Mahmut Tolon

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Evolution of Languages 2/20/2008


Think of yourself as a Stone Age person for a minute.  In prehistoric times your tribe became so numerous that a part of that tribe went off to live in the mountains, the rest stayed in the plains. In time, the connection between the two groups became less and less. The languages and belief systems developed in different directions. Think of this development not only in terms of 10-20 years but in terms of a few millennia and a glacial period in between. The people of these, now two different tribes, will obviously be very different from each other. They will speak totally different languages.

On a more simple level, even if you look at the language spoken in different towns or different regions of the same country today the differences are obvious.

A look at English idioms and dialects in different continents will make the point clear, the same goes for Turkic languages.   In spite of the differences Turkish spoken in Azerbaijan and Turkey are the very same language: one has been influenced by Russian culture over the last 80 years the latter by western languages. The differences between Bavaria and Northern Germany are the same and the close relationship between Plattdeutsch spoken in Northern Germany and Dutch are also evident.

Everyone can see the changes in language by looking at 10 -20 year old newspapers. The constant change is obvious if you listen to the language different generations speak within the same town. Even the difference between the generations within the same town is self evident.

Proof for evolution and proof for the constant change in languages is more or less the same: you can feel the melody of change if you have an overview and find one proof after the other or you can be very skeptical and look for the “missing link” constantly unable to see the whole. Ancient cultures not having a geographic overview of the languages which we have now tried to explain different languages with the term “Babylonian confusion of languages” believing that this was the result of  a conscious act. Of course as far as languages are concerned we are not talking about mutations but of mimesis.

As an example for language consider the following: The use of the word ‘taboo’, drawn from tapu (Tonga) or tabu in Fiji Islands dates back to 1777 when Captain Cook visited the islands and  has become part of every major language in the world since.

The pace of distribution of idioms and words between languages has become faster ever since Cook’s visit to the Fiji islands and this actually gives us hope for better communication between people with different languages. One example of a wide spread  word is TV, whereas some languages preferred creating a word like Fernseher another radio (Germans created the word: Rundfunk) . Many rulers of countries will prefer imprisoning their language with words like this especially when new technical terms are needed, instead of using the original willful creation of new words will make cross-cultural communication harder.  Psychology will play a role when a word or a name will be used and also relations between countries. They even influence names for breeds of dogs.

The Dogge or Great Dane or Danois was bred in Germany. Only the Germans called the breed German (Deutsche Dogge). Everyone else called the breed “Danish.” After World War II, however, the Germans themselves were so intimidated that they also started calling the dogs “Danish Dogge.” With increased self-esteem among Germans, from the 1990’s on, they have resumed calling the breed Deutsche Dogge again and have seen to it that encyclopedias do so as well. The more we understand such interactions the less cross-cultural taboos we will hopefully have.

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March 30, 2012 - Posted by | Makaleler / Articles

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