Is Arabic the mother of all languages?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Michael, Feb 19, 2008.

  1. tablariddim forexU2 Valued Senior Member

    Who's, we?
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  3. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

    what I want to know is: Where those monkey`s speaking a language and was it Arabic? Haaa - just kidding

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    Interesting thread...
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  5. kmguru Staff Member


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    ?syeknom dednah tfel esoht naem uoY
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  7. ak.R Registered Member

    when the tree of languages are constructed.. to what degree do we consider in the scientific approach potential cases of languages historically fusing with each other.. and generally other features that are absent or a rarity in species genealogy?..
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Fusing is rare. You get it with dialects because by definition dialects are mutually intercomprehensible so the speakers can act as a single community. Even then one dialect is often dominant such as High German. Perhaps Italian is a rare example because Modern Italian was to a large extent synthesized by scholars out of a number of dialects with roughly comparable political power.

    But fusing two languages would require that the speakers act as a single community and that's pretty difficult when, by definition, they can't understand one another.

    There are many instances in Europe alone of language pairs that are almost intercomprehensible dialects yet did not fuse, such as Czech and Slovak, Russian and Belarus, Swedish and Norwegian, Spanish and Catalan, or Croatian and Slovene. The force needed for fusion apparently is not usually forthcoming; people prefer to retain their languages. In China, standard Mandarin is simply displacing other languages such as Cantonese, Shanghai and Fuqian, as well as regional dialects of Mandarin such as Sichuan. There is no fusion whatsoever.

    Languages do borrow copiously from each other, which I suppose does not happen in biological genealogy. Depending on how complex a family tree you want to draw, borrowings are seldom indicated. English, Yiddish and German are all ranked indistinguishably as Germanic languages, even though a vast portion of English's vocabulary is French and another vast portion is an olio of other languages, primarily Greek and Latin; a sizeable portion of Yiddish's vocabulary is Hebrew; whereas German has largely staved off foreign borrowings by decree.

    It's the grammar and syntax of a language that count. The structure of English and Yiddish is obviously and incontrovertibly Germanic, not Romance or Semitic, respectively.

    It is structure that guides the effort to reconstruct superfamilies of languages in which no cognate words can be found. The morphology of Turkish, Hungarian and Finnish leads many linguists to think the probability is very high that they are related, even though a laymen could barely follow a description of the relationship. Other linguists find convincing morphological evidence that this group is part of a larger "Mongolic" superfamily that spreads out so far as to encompass Japanese and Korean. Being only an amateur linguist I cannot hope to understand this research.

    Of course the academy changes direction completely in its search for the Holy Grail, the "Nostratus" superduperfamily that will link all non-African languages into a history proving that the technology of language was invented at least 50,000 years ago. For this endeavor they use massively parallel computing to correlate vocabulary, and search--once again as in the old days--for cognate words in all the language families. This requires the services of the computers to postulate incredibly complex phonetic shifts, and brings in the possibility that what they find is a coincidence rather than a pattern. So far only about fifty words have been found that are common to all non-African language families, and that's not enough to discount coincidence.

    They need to come back when they've got a few hundred or a couple of thousand. The problem with that requirement is that vocabulary turns over and original words are lost. Bread-and-butter English words like "use," "very" and "question" are French borrowings. Japanese uses Chinese numbers. Portuguese has almost lost the pronoun tu for "you" and uses a nearly unrecognizable contraction você of the words for "your grace."

    Even if all non-African languages have a common ancestor, it's quite possible that they have lost all of their common words except the fifty that have already been found. We may never answer the question about the hypothetical Nostratus family.
  9. nirakar ( i ^ i ) Registered Senior Member

    That is an absurd question. It is like saying which one of the people on this earth today is eve, the original mother of the the human race.

    In my opinion their is little or no trace of the original language left on this earth. Are any words instinctual? We can recognize crying and laughing in any language.

    Some linguists believe they can see traces of the original language but I think they are mistaken. I think their proto-language words are words that spread through the major languages used in prehistoric trade.

    The rise and fall of Aramaic is a very interesting example that can teach us much about the origens of the current languages. (Aramaic was a cousin of Arabic and Hebrew and the native language of Jesus.) The Aramaeans never had a significant nation state. Their language was spread because the micro-nations/tribes with all their small languages needed a common language in which to to business. Some how, like the way Microsoft's DOS came to be the unifying language despite DOS's many flaws, Aramaic became the major language of the MiddleEast. It help Aramaic spread when the Assyrian empire adopted Aramaic but Assyrian conqusts were only a minor part of the spread of Aramaic.

    Is Arabic a child of Aramaic? Arabic's dad probably is Aramaic but Arabic's mother was probably Aramaic's mother and her name and identity has been lost to history.

    Arabic and all of the languages of recorded history are all very recent developments compared to the history of languages.

    I was once in a place where people who spoke many different were gathered together and all most could speak a little English. I conducted a crude survey to see which peoples understood "uh huh" and "aa ah" as yes and no. I can't spell the sounds correctly. "anh huh" and anhn uh? Anyway, people from all Indo-European languages seemed to understand those sounds/rythems. People from non-Indo-European languages only understood those sounds if they had spent a lot of time with Indo-European speakers.
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I do my best to keep up what little information leaks out of the academy on the Nostratus project that's comprehensible to amateurs. I once saw a list of twenty of the proto-language words (and damn me for not doing a better job of filing it; even though it was in a newspaper I simply can't find it with Google) and they were all the "stable" kinds of words that are least likely to be replaced by borrowing. Body parts, pronouns and numbers made up a large portion. The stability of even these words is not absolute ("face" is French, Portuguese replaced "you" with "your grace," and the Basque word for "six" is Spanish) but close enough to be reliable.

    And we must bear in mind that "prehistoric trade" was not a major industry, especially before the invention of the wheel ca. 4000BCE; even less so before the domestication of draft animals ca. 8000BCE; and virtually nil before the Neolithic Revolution manifested division of labor, economy of scale and surplus production ca. 10,000BCE.

    Notwithstanding all this, they had only been able to identify fifty proto-language words. Considering that their supercomputers were inventing complex patterns of phonetic shifts to trace their evolution, that's just not enough words to discount the possibility of pure coincidence. The fact that I can't find any reports of further work on this theory in the Internet Era suggests that they might have given up on it.
    The Assyrians originally spoke a different Semitic language, Akkadian. One interesting explanation for the spread of Aramaic under their rule was their policy of breaking up the large Aramaic-speaking populations they conquered in order to suppress solidarity and revolt. As a result Aramaic spread to their other subjects and became the empire's lingua franca. Much like the Norman conquerors of England gradually abandoned French, adopted the Anglo-Saxon language of their subjects and turned it into Middle English, the Assyrians gradually adopted Aramaic. The surviving modern Assyrian people still speak Aramaic, which continued to be the unifying language of the Middle East until quite recently when it was gradually displaced by Arabic.
    The genealogy of the Semitic languages is known more precisely than that. The ancestral proto-Semitic language can be reconstructed in the Arabian peninsula around 4000BCE. As the Semites spread and separated into disparate tribes, the Aramaeans arose in the Syrian desert around 2000BCE. Arabic is a younger language that developed in South Arabia several centuries later. The grammar and morphology of Aramaic and Arabic, particularly the formation of plurals, shows that they evolved independently.
    Indeed. By definition "recorded history" was written down and the earliest writing in Mesopotamia is only six thousand years old.
    In American English the standard transcriptions are uh huh and uh uh. The problem is that the distinction is marked by sounds that are not phonemic in English and therefore have no standard recognizable symbols. The syllables of "uh huh" are separated by an H, but those of "uh uh" are separated by a glottal stop, which only some dialects of England use as a phoneme to replace T in certain positions. Even worse, "uh huh" is spoken on a rising tone or one that rises and then drops, while "uh uh" has a monotonically falling tone; tone is phonemic in many languages but English is not one of them. This makes them very easy to tell apart in speech but difficult to write.
    Interesting, I'd never thought about that. I've spent a lot of time among Chinese people and now that you mention it it's obvious that they never utter those quasi-words. I do know that our convention of shaking our heads vertically for "yes" and horizontally for "no" is not universal. The Bulgarians, former subjects of the Ottoman Empire, do just the reverse and that can result in some enormous misunderstandings. At least they did 35 years ago, perhaps after Perestroika they've begun adopting Western ways.
  11. nirakar ( i ^ i ) Registered Senior Member

    I also saw that list of words. I was skeptical. You can find a list of proto-language words and some thoughts on proto-language here:
    The article says that critics of proto-languge allege that random probability could produce the semi-common words.

    I also am not sure that the idea that we borrow non-basic words but don't borrow basic words is a valid concept. Does Yiddish back up that theory? I think the theory might be too simplistic and you can't make a general rule as to what happens when cultures overlap.

    I am a knee jerk Devils Advocate. If i see the majority or the supposed authorities supporting one side of a debate without having any real supporting evidence, then I can barely stop myself from supporting the other side of the debate without me having any real evidence.

    The existence of Proto language is in my mind part of the wider set of rapid human evolution theories and I support the ideas that support the idea of slow human evolution.

    First I had a problem with people thinking that Out of Africa was science. Why did Louis Leakey dig where he dug? As best I can tell the Out of Africa theory that predated Leakey was based on a European desire that Africans be not fully human. Leakey chose a place to dig that was geographically and climatically good for making preserved bones easily accessible. I have rejected the "out of the trees into the Savannah theory" ever since I read "the aquatic ape theory". Aquatic Ape theory has been ignored but i am not aware that it has been refuted. One thing that Aquatic ape theory does is make the lack of missing link bones irrelevant and no longer a support for recent human evolution. The beaches, mangrove swamps, and rocky coasts on which man evolved are now mostly under water and waves would have destroyed bones.

    Why should I accept rapid evolution when recorded evolution is usually very slow. One day man could not speak and the next day he could speak?

    When humans breed plants and animals we can change them very quickly, but this was by utilizing DNA that they already had developed over millions of years. It wasn't until this very recently that we could actually make gene modifications. Even though the language skills of the great apes are much more advanced than we once thought, I don't find it believable that humans went from languages skills similar to the great apes to language skills similar to modern humans in a 10,000 year span.

    I tentatively reject the human DNA clocks. Reviewing the theory behind the supposed human mutation rates hurts my head, but I am suspicious that they fit their data to the Out of Africa Theory rather than accept that their data was inconclusive. I can't remember what the basis of my suspicions were or even if my suspicions had a basis. In general, I have learned that all theories that have not been experimentally tested, are usually wrong.

    Very recently we have gained 16 marker Y Haplogroup data for samples of people from all around the world. I have read that Africans are the most haplogroup diverse people on earth and that this proves that "Out of Africa" is correct. I want to see that data. I am still thinking about whether Affrica having the most Haplogroup diversity actually proves that Out of Africa is correct. Even if out of Africa is correct I don't think there is any evidence as to when out of Africa happened.

    back to languages, how fast do languages change? Shakespearian English is very different from modern American English. I will accept the linguists theory that all IndoEuropean languages derived from a single language that existed perhaps 3000 years ago.

    Let's suppose that the out of Africa people are correct and all Non Africans are descended from people who left Africa 50,000 years ago; would basic words like "is and am" still resemble the words for "is and am" spoken by those who left Africa? Based on some of my fellow Americans saying things like "I be going to the store", I don't think any vocabulary no matter how basic could survive for 50,000 years.

    I would have believed that until I learned about recent changes in the archaeologists/historians beliefs about the trading patterns of North American Indians. I guess with the word "major" thrown in your statement is true.

    If languages continually become more and more local then eventually the extremely local languages would have to be replaced by a regional language even if the trading was local and not a major activity. Tribes in populated areas can not survive without alliances of tribes. Alliances of tribes can not survive without a common language. Something had been keeping the languages unified on a scale larger than single villages or even small groups of villages. Languages change too quickly for nearby villages to speak the same language solely because they are descended from common ancestors. Of course, we don't know whether every village and tribe had their own language 10,000 years ago.

    Maybe the critics saying the results were produced by random chance one the debate. Or maybe very few people care about the ancient history of language.

    Good theory.

    Thanks for the correction. I wonder if I can retain info.

    You understand the correct language with which to talk about "uh huh" and "uh uh ". I did not know that English had standard transcriptions for "uh huh" and "uh uh". Have linguists studied "uh huh" and "uh uh"?

    I think this stuff is fascinating.
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Yes, but Yiddish has not diverged very far from German. Simple sentences merely sound like German with an odd accent and a simplified grammar. A modern person might think that a Hebrew word like mishpokha for "family" violates the rule, but apparently in the Middle Ages the European concept of family included servants and other members of the "household" rather than just blood relatives.
    It pops up here every now and then. It explains the buoyancy and vestigial webs between our fingers that are unique among apes. Furthermore, the complex reasoning and decisions required in a three-dimensional environment (e.g. flying or swimming) invariably boost intelligence.
    Language is a technology, not just a natural ability. Our development of technology has occurred at a frenetic pace compared to evolutionary development.
    Other developments are more remarkable than that. The change from pack-social hunter-gatherers, living in small tribes of extended family members who had cared for and depended on each other since birth, to herd-social city-dwellers, living in harmony and cooperation within virtual organizations of total strangers (and increasingly of people on the other side of the planet who are mere abstractions to us), is a complete override of a strong natural instinct by reasoned and learned behavior. Yet it occurred in only twelve thousand years. Our massive forebrains allow us to take a new idea and adapt to it very quickly, even when it requires overcoming the instinctive behaviors in our animal brain.
    It's still Modern English, not the Middle English of Chaucer or the Anglo-Saxon of Beowulf. It could be argued that English has changed more in the past 200 years due to the pressures of technology and democracy. Shakespeare would have trouble grasping the concepts of safe sex, fitness centers and fuel-efficiency, more than the words.
    More like five or six thousand. Three thousand years ago we already had Greek, Sanskrit, ancient Persian, proto-Celtic, proto-Germanic, etc.
    That's a compelling argument. We think of numbers, but we have no idea how high our ancestors could count. "Five" comes from the same root as "finger." According to the amusing and informative book The Meaning of Tingo, the word for "eleven" in one language is basically "I've got to start using my toes." Still, both "be" and "is" are root words that trace all the way back to proto-Indo-European.
    There is a natural limit on the ability of people to trade, when all goods must be carried in their hands or on their backs, at walking speed. Technologies are ideas and travel much more swiftly. This is why agriculture spread so rapidly and why metallurgy was practiced by people who had not yet begun living in cities. Even all domestic dogs and cats are each descended from a single population. It certainly supports the hypothesis that the first language spread so quickly that no other tribes would have had the opportunity to come up with the idea independently.
    Actually languages change under pressure and the pressure is greater in cities than in villages. It's a common phenomenon that expatriate communities speak dialects that are several generations older than the ones spoken in their native countries. When members of my Czech family, who had been living in Midwestern America's huge Czech expat community since the 1880s, went back to the old country as tourists in the 1960s, they had trouble understanding the language, and the people in Prague thought they had stepped out of an old-time movie.
    Actually, I don't know. That was all my own observation and analysis.
  13. Lessee. Arabic has per country last I looked at the CIA factbook, on average, around 235 dialects. Amongst, approximately 20% freely communicate.

    No, dialects are interesting, much like these casts of suspicion. And, inflection must be interpreted correctly. If say, some guy were being sarcastic with you, and you knew not. It could spell your Doom.

    Interpretation is a grand way, of knowing what to do with the info. If you are left to your own devices, you may find yourself having no interest in this Universal Concept.

    As, you see, most won't. Leave the thoughts of trying to dominate, by keyboard, as I have for you.
  14. nirakar ( i ^ i ) Registered Senior Member

    Interesting. Sometimes I wonder about the primitiveness of certain English words. For example, the word "without" makes no sense. It seems that whoever created the word "without" only had a 500 word vocabulary and needed to find a way to express themselves. Still, why didn't they say "not-having" instead of "with-out"?

    We need to replace the people of Manhattan with a million chimpanzees and see whether they could trained to live harmoniously together, in order understand how remarkable the shift from hunter gatherer tribes to high tech city dwellers is.

    I read (could be false) that at least one person went from the stone age hunter and gatherer in Papua New Guinea to airline pilot during a one lifespan. The hunter gatherer social customs could be as complex as modern social customs and the number of skilled techniques and facts that a stone age person would need to understand may be as numerous as those that a modern man has to understand.

    Division of labor was well established in the stone age. The dramatic change was the number of segments that labor has been divided into by modern man. Stone age man had far less specialties than modern man does.

    I read that the hunter gatherers in the Namibian desert only work 20 hours a week and have life spans as long or longer than than most of the worlds agricultural and city people. Being modern is a means to an ends and has no value of it's own. Being happy has value and therefore being healthy and well fed has value. Only those that survive can be happy and therefore survival has value. Modernness gets it's value from enabling survival.

    I still think that traits needed for city living developed slowly in stone age man and the higher populations densities forced the traits to suddenly be applied to agriculture and city living.

    I think language is much older. Alex the Parrot was taught the works for cherry, banana, cork, and nut. Alex was not taught words for apple or almond. Alex came up with banana-cherry for apple and cork-nut for almond on his own. Alex was right an apple is sort of half way between a banana and a cherry.

    Some wild Chimpanzees have different learned calls used in hunting for different kinds of monkeys that they like to eat. Chimpanzees can be taught to use syntax and can create sentences using sign language.

    Early stone age man probably used words long before agriculture and metallurgy.
    Wouldn't lions be more effective hunters if they could draw in the sand and say, "ok you go down in the ravine and wait, I will scare come out of the left side tall grass and get the zebras running and then Sally will come out of the bushes on the right side and scare the Zebras over to you in the ravine"?

    Some relatively recent events created the language groups but I don't the language groups are remnants of a recent birth of language. I think conquest or trade must have got people to abandon their local languages in favor of the languages that became the language groups.

    The more people involved, the more people who have an opportunity or incentive to add new word to the language. Why do each generation of youth like to create their own slang? One thing that has happened over the last two centuries is an increase in age segregation. Young people spend much less time with older people than they used to.

    I understand why language would change faster in cities, but language stays unified better even if it does change when people are trading with each other. Language might change more slowly in an isolated village, but the change would be a unique change to that village. Some degree of isolation is needed to divide one language into a group of languages. Since pre-trade stone age men presumably only had contact with their neighboring tribes, I would expect that stone age man would have had a greater linguistic diversity than modern man.

    It is my understanding that in 1400 AD, the North American Indians had a greater linguistic diversity than Europe did. This would suggest that the event that created the Indo-European language family occurred significantly later than the settlement of North America by native Americans.
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Every language has built in limitations. It has paradigms that evolved slowly in earlier eras and modern people struggle to overcome them. In English one of our Stone Age paradigms is prepositions. Unlike nouns, verbs and adjectives, prepositions are a closed class that resist the invention of new words. Obviously this is a psychological limitation but it is unconsciously enforced by consensus--an element of the "collective unconscious" of our "tribe."

    As civilization became more complex, the number of relationships that need to be discussed expanded dramatically and this set of prepositions became inadequate. Words like "at" and "on" have so many meanings that they are almost meaningless and now serve largely as placeholders that allow us to parse sentences. As I have often pointed out, Chinese has no prepositions--nor other noise-words like articles and conjunctions--and expresses all relationships by the use of its huge vocabulary of nouns and verbs. In my opinion this gives Chinese speakers an advantage in adapting to changing times.

    "With out" was originally two words like "in to" and "up on," an attempt to express a new kind of relationship with the existing set of prepositions. Obviously the logic behind their creation is murky. Eventually they merged into a single word.

    As for "not having," today we use "lacking" as a preposition, just as we use "concerning" and "absent." Over the last few generations we have made remarkable progress in changing the grammatical structure of English to make it more adaptable. One of the most striking new paradigms is the freedom to build compound words whose grammatical analysis is ambiguous, such as user-friendly, fuel-efficient and cost-effective. This type of coinage, for the purpose of describing a unique relationship with a very small class of grammatical objects, was unknown as recently as 100 years ago, AFAIK. This is also a hallmark of Chinese, whose grammar has been described as "thousands of little rules that only govern a few words, instead a few big rules that govern thousands of words."
    It's much easier to do that when the advanced civilization already exists and all you have to do is agree to join it and learn how it works. It's a considerably slower process when you and your fellow villagers have to invent it by trial and error.
    You may be right about social customs. In fact primitive people tend to be more social than we are and could easily have more complex relations than modern people who don't know their neighbors very well, communicate with their friends with a keyboard, and live successful lives in harmony and cooperation with strangers instead of their families.

    But as for skilled techniques, I'm not sure I agree. Photograph yourself throughout a typical day, starting with the alarm clock, the flush toilet, the hot-and-cold shower, the toothpaste tube, the deodorant, the can opener for the cat food (not to mention the cat himself), the coffeemaker, the toaster, the shoelaces, the door latches and locks, the elevator. Then monitor yourself just in the operation, navigation, and conventions of driving a car. Then your office procedures and equipment. Stone Age people had a set of survival skills such as telling poisonous berries from nutritious ones and knowing how to corner a rhinoceros without being gored, but I'm not convinced it was a larger set. And I'm certainly not convinced that it was a more complex set since, unlike today's survival skills, everybody knew how every process worked from start to finish. Except for a handful of specialists like flint-knappers or bone-setters, these were all skills that everybody was capable of learning and practicing.
    But what can they do with their leisure time? I'm sure today they have iPods and other portable technologies to enrich their lives, but their Stone Age ancestors did not. Even as recently as 150 years ago, professionally performed music was not available to most people outside of cities, except at long intervals.

    As for lifespans, even the Namibians benefit from modern medical technology. The Peace Corps intrudes on them to keep dysentery out of their water supply and volunteer doctors come and vaccinate their children. The life expectancy of an adult who had survived the ravages of childhood was around 50 in the Mesolithic Era, but if you include children the average was dreadful because so few lived to become adults.
    As a lifelong music lover and professional (although not career) musician, I must disagree strenuously. I would not have had the one thing that makes my life worth living.
    Civilization was by definition not only a Paradigm Shift, but required overriding our pack-social instinct with reasoned and learned behavior. People had no impetus to start doing that until the Late Stone Age when agriculture both permitted and required people to build permanent villages and start trusting people in other clans.

    Nonetheless as I have often opined, I think the precursor to that was the self-domestication of dogs around 15,000 years ago. Humans learned to trust and care for "people" who weren't even of the same species. I suggest that this experience made it easier for them to entertain the possibility that they could do the same with rival clans. The fact that they indeed began joining clans just a few thousand years after building the planet's first voluntary multi-species community is powerful support for my hypothesis.
    Koko the gorilla or one of the apes who learned ASL did the same thing the first time she saw a zebra. She called it a "white tiger."
    Indeed. Chimps have developed vocabularies of 1,000 words in ASL. Some people insist that this is just complex mimicking and not true language ability. I'm waiting for some deaf people to decide to become primatologists because of this research. I think their perspective of talking to another species in their own native language will shed some light on the controversy.
    Well sure. The Neolithic Revolution only happened about 12,000 years ago in the earliest location, Asia Minor, and more recently in other places. Given that we can trace existing language families back almost half that far and actually reconstruct the ancestral languages, it's a good bet that the technology of language was invented long before the technology of agriculture, and indeed may have been indispensable to the planning and organization it required. There are many paradigm shifts in prehistory which we can reasonably speculate could not have happened without the technology of language. The Nostratus hypothesis posits that all non-African languages are related, which pushes the invention of the technology back 50,000 years to the diaspora out of Africa, if it's true. Language might have been the technology that made the first successful emigration out of Africa possible.
    The Nostratus faction agrees with you. As a linguist I am enamored of the theory but I don't think we have enough evidence for it yet, and furthermore I think that evidence could easily be lost in prehistory so we may never know the answer.
    Conquest can do it but it also has been known to work the other way. The Sumerians gave up their Akkadian language and adopted the Aramaic of their conquered peoples, and the Norman French did the same thing in "Angle Land."

    However, trade, or economics in general, is a stronger force. Jews abandoned Hebrew--a "sacred" language that was written down!--except in the liturgy and spoke first Aramaic, later German, and now the language of whichever country they happen to live in. So many American Indians have lost their native languages not because of political or military pressure, and even despite the efforts of our scholars to preserve them, but simply because they have to work among anglophones to feed their families.
    Well sure. The Americas were populated around 14000BCE. The tribe that spoke proto-Indo-European began to disperse around 4000-5000BCE. Quite a difference.

    But more importantly, the "Indo-Europeans" themselves were already a Neolithic people with the agriculture and other Late Stone Age technologies that fostered the building of moderately large communities, which works against the proliferation of multiple language groups. The Western Branch of the Indo-Europeans only split up into a few tribes--Celts, Teutons, Hellenes, Italics and Albanians--before civilization began spreading throughout Europe. I'm less familiar with the history of the Eastern Branch, but it looks like they had a similarly small number of tribes--Indo-Iranian, Balto-Slavic, Armenian and a few others--for the same reason.

    In contrast, while civilization was spreading in Mesoamerica and South America, it had not yet reached North America in pre-Columbian times, and the Neolithic Revolution was not even in full swing. The pressure to combine into larger tribes was not there, so there were more smaller language groups.
  16. Walter L. Wagner Cosmic Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

    Just my guess, but "within" meant inside the building, which is where all the goodies were, and "without" meant ouside the building, where no goodies were. Later, "without" became synonymous as being deprived of the things that are within.
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    "With" originally had another meaning: "against," which is still represented by German wieder and survives in English words like "withstand," "withhold" and "withershins." Any compound on "with" needs to be scrutinized to see if it retains this original meaning.

    In the other Germanic languages, "with" is expressed by a word that would have come into English as something like "mid," as in German mit and Danish med.
  18. temur man of no words Registered Senior Member

  19. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    I gotta say I doubt that.

    At least, any more trouble than an equivalently intelligent modern - the run of whom require post-secondary education to fully grasp the concept of "fuel efficiency" , themselves. (and the concept of "plural" displays its own complexity)

    Your list does not persuade me that the Stone Sge set was smaller, though. That was a list of machines whose operation requires essentially one skill - a one step knob manipulation. Some you push, some you twist, you get what you want - pigeons can be trained to accomplish that entire routine up to the car, except (possibly) the shoelaces.

    And as for the shoelaces and car, I'll see that and raise you a moccasin lace and a canoe - and for the office procedures and so forth, a full set of Neolithic clothing and tools launched in an ocean-trade twelve man kayak.

    The total complexity of the skill set available to the population does not compare equivalents. The question started out as which humans required the mastery of more complex skills in the course their ordinary life - specialization intrinsically reduces, rather than increases, that set in any one person.

    As far as the OP - it's interesting to watch the two stage metaphorical drift of "mother" from birthsource to inclusive exemplification (the mother of all battles, the mother of all snakes,the mother of all languages) come back down the mountan to become assumed physical fact (all the languages actually are inferior derivatives of Arabic) in the minds of the believers.

    Is there a name for this arc of meaning ? We see it most clearly in theistic religious thought, but not only.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2008
  20. fadeaway humper that way lies madness Registered Senior Member

    Hi there Mr. Rocker! Since you seem to take your linguistic very seriously and I thought you'll be interested, I just wanted to let you know that the German word in this instance is wider, not wieder. In fact, curiously enough, wider is against, while wieder is again.

    So yeah, I'll shut up now.
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    <Slaps forehead in shame> Too many brain cells have atrophied. You'd never know that 35 years ago I got around Europe for two months by speaking German!
    German has its share of homonyms, although not as many as English. Staat "state"/stadt "city", Mann "man"/man "one" (indefinite pronoun), Seite "side"/Saite "fiddle", sein "to be"/sein "one's own".
    Oh no! I try to maintain high standards of scholarship here. Please correct all errors including those of the Moderator.

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  22. hajra Registered Member


    Arabic is indeed the mother of all languages and this is a thesis based on extensive research done by our community i.e,The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
    As I am writing my first post I am not able to give you the links to these research works,so here's what you have to do..go to (add the w's of course)and on this page there is a number of books about Arabic generally being the root of all languages as well as the origin of some specific languages including English,Italian,Japanese etc from Arabic,which actually prove wrong the conclusion of philologists that Arabic is just a relatively new and ordianary language which has no link to the Indo-European family which includes English and Italian but rather remarkably proves with strong evidence that Arabic was the language from which sprung all the other languages,that is with logical arguments.
    I hope you find all your answers in these books.
  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    This is a place of science. Citations of religious organizations are regarded with great suspicion. A scientist attempts to find the truth, whereas a religionist attempts to find evidence to support his pet theory. It's not surprising that a group of Muslims would reach the conclusion that Arabic is the mother of all languages, just as the Soviet Union always had "proof" that all major technologies were invented by Russians.
    There's a reason for this rule and you have been so helpful as to illustrate it. We have to develop trust in a new member before we're willing to expend the bandwidth and the energy to follow his suggestions. As a moderator I felt it was my duty to trace some of your sources and they are simply horrible. This is "linguistics" as it was practiced 300 years ago.
    Research in one science has to correlate with research in the other sciences. Contemporary linguistic analysis using massively parallel computers has reconstructed ancestral languages that go back 5,000 years. There were no "Arabs" 5,000 years ago, and the proto-Semitic language spoken by the Semitic tribes that were the ancestors of the Arabs, Jews, Palestinians, Lebanese, etc., bears only accidental resemblance to proto-Indo-European, Egyptian, Chinese, and other partially reconstructed Bronze Age languages. If this theory were true one would expect to see a slow convergence going back in time, and there is none.

    The major failing of Mazhar's biased and amateurish attempt at scholarship is that he seems to focus entirely on vocabulary. Languages have other dimensions, notably grammar. There is no basis for relating the grammar of the Semitic languages to the grammar of the Indo-European, Mongolic, Sino-Tibetan, Ural-Altaic and other key language families. The mechanisms they use for expressing concepts like gender, number, person and tense differ so strikingly as to be incompatible, for example suffixes versus umlauting. But moreover, they don't even share the same concepts. For example, Chinese has no gender, number or tense, and it's a little vague on the concept of person, since what we express with pronouns they express with nouns.

    It is still considered possible that all languages--at least all non-African languages--have a common ancestor. When Homo sapiens made his first successful migration out of Africa around 50,000 years ago, DNA evidence indicates that all of the travelers were members of a single tribe. (The San or "Bushmen" are their modern descendants.) We can't guess whether language had yet been invented, but if it had, then all of the languages of the non-African people must be descended from the one language of that one tribe.

    We will unfortunately probably never be able to trace languages back 50,000 years. They seem capable of changing completely and unrecognizably in a much shorter time than that, so there's literally nothing to trace. Nonetheless, this was 45,000 years before there were any Arabs and before there was any "Arabic" language.

    To assert that Arabic is the mother of all languages is a religious statement, not a scientific one.

    Posting a religious argument on a science board is trolling, which is a violation of the SciForums rules, so please don't do it again.

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