17, 2003, 21:41 GMT
I think that people can guess all they want about things like language, but one will never truly know what the first language was really like. Take, for example, language borrowings. English has borrowed the word "pork" from Norman French over 800 years ago. Now, how do we know that Lithuanian did not borrow the word "pork" from a group of people who were assimilated into the Lithuanian tribes before the Lithuanians started to make a name for themselves? We do not; we can only "guesstimate" what languages were really like in the past.

It is impossible to say that "tik" was the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) word for "one" because there could have been so many linguistical changes in the past that the word for "one" could have been "fap." Languages borrowing from one another is not a new thing; languages have been doing it since humans have spoken language. Even people who have been "isolated" have borrowed words from other people in the past. The Icelanders are known for keeping their language pure, but we tend to forget that there were Basque fishermen in Icelandic ports in the 1600's, and when Iceland was first being settled inthe 800's, the Vikings brought with them Celtic slaves.

I am re-reading the "Power of Babel" by John McWhorter, and he has some very interesting ideas about language. He focuses on Pidgins and Creoles, but he has made me think about a lot of things in the linguistic realm. However, I am not just parroting what McWhorter has said; these are my own thoughts.
Kabam   Tuesday, June 17, 2003, 21:45 GMT
About complexion, Clark, scientists think their was not a single group of human at the begining of humanity, but several of them and each had a different complexion.
I don't think there was an evolution of colour then, since after thousands of years you can still find some very white people at the north of Maghreb, especially the Berbers who had already been living there for centuries when the Arabs arrived (and note that the Arabs, who come from an area more in the north, have often a darker skin).
Clark   Tuesday, June 17, 2003, 21:48 GMT
Tabisora, well, my French is mainly Parisien. The French that I have listened to for the most part is standard Parisien.

Chantal, well, yes, everything is hypothetical when it comes to these situations. I think I said pretty much the same thing in my post above (i just added some more stuff).

Bei der Weg, you two (Chantal et Tabisora) wrote in before I did, so I did not get your post until after I posted.
Clark   Tuesday, June 17, 2003, 21:50 GMT
I agree Kabam. This is why I am not sure that I believe there was one group of people, and then they migrated throughout the world making the Negroid, Mongoloid and Caucasioid groups.

I am more apt to believe that God made several different groups of people, and then they stayed in their general areas, with migration, but not on the large scale.