Sunday, April 17, 2011
  Absolute silliness.

Feature on BBC, more detail in New Superstitionist.

Headline: New theory about linguistic evolution places origin in southern Africa.

Location isn't the problem. Might be Africa, might not.

The problem (as usual in modern "science") is a really dumb theory.

Theory:
Africa turned out to have the greatest phonemic diversity – it is the only place in the world where languages incorporate clicks of the tongue into their vocabularies, for instance – while South America and Oceania have the smallest. Remarkably, this echoes genetic analyses showing that African populations have higher genetic diversity than European, Asian and American populations.

This is generally attributed to the "serial founder" effect: it's thought that humans first lived in a large and genetically diverse population in Africa, from which smaller groups broke off and migrated to what is now Europe. Because each break-off group carried only a subset of the genetic diversity of its parent group, this migration was, in effect, written in the migrants' genes.

Makes sense in genetics, doesn't make sense in linguistics. New phonemes and new grammatical forms arise quite often.

Vowel phonemes are most obvious. The alleged "mother of all languages" has plenty of consonants including those famous clicks, but only has aeiou for vowels. Many modern languages (including most Indo-European and most Ural-Altaic) have full sets of umlauted vowels which are phonemically distinct from the unrounded. Slavic tongues have a full set of palatalized vowels, also not present in the "mother". And you don't need to compare all the way back to Africa; some of the umlauts developed in historical times.

In grammar, old forms are constantly fading and new forms are developing. The original Indo-European verb, preserved nearly intact in Hindi, has an 'orthogonal' 5-dimensional grid of person, number, tense, voice and mood, done entirely with suffixes. Most of the descendants have dropped most of these suffixes, replacing them with a variety of separate words that allow more complex tenses. (As I was typing this, the BBC announcer said "is going to have to adapt", which is a damn good example! I suppose you'd call this a Future Continuous Necessitative form, and there's no way to form it in pure Latin.)

= = = = =

So the whole theory of steadily decreasing diversity may work for critters but it doesn't work for languages. Humans have a powerful drive to say new things, and a drive to develop more refined ways to say old things. Independent origin of language in several places seems equally likely, until better evidence emerges one way or the other.
 


<< Home

blogger hit counter
My Photo
Name:
Location: Spokane

Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

My graphics products:

Free stuff at ShareCG

And some leftovers here.

ARCHIVES
March 2005 / April 2005 / May 2005 / June 2005 / July 2005 / August 2005 / September 2005 / October 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / July 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / September 2009 / October 2009 / November 2009 / December 2009 / January 2010 / February 2010 / March 2010 / April 2010 / May 2010 / June 2010 / July 2010 / August 2010 / September 2010 / October 2010 / November 2010 / December 2010 / January 2011 / February 2011 / March 2011 / April 2011 / May 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / August 2011 / September 2011 / October 2011 / November 2011 / December 2011 / January 2012 / February 2012 / March 2012 / April 2012 / May 2012 / June 2012 / July 2012 / August 2012 / September 2012 / October 2012 / November 2012 / December 2012 / January 2013 / February 2013 / March 2013 / April 2013 / May 2013 / June 2013 / July 2013 / August 2013 / September 2013 / October 2013 / November 2013 / December 2013 / January 2014 / February 2014 / March 2014 / April 2014 / May 2014 / June 2014 / July 2014 / August 2014 / September 2014 / October 2014 / November 2014 / December 2014 / January 2015 / February 2015 / March 2015 / April 2015 / May 2015 / June 2015 / July 2015 / August 2015 / September 2015 / October 2015 / November 2015 / December 2015 / January 2016 / February 2016 / March 2016 / April 2016 / May 2016 / June 2016 / July 2016 / August 2016 / September 2016 / October 2016 / November 2016 / December 2016 / January 2017 / February 2017 / March 2017 / April 2017 / May 2017 /


Major tags or subjects:

Carbon Cult
Defensible spaces
Ethics
Experiential education
Grand Blueprint
Гром победы
Heimatkunde
Language updates
Metrology
Natural law = Sharia law
New toys
Skill-estate
Switchover

Powered by Blogger