A turning point for language evolution?

mac   Wed Oct 24, 2007 8:34 am GMT
With the world today so interconnected through international organizations, technology, the media, the internet, education and the revative ease of communication and travel, how will this effect the future evolution of languages? Especially the widely spoken world languages.

Will languages that have developed regional differences or dialects, continue to evolve apart from themselves, or instead evolve inward, slowly forming a new modern standard? I happen to believe in the latter.

Now, of course there will always be some regional differences, but do you think these variations likely to grow, maintain or decrease in today's world.

I guess we could also raise the question of the mixing of lanuages as well.
Bella Marquesa   Wed Oct 24, 2007 9:27 am GMT
Los mass media tienden a disminuir las diferencias regionales y homogeneizar las lenguas. Simplemente considera que en el siglo XVIII un inglés dificilmente podría saber cuáles era los usos lingüísticos de un hablante norteamericano, mientras que hoy día gracias a Internet y otros medios de comunicación, ambas comunidades están en contacto y los que antes eran rasgos distintivos del dialecto de una pueden dejar de serlo porque la otra los adopta debido al intercambio continuo que antes no existía.
Skippy   Wed Oct 24, 2007 2:34 pm GMT
Despite attempts by BBC America and Hollywood, American English and English English continue to grow further and further apart.

I don't think language change has anything to worry about.
furrykef   Wed Oct 24, 2007 6:12 pm GMT
I think that language change won't be nearly as drastic as it once was. English that was written 1000 years ago (when Old English was developing into Middle English) is incomprehensible without extensive study, whereas I can imagine that English spoken 1000 years from now will still be somewhat comprehensible... more like reading Shakespeare than like reading Chaucer, and probably not at all like reading Beowulf. Of course, I could also be dead wrong. English might fall in status and then get a large influx of words from a more dominant language, or it could even die out. Who knows?

Skippy's right, though: language change is by no means going to stop. The signs of language change are everywhere, not just in English but in other languages. Many of these are currently simply thought to be incorrect pronunciation or grammar, but "errors" like these are where a lot of language change comes from. It also wouldn't surprise me at all if, over a long enough period of time, Standard American English evolves in the direction of today's African-American Vernacular English ("Ebonics"). People speaking AAVE are all over the media, where they can't help but influence the standard language.

- Kef
Bruno   Wed Oct 24, 2007 7:48 pm GMT
Mon point de vue personnel, j'entend par là qu'il n'est pas appuyé sur des faits mais sur l'intuition, est que certains critères du monde actuel favorise une stabilisation des langues, un ralentissement des changements.

Qu'une langue soit écrite et non seulement orale, selon moi, la stabilise, freine les changements. Prenons comme exemple les langues de domaine liturgiques comme le latin ou l'hébreux, qui sont longtemps restées «mortes», elle changent peu, et ces changements sont généralement des ajouts et non des transformations, pour qu'elles puissent décrire de nouvelles réalités.

Évidemment cet effet stabilisateur implique que la grande majorité des locuteurs soient scolarisés dans un système uniforme.

J'espère avoir clairement exposé mon point de vue. Bonne journée!


My personal point of view based on comon sence, which is not scientifical at all, points out that today's world slows down languages transformations.

First of all written languages, compared to only oral languages, changes slower. As extreme examples I would mention Latin and «Hébreux»? (The language Jewish people use.) changed very little since they were alsmot dead and used as liturgic and in a very straight way, only adding new words to describe new realities as the users need it.

So, according to me, when a language is written in a standart way and the speakers all go to school and learn that writing system, the language changes much slower, but it keeps adding new words as new objets and realities come up.

I hope that was comprehensible. Have a nice day!
K. T.   Wed Oct 24, 2007 11:56 pm GMT

The word you are looking for is "Hebrew" in English. Of course, once Hebrew started up again it took off and has made a comeback. Some linguist made his kid the first native-like speaker in a long time. Anyone know what the first word was? It was...snake. Interesting.
mac   Thu Oct 25, 2007 12:28 am GMT
Interesting. So some here (like me) think change will slow, and others that it will continue as it has.

<< Cars and trains have had more influence on language change than TV or the Internet ever could. >>

I don't agree. How can inanimate objects be less influencial then actual communication regardless of the medium?
Travis   Thu Oct 25, 2007 12:58 am GMT
>>No. All studies of language change have shown that interaction (usually face-to-face) is necessary for a particular feature to spread. Cars and trains have had more influence on language change than TV or the Internet ever could. They've been around for about a hundred years now, and I don't see much evidence of increasing standardization. It seems like regionalization is occurring rather than standardization: the area that can sustain an independent variety is getting bigger, with the local dialects merging into the regional ones, but *not* into a single standard. These regional varieties are diverging from the standard and from each other. (Look at American English, for example) <<

At least here in Milwaukee, language change is often quite obvious within the span of just a generation or so, and it has clearly been away from Standard English. In particular, there are many cases of elision which are only sporadic if present at all amongst middle-aged people and which are the rule in everyday speech amongst younger people in informal contexts (particularly in the case of flap elision, which is generally sporadic or limited to particular words for middle-aged people but very often systematic for younger people). Similarly, middle-aged people seem to actually better distinguish fortis and lenis sibilants and sibilant affricates word-finally than younger people, who seem to primarily rely on vowel length alone to distinguish such. Likewise, one would never (or at least very rarely) hear a middle-aged person pronounce, say, "many" as [m3_+~:i~_^] or "back" as [bE_o?k] here, whereas younger people are far more likely to have such pronunciations (even though many still do not).
mac   Thu Oct 25, 2007 4:29 am GMT
Ok, gotcha.
Vincent   Thu Oct 25, 2007 12:07 pm GMT
So why should we learn english as an international language if it is losing its unity? soon we'll no more be able to comunicate with each other because each one we'll speak a very different dialect of english. I often think that it'd be better to reintroduce a so-called dead linguage like latin or sanskrit as global language because for these, there's no more variation, as Bruno remarked.
Guest   Thu Oct 25, 2007 1:27 pm GMT
All languages used by millions of people across the entire world tend to have more dialects than let's say Polish because of obvious reasons, should we choose Polish as an international language only because it has more unity than English? If we did, it would end up showing many differences as long as peoples from many origins use and modify it. I don't see the diversity of the ENGLISH language as a negative point but to the contrary, it enriches the language itself, and in the end, the are not differences enough so they make the different dialects unintelligible because there is the correct equilibrium between diversity and unity.
mac   Thu Oct 25, 2007 1:54 pm GMT
Well said. Even if we brought back Latin for an international language, it would eventually change too. Vincent, English is not losing its unity or splitting up as you mentioned.Anyway, as I said, I think all anguages will go through less internal changes when compared to the past.
Mllorquí.   Thu Oct 25, 2007 2:42 pm GMT
Mac, completament d'acord amb tu.

Si, tal i com es va fer amb l'hebreu, el llatí s'arribava a imposar com a llengua "ressuscitada", segur que, en pocs segles hauria evolucionat i donaria una nova generació de llengües neollatines.

Tinc un llibre molt interessant: "Rise and decline of a dialect" on s'explica com dins la primera meitat del segle XX, a Israel, abans de la generalització dels mitjans de comunicació de masses, a l'Alta Galilea havia sorgit un dialecte hebreu. Ja dins la segona meitat del segle passat, aquest dialecte fou substituït per l'hebreu general.

Doncs, segur que, davant la hipòtesi d'un llatí reintroduït com a llengua viva, en pocs segles (per no dir decennis) s'aniria disgregant en dialectes que, a la llarga donarien naixença a tantes altres llengües.
Guest   Thu Oct 25, 2007 3:20 pm GMT
Mallorqui Por que costumas escrever em catalao, nomeadamente textos tao compridos?! Acho que poucas pessoas neste forum podem perceber perfeitamente a lingua catala! Acoselho-te que escrevas em catalao mas, por favor, depois traduze o texto para outro idioma: ingles, frances, espanhol para todos perceberem o sentido das tuas mensagens. Muito obrigado.
Escrevi-te em portugues porque sei que falas este idioma muito bem :-)
Travis   Thu Oct 25, 2007 3:44 pm GMT
>>Well said. Even if we brought back Latin for an international language, it would eventually change too. Vincent, English is not losing its unity or splitting up as you mentioned.Anyway, as I said, I think all anguages will go through less internal changes when compared to the past.<<

Well, as English goes, yes and no. On one hand, North American English dialects are increasing in diversity quite quickly at the present, as shown by things such as large scale vowel shifts in dialect groups and the spread of Canadian Raising. On the other hand, traditional dialects of English in the UK have been on the wane for quite a while now, and there are no real signs of such reversing; even then, though, I have heard that there has been innovation of new dialect differences in UK just as much as old ones have been lost. On a larger scale, people are becoming more familiar of other major English dialect groups than in the past, but there are no signs of major English dialect groups converging at all, and there are definite innovations within each major dialect group which are not being propagated to other major dialect groups.