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  •  OT - yesterday's diary (7+ / 0-)

    I was going to ask you in your diary about English the other day if you know of anyone who has done any sort of work about the predictive capabilities of current linguistic analysis.  

    If we can work backwards to PIE, is it at all possible to do any guesswork at all about future changes in language?  

    Streichholzschächtelchen

    by otto on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 08:34:18 AM PDT

    •  Some linguists have been (12+ / 0-)

      working on that, but the problem is that many language changes don't seem to have a predictable pattern. John McWhorter has often pointed out that languages don't change in any predictable direction--that is, they are not changing to become more complex, less complex, and so on.

      •  There's also the issue of the founding population (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        alain2112, Ojibwa, Aunt Pat, mayim

        You never know what group of speakers are going to be the ones founding a new offshoot of dialect which will be the one which ends up founding a new language.

        To use the obvious example, English is the language currently influencing the most other languages around the world and driving change in them, but 2500 years ago there was no way to predict that a mongrel language combining vocabulary from this dinky little civilization in central Italy and vocabulary and grammar shared by a few tribes in northern Europe was going to end up being the most widespread language on the planet.

      •  Languages In Isolation Become More Complex (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ojibwa, nuclear winter solstice

        I'm pretty sure that in a taped lecture I listened to by McWhorter, he said that a language left to itself in isolation will become more complex over time.  It's the constant friction with other languages or dialects which erodes away the extra details which bedeck languages that haven't been intruded upon for long periods of time.  Beyond that, one can't predict just how a language might become more complex or which elements of the language exhibit that complexity.  Even the process of becoming simpler sometimes results in more complexity, as Chinese has demonstrated by reducing the number of syllables contained in words and any prefixes or suffixes used with the addition of a tonal system.  I'm still trying to figure out how someone who is tone deaf can speak Chinese.

        "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

        by PrahaPartizan on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 05:11:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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