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Author Topic:   How long has modern man been on this earth?
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Message 48 of 71 (492304)
12-29-2008 10:29 PM
Reply to: Message 45 by Peg
12-29-2008 9:13 PM

Re: Care to show us evidence Peg?
Professor of Anthropology and Linguistics G. L. Trager says: “Historical knowledge about existing languages goes back only a few thousand years.”

“Historical knowledge”. From written records. The one thing that distinguishes history from pre-history is the existence of written records. Your use of that quote begs the question about how far back human languages go and would only have any bearing on how far back human writing goes.

For example, Japanese history did not start until circa 800 CE when Buddhist missionaries from China brought writing to the Japanese; they still write primarily in Chinese. That started the Heian Period known for a vibrant culture rich in art and literature, all of which appears in the historic record as having instantly come into being. Not to mention the Japanese language itself.

Is the lack of a written pre-historic record (an oxymoron, BTW) evidence that Japanese did not exist prior to the Heian Period? No more could it be considered evidence against the existence of other human languages.

An article in Science Illustrated of July 1948 stated: “Older forms of the languages known today were far more difficult than their modern descendants . . . man appears not to have begun with a simple speech, and gradually made it more complex, but rather to have gotten hold of a tremendously knotty speech somewhere in the unrecorded past, and gradually simplified it to the modern form.”

Linguist Dr. Mason “the idea that ‘savages’ speak in a series of grunts, and are unable to express many ‘civilized’ concepts, is very wrong.” He adds that “many of the languages of non-literate peoples are far more complex than modern European ones.”—Science News Letter, September 3, 1955.

As anyone who has studied foreign languages should realize, different languages are more complex than each other and also more simple. To only look at one feature and pronounce the entire language more or less complex would be the same as a small child seeing a drink being poured from a short class into a taller skinny glass and thinking that there's more drink now (as I recall, developing the ability to see that it's still the same amount of drink is called "conservation").

For example, people look at the inflected languages in the past which made extensive use of noun declension to distinguish their use in a sentence and at the general lack of such declensions in current languages and pronounce the ancient languages more complex. In that respect, yes, but what about word order and sentence structure? The ancient languages played fast and loose with sentence structure -- and modern inflected languages still do -- ; because the nouns' declension indicated their function in the sentence, it matter very little where they were placed in the sentence. For example, in German the following two sentences mean the same, that the dog bites the man:
Der Hund beißt den Mann.
Den Mann beißt der Hund.

But in English, "The dog bites the man." and "The man bites the dog." mean two very different things. German can play around with word order (though not as much as Russian or Latin), whereas English requires very strict word order in order to preserve meaning. Therefore, while English is much simpler in terms of declension, it is much more complex in terms of sentence structure and word order. Lose complexity in one area and you must increase it in another or else the language will lose its ability to express ideas.

Linguists say that about 50 percent of earth’s inhabitants speak languages belonging to the Indo-European language family. That puts them all originally in the same area,hence explaining their similarities

Yes, the steppes north of the Black Sea. But they did not all disperse at the same time. Rather, the pattern as taught 35 years ago in linguistics was that groups would emigrate out of that area periodically, carrying with them the then-current form of Indo-European. It would continue to develop and change in that homeland and each wave of emigration would use that form as the basis for a new language family.

BTW, Proto-Indo-European was highly inflected with eight cases and no prepositions, since the cases took care of that. Then as the heavy use of cases eased, they introduced prepositions, a definite increase in complexity that also increased the language's expressive ability.

Of the 1,000-odd languages spoken in Africa, some three hundred have a remarkable similarity in their unusual grammatical structure. Known as the Bantu language family, they are spoken in most regions south of the equator. “Bantu,” meaning “people,” is a word common to these languages, hence the name “Bantu family.” Linguists believe that the Bantu family descended from a parent language spoken in central West Africa more than two thousand years ago....Again, showing the same origin.

so languages can be traced back to an original source ...this is evidence of a single language being spoken at a particular time in the past... and if you want to believe in the babel story or not, you simply cannot deny the possiblity of it

"an original source"? You just gave two sources, not one. The Babel story is a simplistic one which might possibly serve to introduce the idea of languages splitting off form others, but if taken to seriously only trivializes the long and complex "evolution" of human language. Sure, Babel can be used as a metaphor when one wishes to wax poetic, but frankly, I do not see how it could be taken seriously.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 45 by Peg, posted 12-29-2008 9:13 PM Peg has taken no action

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