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Old 12th September 2019, 06:31 AM   #1
mrmagnetoman88
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Evolution of language in the context of humans

Okay, so I was reading a book relating to the concept of culture and have come to a chapter relating to the emergence of language and its evolution over tens of thousands of years or so.

Basically, what I believe I've understood is that over the course of evolution of animals, communication came to be a crucial component for their survival. By virtue of certain segments in the human genome known as junk DNA that accounts for the ≤2% difference between humans and chimpanzees, humans have evolved a somewhat digitalised means of communication differing significantly from that of their fellow non homo sapien animals.

From my reading, what I also believe I understand is that in the course of human evolution, humans had the tendency to form groups/packs/populations in a way that is mutually beneficial to ward off potential enemies or other humans posing a threat. Evidently, one of the methods employed by different human populations was to establish a language or dialect unique to the particular population to enhance the ability of its members to identify humans who aren't members of that population who might pose a threat. This appears to explain the vast diversity of dialects observable within given geographic regions.

My confusion arises in relation to modern day observation of how, in an era of globalisation, humans from all corners of the globe are ambitiously striving to learn different languages and dialects from the one they were individually exposed to at birth or the ones unique to their particular 'nation'/geographic region of birth. How do we reconcile the notion of humans embracing languages and dialects that are different from those of their 'nation'/geographic region in a way that enhances the process of bringing humans together with the notion of humans resisting attempts to change the language of their 'tribe'/pack in a way that enhances the ability of 'members' of that 'tribe'/pack to identify 'non-members'/ potential enemies? This appears to pose quite a conundrum(to me at least, at this point in time).

Could any of you members of the Skeptics Forum please help elucidate this? Thanks in advance and feel free to add anything interesting to the discussion.
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Old 12th September 2019, 06:40 AM   #2
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I would say your mistake is in the third paragraph where you make the assumption that languages/dialects are a result of a need to differentiate between members and non-members.

Without that then your issue in the 4th paragraph is a non-issue.
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Old 12th September 2019, 07:32 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Tolls View Post
I would say your mistake is in the third paragraph where you make the assumption that languages/dialects are a result of a need to differentiate between members and non-members.
Thanks for your response. Yes, that's true. Languages/dialects did not arise as a result of a need to differentiate between 'members' and 'non-members'. I didn't actually mean to make that assumption. However, after having been established, ancient humans apparently ever so slightly altered dialects to help differentiate between 'members' and 'non-members'. I'm having difficulty reconciling this with the notion of humans learning different languages or dialects in a way that brings 'members' of different 'tribes' together.
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Old 12th September 2019, 08:13 AM   #4
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I think the stumbling block to your analysis is an assumption of consistency in human behavior. Language is used at times to facilitate contact between groups, at other times to identify and exclude outsiders.

This is seen in modern societies in the creation of 'in-group' jargon. It is common for political or religious cults to create new words, or new meanings for words, that are used only by those within the group. This not only helps preserve the security of the group, it also increases the isolation of the members, making them easier to control.

The contrast to this is the increase in the numbers of people learning foreign languages, in order to decrease isolation and facilitate understanding.

People are weird and contrary.
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Old 12th September 2019, 08:50 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Pope130 View Post
I think the stumbling block to your analysis is an assumption of consistency in human behavior. Language is used at times to facilitate contact between groups, at other times to identify and exclude outsiders.

This is seen in modern societies in the creation of 'in-group' jargon. It is common for political or religious cults to create new words, or new meanings for words, that are used only by those within the group. This not only helps preserve the security of the group, it also increases the isolation of the members, making them easier to control.

The contrast to this is the increase in the numbers of people learning foreign languages, in order to decrease isolation and facilitate understanding.
Thanks for your response. Yes, I find the contrast between cult members altering and amending language to help with the isolation of members and the endeavour of humans to learn languages in a way that transcends cultism to be quite startling. That was kind of the crux of my confusion that lead me to start this thread.

Could we view it like two antagonistic forces acting in opposite directions to each other, i.e learnt languages/dialects being altered or amended to preserve cultism and new languages being learned to transcend cultism? Something along that line?
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Old 12th September 2019, 09:01 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by mrmagnetoman88 View Post
Thanks for your response. Yes, I find the contrast between cult members altering and amending language to help with the isolation of members and the endeavour of humans to learn languages in a way that transcends cultism to be quite startling. That was kind of the crux of my confusion that lead me to start this thread.

Could we view it like two antagonistic forces acting in opposite directions to each other, i.e learnt languages/dialects being altered or amended to preserve cultism and new languages being learned to transcend cultism? Something along that line?
I would agree with that. Hopefully without seeming too naïve I'd assign communication, contact and understanding as "good", and isolation, ignorance and control as "evil".

People do good things, people do bad things.

Language, like any tool, can be used for good or evil.

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Old 12th September 2019, 09:14 AM   #7
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If language evolved to identify one clan from another that implies choices made: We call it a turkey, those people that call it a duck are 'other' and not 'us'.

But that's not how it works at all. Instead other things develop: They eat pork, it's dirty, they're dirty, they are not us.

Whereas language evolves through use. In Spanish the word ojala means hopefully. It evolved from o allah which means god willing in Arabic. Arabs invaded Spain in the 700s. That's when the word ojala in Spanish emerged

Take other words and look up etymology and you'll mostly find how a word in one language evolved into a word in a different language. Or you'll find words became contractions from frequent use.

The evolution of languages follows closely the migration of humans. Separate populations and you'll see language drifting. After a while languages become widely separated as do the populations. Given time even one's own language drifts. Old English spoken hundreds of years ago is quite different from modern English.
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Old 12th September 2019, 10:09 AM   #8
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SG, you mean etymology, not etiology.


mrmagnetoman88, languages don't evolve in the sense that organisms do; they change. I don't know the book you're reading, but the term for the process is "language change" and the general field of study is "historical linguistics."



Professional linguists (of whom I am one) and anthropologists and sociologists and cognitive scientists and a host of other academics all use different criteria and methods to talk about language change.
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Old 12th September 2019, 10:19 AM   #9
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I thought it was going to be that languages that depend on phonetic intonations are not as "digital" as other languages. And the more digital a language is, the better it converts form spoken to written or even literally digital. (somebody will be along shortly to give us the proper nomenclature for these two types of languages)

So maybe languages spread and morph because the changes make it inherently better to communicate- within the appropriate society?
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Old 12th September 2019, 10:27 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by xterra View Post
SG, you mean etymology, not etiology.
Thanks, I knew I should have looked it up.


Originally Posted by xterra View Post
Professional linguists (of whom I am one) and anthropologists and sociologists and cognitive scientists and a host of other academics all use different criteria and methods to talk about language change.
Interesting.
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Old 12th September 2019, 10:54 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Pope130 View Post
I would agree with that. Hopefully without seeming too naïve I'd assign communication, contact and understanding as "good", and isolation, ignorance and control as "evil".

People do good things, people do bad things.

Language, like any tool, can be used for good or evil.
I agree with you on this, too.
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Old 12th September 2019, 10:58 PM   #12
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mrmagnetoman88, languages don't evolve in the sense that organisms do; they change. I don't know the book you're reading, but the term for the process is "language change" and the general field of study is "historical linguistics"[/quote]Sorry for wrongly using the term evolve in the context of languages; I should have used the term change as you pointed out.
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Old 12th September 2019, 11:04 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by xterra View Post
SG, you mean etymology, not etiology.


mrmagnetoman88, languages don't evolve in the sense that organisms do; they change. I don't know the book you're reading, but the term for the process is "language change" and the general field of study is "historical linguistics."
Sorry, I should have used the term 'change' in the context of language as you pointed out instead of 'evolve'. Thanks for the correction.

The book I'm reading is 'Wired For Culture' by Mark Pagel. He didn't use the term 'evolve' in the context of languages; it was my wrong choice of terminology.
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Old 12th September 2019, 11:35 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
If language evolved to identify one clan from another that implies choices made: We call it a turkey, those people that call it a duck are 'other' and not 'us'.

But that's not how it works at all. Instead other things develop: They eat pork, it's dirty, they're dirty, they are not us.
Yes, this observation seems to contradict the notion that language evolved to help 'clan members' identify 'non-members'. So to what extent, if at all, do you believe that changes in languages/dialects were induced by the factor of 'clan member' identification? As I mentioned in an earlier post, it does seem pretty difficult to reconcile this with the observation of how languages expand and develop in a shared manner like the example you gave.

Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
Whereas language evolves through use. In Spanish the word ojala means hopefully. It evolved from o allah which means god willing in Arabic. Arabs invaded Spain in the 700s. That's when the word ojala in Spanish emerged
I think another example would be the Hebrew greeting 'shalom' and the Arabic greeting 'salam'.
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Old 13th September 2019, 11:05 AM   #15
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Look up "northern cities vowel shift" for a modern example of language change in the United States.


Wikipedia has a series of articles on American dialects that are worth reading.
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Old 13th September 2019, 01:13 PM   #16
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Languages don't diverge to make groups of speakers distinct. They diverge spontaneously without purpose or guidance, so gradually that it's mostly unnoticed at first (so forget about it being deliberate when the people who are doing it ddon't even know they're doing it), and after enough change accumulates, then it can eventually also happen to contribute to group distinction just by chance.
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Old 16th September 2019, 03:35 AM   #17
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Languages change, probably all the time. I speak Danish, and when I hear 50 year old recordings, I notice the language has changed so much that it sounds distinctly old-fashioned, even though at the time, when I was young, it sounded all natural.

Before the mass media there was little opportunity for people to speak to people from outside their own region, and so these changes tended to move in different directions, and dialects appeared.

The mass media, and mass communication has largely killed dialects in Denmark in favour of a kind of standard Danish. From being the language in the world with the most dialects in the smallest area, there are now only a couple of dialects left that seem able to survive, and even so, it is often the case that young people only use the dialect when they speak to the older generation.
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Old 16th September 2019, 02:06 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by mrmagnetoman88 View Post
Could we view it like two antagonistic forces acting in opposite directions to each other, i.e learnt languages/dialects being altered or amended to preserve cultism and new languages being learned to transcend cultism? Something along that line?
I think we could.

You can also look at it like the usefulness of language between groups when dealing with others in zero-sum situations (you must lose for us to win) and non-zero sum ones (everyone can benefit here).

It's the difference between language use in international diplomacy, vs language use in the form of codes/cryptography during military conflicts.
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Old 16th September 2019, 02:18 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by mrmagnetoman88 View Post
Yes, this observation seems to contradict the notion that language evolved to help 'clan members' identify 'non-members'.
I'm not sure language did or does evolve/change for that reason.

Has it been demonstrated to be the case?

I'd say the human brain evolved the capacity and inclination for both "speaking in code" as well as for picking up on unfamiliar language use. That probably just coincidentally turned out to help assist in identifying group vs non-group members.
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Old 16th September 2019, 02:32 PM   #20
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As I understand it te quehstion is, if different languages and dialects developed to enhance in group cohesion, why are so many people trying to learn other languages. There is at least some anecdotal evidence to suggest that dialect is in part used for in group identification. In hebrew, Shibboleth means flood. In english it means a word or phrase used to identify members of the in group because in the bible it was used to distinguish one side of a war from the other based on pronunciation. There's two anecdotes in support of the idea anyway. The story that it was such word and the fact that there is a word to describe such words.

A. Learning another language doesn't mean you unlearn the dialect of your original in group. So you can still maintain the benefits of the in group cohesion while advancing your status with the second group.

B. In group cohesion isn't really that much of an advantage if you dialect is that of a low status group. If you look at what languages and dialects are most attractive to new speakers, you'll almost certainly find its the language and dialects of high status groups. Economically, English as a second language, has the greatest return on investment. I'm pretty sure you'll find its also the most commonly spoken and read second language.

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Old 17th September 2019, 02:26 AM   #21
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Languages can change because of influential leaders. Most famously, it is claimed that the northern French R which replaced the rolled r originated in the court of Louis XIV, perhaps even with the king himself. Since then, it has spread to Dutch, northern German and Danish. There is another phonetic example of a Samic chieftain who had a speech impediment, and his entire clan eventually aped after him and developed a dialect that was different from other clans.

You could view these as examples of change because of group cohesion, but I would believe that the need to emulate an idol is a better description.

Normally, languages change because of the need to adapt to new situations: import of words from other languages, or even imports of grammatical constructs from other languages. Many languages experience a torrent of imports from English because of globalization and computers. In Danish, English words are regarded as smart and modern, while Danish words are old-fashioned. Is this because of group cohesion? I doubt it.

I believe that it will be very difficult to find examples of language changes that have been made to distinguish your own group from other groups, and those groups that invent special words for the in-crowd, will usually not have an influence on the main language.

Isolation is the driver for change, as I see it, just like for biologic species differentiation.
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Old 17th September 2019, 03:22 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by steenkh View Post
I believe that it will be very difficult to find examples of language changes that have been made to distinguish your own group from other groups, and those groups that invent special words for the in-crowd, will usually not have an influence on the main language.

Well, maybe nynorskWP.
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Old 17th September 2019, 05:07 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by dann View Post
Well, maybe nynorskWP.
Quite true, Nynorsk has been an official attempt to exclude Danish influence from the written language, but as far as I know, spoken Norwegian is the same as before, with some gravitation towards the language as spoken in the capital and surroundings.
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Old 20th September 2019, 06:33 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
Has it been demonstrated to be the case?
I'm not quite sure.

Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
I'd say the human brain evolved the capacity and inclination for both "speaking in code" as well as for picking up on unfamiliar language use. That probably just coincidentally turned out to help assist in identifying group vs non-group members.
Ah, okay. So essentially the human brain had evolved sufficiently to the point of being able to perceive digitalised language to enhance cooperation between humans(the ultimate purpose) and the unfamiliar language use was capitalised on as it happened to help humans identify 'non-clan' members(somewhat like a side effect) during their primitive phase when tribalism was more common. Is that basically how it is?
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Old 20th September 2019, 07:12 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by ahhell View Post
As I understand it the question is, if different languages and dialects developed to enhance in group cohesion, why are so many people trying to learn other languages.
Yes, this is what I was getting at.

Originally Posted by ahhell View Post
There is at least some anecdotal evidence to suggest that dialect is in part used for in group identification. In hebrew, Shibboleth means flood. In english it means a word or phrase used to identify members of the in group because in the bible it was used to distinguish one side of a war from the other based on pronunciation. There's two anecdotes in support of the idea anyway. The story that it was such word and the fact that there is a word to describe such words.
Very interesting indeed.

Originally Posted by ahhell View Post
A. Learning another language doesn't mean you unlearn the dialect of your original in group. So you can still maintain the benefits of the in group cohesion while advancing your status with the second group.

B. In group cohesion isn't really that much of an advantage if your dialect is that of a low status group. If you look at what languages and dialects are most attractive to new speakers, you'll almost certainly find its the language and dialects of high status groups. Economically, English as a second language, has the greatest return on investment. I'm pretty sure you'll find its also the most commonly spoken and read second language.
This is very thoughtful and informative. As a result of colonisation, the language of certain 'race based' populations have acquired a higher 'status' than those of other 'race based' populations and in a capitalist system, learning a language of a 'higher status' than that of her original in group enhances her ability to cooperate with 'members' of the second group in a way that accords them an advantage over 'members' of her original group.

In a subjective context, I'm hoping that the rate of 'intertribal' cohesion exceeds that of 'intratribal' cohesion. I also do not support the current capitalist, hierarchical system and believe that it's in need of an overhaul.
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Old 20th September 2019, 07:23 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
Languages don't diverge to make groups of speakers distinct.They diverge spontaneously without purpose or guidance, so gradually that it's mostly unnoticed at first (so forget about it being deliberate when the people who are doing it ddon't even know they're doing it), and after enough change accumulates, then it can eventually also happen to contribute to group distinction just by chance.
Right. I didn't quite think that they'd diverge to specifically make speakers of groups distinct. From what you and others have mentioned, it seems more likely that the whole notion of language and dialects being used for group distinction purposes was a side effect that assisted humans during their primitive phase. Would that be correct?
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Old 20th September 2019, 08:13 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by mrmagnetoman88 View Post
Yes, this is what I was getting at.

Very interesting indeed.

This is very thoughtful and informative. As a result of colonisation, the language of certain 'race based' populations have acquired a higher 'status' than those of other 'race based' populations and in a capitalist system, learning a language of a 'higher status' than that of her original in group enhances her ability to cooperate with 'members' of the second group in a way that accords them an advantage over 'members' of her original group.

In a subjective context, I'm hoping that the rate of 'intertribal' cohesion exceeds that of 'intratribal' cohesion. I also do not support the current capitalist, hierarchical system and believe that it's in need of an overhaul.
I don't see any reason to think that colonialization or capitalism are necessary causes. Hierarchies pre-date both and dialect can just as easily be a class marker within a society as a marker between societies. The whole notion of proper Dialects is just a class thing. The upper classes insist their version is the right version. If you think that's a result of capitalism, how would that explain the Soviets attempts to Russify the various SSRs. Also the only reason we think of Cantonese and Mandarin as dialects rather than languages is on account of the Commies wanting the Chinese to view themselves as Chinese rather than Mandarin or Cantonese speakers.
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Old 7th October 2019, 07:55 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by ahhell View Post
I don't see any reason to think that colonialization or capitalism are necessary causes. Hierarchies pre-date both and dialect can just as easily be a class marker within a society as a marker between societies.
Sorry for the late response. Yes, hierarchies definitely existed prior to capitalism and colonisation. But I believe that colonisation and unchecked capitalism do thrive on and perpetuate hierarchies.

Originally Posted by ahhell View Post
The whole notion of proper Dialects is just a class thing. The upper classes insist their version is the right version. If you think that's a result of capitalism, how would that explain the Soviets attempts to Russify the various SSRs. Also the only reason we think of Cantonese and Mandarin as dialects rather than languages is on account of the Commies wanting the Chinese to view themselves as Chinese rather than Mandarin or Cantonese speakers.
I agree that capitalism isn't the cause in the aforementioned examples. I believe it was Darwinism.
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Old 7th October 2019, 08:13 PM   #29
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My opinion on this subject:

The divergence of languages/dialects is a bug, not a feature, of human evolution. In other words, it is not something that has assisted humans.

I think the divergence of language is caused by the fact that we humans are not perfect in our ability to learn language or mimic the sounds or speech patterns of our parents or the other humans we encounter while we are learning to speak. As a result, we speak somewhat differently than our parents.

In the absence of literacy, these differences between generations are much more extreme. If one group is isolated from another, the language rapidly diverges because each generation alters it in a fairly significant way, until the languages are mutually unintelligible. This causes a great deal of grief as neighboring tribes become unable to communicate with each other. How then, does it persist if it is not a beneficial trait?

The answer (again in my opinion) is that language creates such an extreme survival advantage that even imperfect copying is good enough that the ability to speak to your close associates is something that sticks around. Because it is imperfect copying, there is divergence among isolated populations, and that's bad because it prevents cooperation and spawns conflict, threatening survival, but you can't suddenly evolve to perfect language ability, and until then you take the bad with the good, because the good outweighs the bad by quite a bit.
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Old 7th October 2019, 09:12 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
My opinion on this subject:

The divergence of languages/dialects is a bug, not a feature, of human evolution. In other words, it is not something that has assisted humans.

I think the divergence of language is caused by the fact that we humans are not perfect in our ability to learn language or mimic the sounds or speech patterns of our parents or the other humans we encounter while we are learning to speak. As a result, we speak somewhat differently than our parents.

In the absence of literacy, these differences between generations are much more extreme. If one group is isolated from another, the language rapidly diverges because each generation alters it in a fairly significant way, until the languages are mutually unintelligible. This causes a great deal of grief as neighboring tribes become unable to communicate with each other. How then, does it persist if it is not a beneficial trait?

The answer (again in my opinion) is that language creates such an extreme survival advantage that even imperfect copying is good enough that the ability to speak to your close associates is something that sticks around. Because it is imperfect copying, there is divergence among isolated populations, and that's bad because it prevents cooperation and spawns conflict, threatening survival, but you can't suddenly evolve to perfect language ability, and until then you take the bad with the good, because the good outweighs the bad by quite a bit.
This is a very good take. So basically, language, being an essential means of communication assisting in human survival, had to be learned. However, due to imperfections innate within humans, humans tend to imitate phonetics imperfectly compared to their parents/predecessors and fellow beings. This, in addition to geographic isolation, gave rise to variation in dialects, precluding the ability of geographically isolated populations from communicating effectively. I suppose that members of isolated populations during their primitive phase of evolution capitalised on the inadvertent increase in dialect variation to identify 'non-tribal members'.

So, as you said, the divergence of languages/dialects is a bug rather than a feature. It came about inadvertently due to imperfect phonetic immitations and has the well known negative consequence of tribalism. However, the positive benefits of language vastly outweigh its negatives, implying that the negative side effects are inevitable and endeavouring to suppress them is the best we humans can do at this stage. Do you kind of see it like that?
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Old 7th October 2019, 09:28 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
My opinion on this subject:

The divergence of languages/dialects is a bug, not a feature, of human evolution. In other words, it is not something that has assisted humans.

I think the divergence of language is caused by the fact that we humans are not perfect in our ability to learn language or mimic the sounds or speech patterns of our parents or the other humans we encounter while we are learning to speak. As a result, we speak somewhat differently than our parents.

In the absence of literacy, these differences between generations are much more extreme. If one group is isolated from another, the language rapidly diverges because each generation alters it in a fairly significant way, until the languages are mutually unintelligible. This causes a great deal of grief as neighboring tribes become unable to communicate with each other. How then, does it persist if it is not a beneficial trait?

The answer (again in my opinion) is that language creates such an extreme survival advantage that even imperfect copying is good enough that the ability to speak to your close associates is something that sticks around. Because it is imperfect copying, there is divergence among isolated populations, and that's bad because it prevents cooperation and spawns conflict, threatening survival, but you can't suddenly evolve to perfect language ability, and until then you take the bad with the good, because the good outweighs the bad by quite a bit.
Nice train of thought but linguists would disagree as to how language evolves.

Number one, it evolves through use, not because we don't remember or didn't see it in writing. Written language is no guarantee of language stability. Pretty sure thee and thou and a whole lot of the language of that era simply evolved away.

Pick words that seem out of place and search their etymology. You'll find a fair number of words were adopted into one language from another. I mentioned up thread that ojala (I hope so) in Spanish is derived from O Allah (God willing). The Muslims invaded the Iberian Peninsula in the 700s.

Language evolution follows the same pattern of biological evolution. As populations move and become isolated speech begins to drift. The more defined the separation, the more different the language evolves. Slang differs, accents can change words over time, vocabulary is added.

Why do we have contractions? They happen with frequent use over time. There are some countries in Central America that dropped the 's' sound in Spanish. Hard to understand for a new Spanish speaker, then you change countries and suddenly you start hearing classic Spanish and you can understand what people are saying.

Without a lot of mixing, a Southern accent might very well evolve into a different version of English.


Keep in mind this happens over 1000s of years, not hundreds.

Science News: Language 'evolution' may shed light on human migration out-of-Beringia: Relationship between Siberian, North American languages
Quote:
Evolutionary analysis applied to the relationship between North American and Central Siberian languages may indicate that people moved out from the Bering Land Bridge, with some migrating back to central Asia and others into North America.
Anthropologists, using genome data, found that language evolution followed human migration out of Africa. And when an exception occurred, it was because a group had conquered another and the conquered peoples adopted the invader's language.

Sometimes the conquerer also adopted the language of the people they conquered when they stayed in that land.
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Old 8th October 2019, 06:56 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by mrmagnetoman88 View Post
Do you kind of see it like that?
Yes
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Old 8th October 2019, 07:35 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by mrmagnetoman88 View Post
Sorry for the late response. Yes, hierarchies definitely existed prior to capitalism and colonisation. But I believe that colonisation and unchecked capitalism do thrive on and perpetuate hierarchies.

I agree that capitalism isn't the cause in the aforementioned examples. I believe it was Darwinism.
Why "Darwinism"? Also, what do you mean by "Darwinism"?

There are parrallels between the evolution of language and evolution of species of course. Selective processes can reinforce the changes that occur do to relatively random changes.

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Old 9th October 2019, 12:29 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by ahhell View Post
Why "Darwinism"? Also, what do you mean by "Darwinism"?

There are parrallels between the evolution of language and evolution of species of course. Selective processes can reinforce the changes that occur do to relatively random changes.
Oh no, by 'Darwinism' I wasn't referring to Charles Darwin or his theory of evolution by natural selection. I should have used the term 'social Darwinism'. Sorry, my bad. I was referring to the philosophical outlook(if we can call it that) of 'survive or perish' where the humans(or other animals) in a population that are more successful in outmuscling or outwitting their fellow population members end up amassing a greater share of power at the expense of the remaining members.

It's rather unfortunate that the term coined to refer to this notion bears a portion of the surname of that great scientist whose theory I believe doesn't really have the same connotation as the 'survive or perish' notion.
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Old 9th October 2019, 01:07 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by mrmagnetoman88 View Post

So, as you said, the divergence of languages/dialects is a bug rather than a feature. It came about inadvertently due to imperfect phonetic immitations and has the well known negative consequence of tribalism. However, the positive benefits of language vastly outweigh its negatives, implying that the negative side effects are inevitable and endeavouring to suppress them is the best we humans can do at this stage. Do you kind of see it like that?
I didn't see anything in that post that called for suppressing dialects.

Originally Posted by mrmagnetoman88 View Post
Oh no, by 'Darwinism' I wasn't referring to Charles Darwin or his theory of evolution by natural selection. I should have used the term 'social Darwinism'. Sorry, my bad. I was referring to the philosophical outlook(if we can call it that) of 'survive or perish' where the humans(or other animals) in a population that are more successful in outmuscling or outwitting their fellow population members end up amassing a greater share of power at the expense of the remaining members.

It's rather unfortunate that the term coined to refer to this notion bears a portion of the surname of that great scientist whose theory I believe doesn't really have the same connotation as the 'survive or perish' notion.
Of course Darwin's theory is related to "survive or perish." But it refers to surviving to reproduce, not to outsmarting fellow population members.

Do you think that the phrase "social Darwinism" just happens to include Darwin's name?
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Old 9th October 2019, 01:29 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
I didn't see anything in that post that called for suppressing dialects.
No, I was just adding a little bit of my take on it in addition to what Meadmaker theorised.


Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
Of course Darwin's theory is related to "survive or perish." But it refers to surviving to reproduce, not to outsmarting fellow population members.
Yes, when I wrote that Darwin's theory doesn't really have the same connotations as the notion of 'survive or perish', I was getting at the fact that the term 'fitness' refers to success in surviving and reproducing as opposed to success in outsmarting their fellow population members, as you stated. Sorry if I wasn't very clear and gave the wrong impression.
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Old 9th October 2019, 08:56 AM   #37
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I think the causes of language change are, today, well understood by linguists (looking to xterra for confirmation). And to the extent that we can have confidence that they worked in more or less the same way ~100-300,000 years ago as they have over the last ~5,000, is this consistent with the ideas in the OP (modulo clarifications in later posts).
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Old 9th October 2019, 02:29 PM   #38
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Oh, and as to why so many of we humans strive, and have striven, to master a language or dialect different from our “mother tongue” (or, for some, tongues) ....

Fame! Fortune! Or just plain day-to-day survival. Think of a scientist from an isolated part of Myanmar who wants to make a splash in theoretical physics. A Silk Road trader. A slave.
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