Language Families of the World [2235]

Language, in its seemingly infinite variety, tells us who we are and where we come from. Many linguists believe that all

399 33 31MB

English Pages 180 Year 2019-02

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD FILE

Polecaj historie

Language Families of the World [2235]

Table of contents :
Professor Biography......Page 3
Typographical Conventions......Page 8
Course Scope......Page 9
Lecture 1—Why Are There So Many Languages?......Page 10
Theories on the Spread of Language......Page 11
The Morphing of Sounds......Page 12
The Language Family Tree......Page 13
Learning from the Language Families......Page 14
Lecture 2—The First Family Discovered: Indo-European......Page 15
The Discovery of Indo-European Languages......Page 16
Reconstruction of the Original Indo-European Language......Page 17
The Indo-European Language Today......Page 18
Lecture 3—Indo-European Languages in Europe......Page 19
The Germanic Languages......Page 20
The Romance Languages......Page 21
The Balto-Slavic Language Family......Page 22
Lecture 4—Indo-European Languages in Asia......Page 23
The Indo-Iranian Languages......Page 24
The Armenian Subfamily......Page 25
The Anatolian Languages......Page 26
Lecture 5—The Click Languages......Page 27
The Clicks......Page 28
Emergence of the Clicks......Page 29
The World’s First Languages?......Page 30
Lecture 6—Niger-Congo: Largest Family in Africa I......Page 32
Overview of Niger-Congo Languages......Page 33
Swahili......Page 34
The Bantu Subfamily......Page 35
Quiz for Lectures 1-6......Page 36
Lecture 7—Niger-Congo: Largest Family in Africa II......Page 38
The Fula Approach......Page 39
Other Elements of Niger-Congo Languages......Page 40
Lecture 8—Languages of the Fertile Crescent and Beyond I......Page 42
Arabic......Page 43
The First Alphabet......Page 44
Beyond Arabic and Hebrew......Page 45
Lecture 9—Languages of the Fertile Crescent and Beyond II......Page 46
The Hausa Language......Page 47
The Omotic and Cushitic Languages......Page 48
Lecture 10—Nilo-Saharan: Africa’s Hardest Languages?......Page 49
Overview of the Nilo-Saharan Languages......Page 50
Unique Features of Nilo-Saharan Languages......Page 51
Lecture 11—Is the Indo-European Family Alone in Europe?......Page 53
Estonian......Page 54
The Sami Languages......Page 55
Uralic Characteristics......Page 56
Lecture 12—How to Identify a Language Family......Page 57
Identifying a Family: Polynesian......Page 58
Identifying a Family: Indo-European......Page 59
Identifying a Family: Uralic......Page 61
Quiz for Lectures 7-12......Page 62
Lecture 13—What Is a Caucasian Language?......Page 64
The Three Families......Page 65
Complexity and Features......Page 66
Lecture 14—Indian Languages That Aren’t Indo-European......Page 67
History of the Dravidian Languages......Page 68
Dravidian Structure......Page 69
The Languages of the Andaman Islands......Page 70
Lecture 15—Languages of the Silk Road and Beyond......Page 72
Turkic Languages......Page 73
Mongolic Languages......Page 74
Tungusic Languages......Page 75
Lecture 16—Japanese and Korean: Alike yet Unrelated......Page 76
Japanese Writing......Page 77
Other Features of Japanese......Page 78
Korean Language Features......Page 79
Korean Writing......Page 80
Lecture 17—The Languages We Call Chinese......Page 81
Overview of the Chinese Languages......Page 82
Tones......Page 83
Numeral Classifiers......Page 84
Lecture 18—Chinese’s Family Circle: Sino-Tibetan......Page 85
Proto-Sino-Tibetan......Page 86
Tibetan......Page 87
The Nature of Grammar......Page 88
Quiz for Lectures 13-18......Page 90
Lecture 19—Southeast Asian Languages: The Sinosphere......Page 92
Overview......Page 93
The Hmong-Mien Family......Page 94
The Tai-Kadai Family......Page 95
Lecture 20—Languages of the South Seas I......Page 97
Overview of the Austronesian Family......Page 98
Origins......Page 99
Language Migration......Page 100
Lecture 21—Languages of the South Seas II......Page 102
The Polynesian Languages......Page 103
Oceanic Sounds......Page 104
Oceanic Language Components......Page 105
Lecture 22—Siberia and Beyond: Language Isolates......Page 107
Paleosiberian Overview......Page 108
Ainu......Page 109
Basque......Page 110
Etruscan......Page 111
Lecture 23—Creole Languages......Page 112
Tok Pisin......Page 113
French, Spanish, and Portuguese Creoles......Page 114
Complexity......Page 115
Lecture 24—Why Are There So Many Languages in New Guinea?......Page 116
Background on New Guinea......Page 117
Tracking Relationships......Page 118
Unusual Traits......Page 119
Quiz for Lectures 19-24......Page 120
Lecture 25—The Languages of Australia I......Page 122
Vocabulary in Alternate Situations......Page 123
Family Tree Fundamentals......Page 124
Australian Language Traits......Page 125
Lecture 26—The Languages of Australia II......Page 126
Unique Features......Page 127
Mixed Languages......Page 128
The Tasmanian Languages......Page 129
Lecture 27—The Original American Languages I......Page 130
Migration History......Page 131
The Amerind Controversy......Page 132
Na-Dene......Page 134
Lecture 28—The Original American Languages II......Page 135
Eskimo-Aleut......Page 136
Penutian......Page 137
Lecture 29—The Original American Languages III......Page 139
Iroquoian......Page 140
Hokan......Page 141
The Death of Language......Page 142
Lecture 30—The Original American Languages IV......Page 144
Whistled Speech......Page 145
South American Language Traits......Page 146
The Jarawara Language......Page 147
Quiz for Lectures 25-30......Page 148
Lecture 31—Languages Caught between Families......Page 150
Examples of Language Combinations......Page 151
English......Page 152
Speaking “In” Another Language......Page 153
Lecture 32—How Far Back Can We Trace Languages?......Page 154
An Attempt at Describing the World’s First Language......Page 155
The Nostratic Macrofamily Proposal......Page 156
The Tai-Kadai Family......Page 157
Lecture 33—What Do Genes Say about Language Families?......Page 158
Glottochronology......Page 159
Genetics and India......Page 160
Genetics and Family Clusters......Page 161
Genetics and Surprises......Page 162
Lecture 34—Language Families and Writing Systems......Page 164
Hieroglyphics......Page 165
Development of Alphabets......Page 166
Other Languages and Systems......Page 167
Quiz for Lectures 31-34......Page 168
Quiz Answers......Page 170
Bibliography......Page 176
Image Credits......Page 180

Citation preview

Topic Literature & Language

Subtopic Linguistics

Language Families of the World Course Guidebook

Professor John McWhorter Columbia University

Published by

THE GREAT COURSES Corporate Headquarters 4840 Westfields Boulevard | Suite 500 | Chantilly, Virginia | 20151‑2299 [phone] 1.800.832.2412 | [fax] 703.378.3819 | [web] www.thegreatcourses.com

Copyright © The Teaching Company, 2019 Printed in the United States of America This book is in copyright. All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of The Teaching Company.

Language Families of the World PROFESSOR BIOGRAPHY

John McWhorter, PhD Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature Columbia University

J

ohn McWhorter is an Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, where he teaches courses on linguistics, Western civilization, American studies, and music history. He earned his PhD in Linguistics from Stanford University, and he has taught at both Cornell University and the University of California, Berkeley. His academic specialties are language change and language contact. Dr. McWhorter is the author of numerous books, including The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language; Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care; Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English; What Language Is: And What It Isn’t and What It Could Be; The Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language; Words on the Move: Why English Won’t—and Can’t—Sit Still (Like, Literally); and Talking Back, Talking Black: Truths about America’s Lingua Franca. He has also written a book on dialects and Black English, Word on the Street: Debunking the Myth of a “Pure” Standard English; four books on Creole languages; and an academic linguistics book entitled Language Interrupted: Signs of Non-Native Acquisition in Standard Language Grammars. Dr. McWhorter hosts Slate’s podcast Lexicon Valley and is a contributing editor to The Atlantic and The New Republic. In addition to his work in linguistics, Dr. McWhorter is the author of Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America; Authentically Black: Essays for the Black Silent Majority; and Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America. He appears regularly on bloggingheads.tv and has written on race and cultural issues for The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The i

Language Families of the World PROFESSOR BIOGRAPHY

New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, The American Enterprise, Ebony, and Vibe. He has provided commentaries for All Things Considered and has appeared on Meet the Press, Dateline NBC, Politically Incorrect, The Colbert Report, Book TV’s In Depth, Talk of the Nation, TODAY, Good Morning America, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and Fresh Air. Dr. McWhorter’s other Great Courses are The Story of Human Language; Understanding Linguistics: The Science of Language; Myths, Lies, and HalfTruths of Language Usage; and Language A to Z.

ii

Language Families of the World TABLE OF CONTENTS

Table of Contents Introduction Professor Biography. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . i Typographical Conventions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vi Course Scope . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

Guides 1 Why Are There So Many Languages? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 2 The First Family Discovered: Indo-European. . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 3 Indo-European Languages in Europe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 4 Indo-European Languages in Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 5 The Click Languages. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 6 Niger-Congo: Largest Family in Africa I. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 QUIZ FOR LECTURES 1–6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 7 Niger-Congo: Largest Family in Africa II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 8 Languages of the Fertile Crescent and Beyond I . . . . . . . . . . . 34 9 Languages of the Fertile Crescent and Beyond II. . . . . . . . . . . 38 10 Nilo-Saharan: Africa’s Hardest Languages?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 11 Is the Indo-European Family Alone in Europe?. . . . . . . . . . . . 45 12 How to Identify a Language Family . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 QUIZ FOR LECTURES 7–12. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54

iii

Language Families of the World TABLE OF CONTENTS

13 What Is a Caucasian Language?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 14 Indian Languages That Aren’t Indo-European. . . . . . . . . . . . 59 15 Languages of the Silk Road and Beyond. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64 16 Japanese and Korean: Alike yet Unrelated. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 17 The Languages We Call Chinese. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73 18 Chinese’s Family Circle: Sino-Tibetan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 QUIZ FOR LECTURES 13–18. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82 19 Southeast Asian Languages: The Sinosphere . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84 20 Languages of the South Seas I. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89 21 Languages of the South Seas II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94 22 Siberia and Beyond: Language Isolates. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99 23 Creole Languages. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104 24 Why Are There So Many Languages in New Guinea?. . . . . . . 108 QUIZ FOR LECTURES 19–24. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112 25 The Languages of Australia I . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114 26 The Languages of Australia II. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118 27 The Original American Languages I. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122 28 The Original American Languages II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127 29 The Original American Languages III. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131 30 The Original American Languages IV. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136 QUIZ FOR LECTURES 25–30. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140 iv

Language Families of the World TABLE OF CONTENTS

31 Languages Caught between Families. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142 32 How Far Back Can We Trace Languages?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 146 33 What Do Genes Say about Language Families?. . . . . . . . . . . 150 34 Language Families and Writing Systems. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156 QUIZ FOR LECTURES 31–34. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 160

Supplementary Material Quiz Answers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162 Bibliography. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 168 Image Credits. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172

NAVIGATION TIP To go back to the page you came from, PRESS Alt + ← on a PC or ⌘ + ← on a Mac. On a tablet, use the bookmarks panel. v

Language Families of the World TYPOGRAPHICAL CONVENTIONS

Typographical Conventions This guidebook uses the following typographical conventions: ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Italics are used for foreign-language words and for words cited as words (rather than used functionally; e.g., The word ginormous is a combination of gigantic and enormous). Single quotation marks are used for meanings of words (e.g., Wife meant ‘woman’ in Old English). Double quotation marks are used for pronunciations of words (e.g., “the other” versus “t’other”) and words used in a special sense (e.g., The “secret lives” of words are fascinating). Slashes are used to indicate sounds (e.g., /b/).

vi

Language Families of the World COURSE SCOPE

Language Families of the World

T

his course is dedicated to languages throughout the world, from the Indo-European languages that are likely familiar to the relatively obscure language isolates that belong to no particular family. Along with the Indo-European languages and language isolates, the course also looks at the languages of Africa, the Chinese languages, the languages of Papua New Guinea and Australia, Paleosiberian languages, Japanese and Korean, the languages of the South Seas, and more. Aside from looking at features of the languages themselves, the course describes successes and difficulties linguists have had in studying such disparate groups. By the end of the course, the instructor hopes to leave you with these four takeaways: 1 The structures used by European languages are but one of many game plans through which humans can express themselves linguistically. The course looks at some of those many other setups, which are both interesting and successful. 2 European languages are in no way more sophisticated or modern than other languages. If anything, many other languages can seem more elaborate than European languages. 3 Language is always changing, and the distribution of today’s families shows this. Formerly, there were doubtless many more language families than today. The vast swaths of land that some language families now cover, speckled with smaller ones here and there, reflect the remnants of what was once more of a patchwork quilt. 4 That kind of change continues today, as ever more minority languages are no longer passed on to children. One of the most urgent tasks of modern linguists is to document what is left—that is, to record the diversity of the past as we move on to a more homogenous future.

1

LECTURE 1

Why Are There So Many Languages?

There are 7,000 languages in the world, and all likely developed from a single, initial source. This lecture looks at theories on the origins of language, how so many languages came to be, and what led to differences between them.

2

Language Families of the World Lecture 1 Why Are There So Many Languages?

Theories on the Spread of Language ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

One theory on the emergence of human language surmises that it emerged multiple times, but this is uneconomical: Researchers do not propose that other species-wide traits arose several times, and no groups of non-speaking humans have been discovered. It has also been proposed that language arose when humans made a leap into cultural sophistication. This is typically linked to the emergence of tools and art, and thus is now dated to the humans whose fossils have been found at the Blombos Cave in South Africa dating to 100,000 years ago. However, remains of Homo sapiens now date back as far as 300,000 years. If Homo sapiens have been in existence for 300,000 years, language may essentially be that old as well, especially given that language is a species-wide trait, and no human groups now are language-less.

THE PETROGLYPHS OF WADI RUM DATE BACK OVER 12,000 YEARS.

3

Language Families of the World Lecture 1 Why Are There So Many Languages?

The Morphing of Sounds ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

When one group of humans splits off from another one, their versions of the language start drifting apart until they are no longer the same language. This fundamental changeability of language is difficult to detect within a lifespan, but each generation pronounces sounds slightly differently until a complete transformation has occurred. Take, for example, sound changes, as in the word sock. It has three sounds: /s/, /ah/, and /k/. All three naturally change into different ones over time. ww

An /s/ can become /sh/, which can become /zh/, which can then become /z/.

ww

An /ah/ can become an /aw/, which can become an /oo/, which can then become /u/.

ww

A /k/ can become a /kh/, which can then drop away completely.

The combined effect of all of these changes in the word sock could be that sock morphs into shawk, then zhoo, and then the French-sounding jue. Notice that jue is a completely different word from sock.

The Morphing of Materials and Meaning ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

While sounds can change, words can also come together to create prefixes, suffixes, and new words entirely. For example, the suffix -ly emerged from the separate word like, as in, slow-like becoming slowly. With the passage of time, prefixes and suffixes can lose meaning and qualify as new material that constitutes the words in a language that distinguish it from others. Additionally, words’ meanings can drift into new ones over time. The words merry, bra, and pretzel all trace back to one original word in English’s distant ancestor that meant ‘short.’

4

Language Families of the World Lecture 1 Why Are There So Many Languages?

The Language Family Tree ¯¯

As humans have spread throughout the world, languages have proliferated into families. ww

Roughly speaking, the Indo-European family covers most of Europe and extends into Asia.

ww

Africa has four main families.

ww

Asia has the Altaic family (including Turkish and many others) stretching across it, plus a cluster in the east and southeast that includes Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai.

ww

The Austronesian family covers parts of Southeast Asia and out into the Pacific; it includes Indonesian, Tagalog, Maori, and Hawaiian.

ww

Australia is home to two major families, while the island of New Guinea alone has about 25.

ww

In the New World, there are roughly 10 families of Native American languages in North America, 7 in Mexico and Central America, and about 15 more in South America.

5

Language Families of the World Lecture 1 Why Are There So Many Languages?

ww

¯¯

¯¯

There are many additional families. The click languages comprise three families. The Georgian language is Caucasian, which covers three more. There are isolates everywhere, such as Basque, which has no relatives and must be the last living member of a now-extinct family.

These families are fascinatingly distinct from one another. For example, the click languages of Africa use the clicks as integral sounds, just like consonants and vowels. In North America, in many languages, everything in a sentence can be contained in a single word. Some languages in North America have no regular verbs, as is the case with Navajo, while some languages in Australia have only three verbs, such as do, go, and come.

Learning from the Language Families ¯¯

¯¯

The language families of the world have much to teach about the past, present, and future of humanity. Navajo and its relative languages are similar to a small group of languages in Siberia, which helps researchers trace Native American peoples to a migration from Asia. The Basque language in France and Spain is unrelated to any other language and sits surrounded by languages all from another family. That is a clue that languages related to Basque once spread across much more of Europe, and by extension, a whole different genetic group of people. Genetic research concurs with this hypothesis. ¯¯

SUGGESTED READING Bernard, Matthews, and Polinsky, The Atlas of Languages. Pereltsvaig, Languages of the World.

6

The languages of Polynesia are so similar that they almost seem like variations of the same language. This means that they haven’t been separate for very long, and indeed, all evidence shows that these were the final areas of the world occupied by humans.

LECTURE 2

The First Family Discovered: Indo-European

The Indo-European language family includes almost all of the languages of Europe and many spoken in Asia. In Europe, the Romance, Slavic, Germanic, and Celtic languages are Indo-European, as are Albanian, Greek, and the Baltic languages of Lithuania and Latvia. Only Basque, Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian, and the Saami language are of other families. In Asia, Armenian, the languages of Iran, and most of the languages of India are IndoEuropean. This lecture provides an overview of the discovery of these languages and their characteristics.

7

Language Families of the World Lecture 2 The First Family Discovered: Indo-European

The Discovery of Indo-European Languages ¯¯

¯¯

Indo-European was not the first group of languages that were noticed to be related. However, it is the first family that was the subject of extensive classification-minded research, which was the foundation of what became modern linguistics. The family is also especially well known because so many of its languages are extensively written and have been for a long time. A widespread account of its emergence is that William Jones initiated Indo-European studies with an announcement before the Asiatic Society in 1786. However, though Jones’s statement had the most influence, the first person to make an equivalent proposal had been Marcus Zuerius van Boxhorn in 1647. He proposed that Dutch, German, Latin, Greek, Persian, Slavic, Celtic, and Baltic all had an ancestor he called Scythian.

Characteristics of Indo-European Languages ¯¯

A typical Indo-European language is similar to Latin. It divides components into subjects and objects. It has case suffixes on nouns, with meanings that mostly correspond to separate words in English: Latin: Puer dat rosa-m puell-ae man-u. English: The boy gives a rose to the girl by hand.

¯¯

¯¯

A typical Indo-European language also separates verbs into different conjugation classes and marks the person and number with suffixes. IndoEuropean languages are strict about marking elements like case, plurality, or definiteness. Many languages in the world can leave such elements to context to a degree that most Indo-European languages do not. Note that while it is typical for Indo-European languages to be much like Latin, not all fall under the same general umbrella. For example, some languages, like English and French, have lost many of the original suffixes. 8

Language Families of the World Lecture 2 The First Family Discovered: Indo-European

Reconstruction of the Original Indo-European Language ¯¯

¯¯

Linguists have compared the living Indo-European languages and the ones that now survive only in writing, such as Latin, Old Persian, and Sanskrit. Using tendencies they have seen in how sounds change, linguists have traced backward to reconstruct what the father language, or Proto-Indo-European, would have been like. For example, linguists know that the Proto-Indo-European word for ‘father’ was pǝter by tracing backward from the corresponding word for ‘father’ in several languages. Thousands of words have been reconstructed, as well as what many of the original suffixes would have been. Thus, linguists can even speculate about whole sentences. Linguists believe that Proto-IndoEuropean was a language where the verb came last, rather than in the middle of a sentence. Such reconstructions, which are being done of many language families, can only be approximate. 9

Language Families of the World Lecture 2 The First Family Discovered: Indo-European

¯¯

¯¯

The Proto-Indo-European language was not written. Some scholars think Proto-Indo-European would have been spoken in what is today Turkey and traces back to roughly 7000 BCE. However, this idea is losing influence, and most researchers now think that the original language was spoken by the Yamna people of what is today southern Ukraine from c. 4000 BCE. There are two genetic markers that are present in Yamna skeletons and also in Europeans and South Asians, suggesting that a people migrated both westward and eastward. Genetic and archaeological evidence suggests that Yamna men in particular migrated west and mixed with local women starting around 3500 BC, imposing their culture and language in waves.

The Indo-European Language Today ¯¯

¯¯

Today, of the world’s 7.5 billion people, about 3 billion speak IndoEuropean languages. Of the world’s largest 20 languages, 10 are IndoEuropean: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi, and Russian. This dominance includes the entire Western Hemisphere. The languages’ ubiquitous nature came about in large part because of the historical dominance of a few European countries as well as the success of Indo-Aryan people after their migration into South Asia.

SUGGESTED READING Anthony, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language. Fortson, Indo-European Language and Culture.

10

LECTURE 3

Indo-European Languages in Europe

The Indo-European languages of Europe reveal much about how different languages evolve. This lecture looks at quirks and interesting historical facts about the Germanic languages, the Romance languages, the Balto-Slavic languages, Albanian, and others.

11

Language Families of the World Lecture 3 Indo-European Languages in Europe

The Germanic Languages ¯¯

¯¯

The Germanic languages include German, English, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish, among others. The Germanic group dates back to the language spoken by the Goths, and in general, the languages are related to peoples of the northern part of Europe. Some Germanic-language quirks show up in present-day English. Take this line of written dialogue, for example: “We need to find some beaver pelts,” said Melvin.

¯¯

It is very unlikely an English speaker would utter “said Melvin” in speech, yet that construction is often present in written English. The root of this quirk is that in Germanic languages, everything revolves around the verb. In the above example, the verb remains in what is known as the second position.

GREEK AND THE CELTIC LANGUAGES: THEN AND NOW The Greek language presents an interesting status contrast between past and present. It was once widespread from Egypt to the fringes of India and served as the high language of the Roman Empire. Today, however, only 13 million people speak it. Like Greek, the Celtic languages were once more widespread. Mummies discovered in Hami in what is now China wore the exact same cloth patterns as did Celts in what is now Austria in Europe, as well as plaid and twill, which first emerged in the Caucasus area. These mummies were tall with blonde hair, as Romans described Celts.

12

Language Families of the World Lecture 3 Indo-European Languages in Europe

The Romance Languages ¯¯

The Romance languages descended from Latin. There are roughly 36 of them, and they include French, Spanish, and Italian. The Romance languages offer interesting examples of how words evolve. Take, for example, Romance variations for the word key, shown below. They all spawned from the original Latin word clavis.

LANGUAGE

KEY

Franco-Provençal French Occitan Catalan Spanish Romansch Piedmontese Romagnol Italian Sicilian Sardinian Portuguese Romanian Aromanian Istriot

clâ clé clau clau llave clav ciav cêv chiave chiavi ciae chave cheie cljai ciave

13

Language Families of the World Lecture 3 Indo-European Languages in Europe

QUIRKS OF ALBANIAN Albanian shows that mixed vocabulary is normal and not solely a quirk of English. It contains so many words from Latin, Greek, Slavic, and Turkish that it was the last branch of the IndoEuropean languages discovered.

The Balto-Slavic Language Family ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The Balto-Slavic language family includes languages that are very difficult to master for non-native speakers. Its sub-branches are Slavic and the smaller Baltic branch, which includes Lithuanian and Latvian. Languages like Russian include a great deal of sub-rules and irregularities amidst their basic complexity. Another example of this group’s complexity comes from the tones present in Lithuanian. For example, káltas with a falling tone means ‘chisel,’ while kãltas with a rising tone means ‘guilty.’ Additionally, a dialect continuum is present in the South Slavic languages. For instance, on the Dalmatian coast, the word meaning ‘industrious’ is vridan. In western Bulgaria, the similar term vredan means ‘industrious’ or ‘harmful,’ while in southeastern Bulgaria, vraedan means ‘harmful.’

SUGGESTED READING Barber, The Mummies of Urumchi. Ostler, Empires of the Word.

14

LECTURE 4

Indo-European Languages in Asia

One-fifth to one-sixth of the world speaks one of the Indo-European languages of India. These languages are the children of Sanskrit, which was once thought to be essentially Proto-Indo-European itself. This lecture looks at facts about and traits of several of the Indo-European languages spoken in Asia.

15

Language Families of the World Lecture 4 Indo-European Languages in Asia

Contact and the Dravidian Languages ¯¯

¯¯

One Indo-European subset, the modern Indo-Aryan languages (Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, and Romani), can seem oddly unlike the European languages they are related to. Much of this is because languages affect one another through contact. At one point, there was a completely different group of languages, the Dravidian languages, spoken in India. Today, they’re spoken mostly in the southern part of India, but they used to be more widespread. Speakers of early Indo-European languages, such as Sanskrit, met these Dravidian-speaking peoples. This led to an interesting result in that the resulting Indo-Aryan languages now seem very different from other IndoEuropean languages. That is because Dravidian speakers in the region seasoned Dravidian with elements of the languages of the new people they had encountered.

The Indo-Iranian Languages ¯¯

¯¯

The Indo-Iranian group, falling under the Indo-European umbrella, covers several dozen languages, including Persian. A notable example of the Old Persian language is found on the Behistun Inscription in Iran, which boasts of the greatness of King Darius. Like many Indo-European languages, Old Persian had many case and conjugational endings. Modern Persian is much like English in being more streamlined, as shown in the example translations at right. 16

ENGLISH

PERSIAN

I buy you buy he/she/it buys we buy you folks buy they buy

mi-xar-am mi-xar-i mi-xar-ad mi-xar-im mi-xar-id mi-xar-and

Language Families of the World Lecture 4 Indo-European Languages in Asia

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Many of the simpler Indo-European languages like modern Persian and English are less complex because they were largely learned by adults. Their atrophied language-learning abilities shaved away much of their unnecessary complexities. There were other ancient Iranian languages, such as Sogdian, which shows how starkly the global significance of a language can change across history. Sogdian was for a time the lingua franca of the Silk Road, but today is represented by a small language called Yaghnobi in Tajikistan. Modern Persian demonstrates the lack of fit between labels and languages, as well as how hopeless it is to starkly distinguish a language from a dialect. The Persian language is called Dari in Afghanistan and Tajik in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. One dialect of Tajik is Bukharan or Bukhori, a Hebrew-influenced variety, spoken by Jews mostly in Uzbekistan but also Israel and the US. Pashto is the most conservative Indo-Iranian variety. It has been recounted as especially challenging for English speakers serving in the military in Afghanistan.

The Armenian Subfamily ¯¯

¯¯

Armenian is another Indo-European subfamily spoken in Asia. It wasn’t discovered to be its own branch until 1877 because it has so many Iranian words that only about 450 original ones remain. Its sound changes have been unusually deep. For example, the numbers one to seven are mek, yerku, yereq, chors, hing, vets, and yoth. These are quite unlike the numbers in Germanic and Romance languages, as well as early Indo-European languages like Latin and Sanskrit.

17

Language Families of the World Lecture 4 Indo-European Languages in Asia

The Anatolian Languages ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The Anatolian languages have an interesting story. In Turkey, starting just after the turn of the 20th century, documents were found in the earliest known evidence of Indo-European languages. They dated from as far back as the 16th century BCE. They are a test of Proto-IndoEuropean reconstruction. Studies on Hittite confirmed linguist Ferdinand de Saussure’s speculation that Proto-Indo-European had certain lost laryngeal sounds. He noted that most reconstructed verbs had three sounds: a consonant, a vowel, and a consonant, in that order. De Saussure proposed that those long vowels had begun as a throaty consonant that had then become an extension of the vowel that came before it. Since the Anatolian languages are the oldest, one might expect their endings to be like Sanskrit’s, yet they aren’t. Hittite has many fewer tenses and no dual marking, where there are special markers for two of something as opposed to several. It may be that the Anatolian languages simply shed all of this material for some reason. A more likely explanation is that the Anatolian languages represent what Proto-Indo-European was originally like and that it only took the Sanskrit route in a later branch.

SUGGESTED READING Dalby, Dictionary of Languages. Fortson, Indo-European Language and Culture.

18

LECTURE 5

The Click Languages

It is possible (although not certain) that the first humans spoke a language which later proliferated into today’s click languages, although language change means that today’s click languages would be nothing like that first language. The formal name of the click languages is Khoisan, named after the San people (huntergatherers) and the Khoi (pastoralists). They are spoken in southern Africa. They number a few dozen, and most are highly endangered.

19

Language Families of the World Lecture 5 The Click Languages

The Clicks ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The clicks themselves are not decorations, but actual normal sounds. There are five basic click types, written with particular symbols (shown at right).

DENTAL

|

(from teeth)

ALVEOLAR

!

(tss)

PALATAL

ǂ

(tsk)

(ckhl) ǁ LATERAL They make the difference in ʘ (kiss) BILABIAL meaning between words just as the letters b, p, and c make the difference between bat, pat, and cat. The clicks are pronounced in combination with regular consonants, allowing a wider range of sounds than in a language like English. The clicks can also be pronounced pushing out or breathing in.

This functionality means that some of the Khoisan languages have the most sounds of any language in the world. One dialect of the !Xõo language has 43 clicks and 44 other consonants, while English has only about 30 consonants. The clicks leave a scar in the throat of speakers, which develops in children at an early age.

Branches of the Khoisan Languages ¯¯

¯¯

There is no real evidence that the click languages emerged from a single original one, unlike in the Indo-European family. Other than the clicks, there are only four words that the languages mostly have in common that could be traced to single original forms: the words for chin, lungs, throat, and wound. This could be due to speakers of the languages exchanging words over time rather than all of them being related. The Khoisan languages actually divide into three families with different grammatical patterns: The northern one is something like Chinese, the central one is something like a European language with gender endings, and the southern group is something different again. 20

Language Families of the World Lecture 5 The Click Languages

Emergence of the Clicks ¯¯

¯¯

It is difficult question to determine how the clicks emerged, as these languages are not written, and thus, linguists cannot see their origins in written form. Some have speculated that the clicks were first used as hunting calls, but this seems unlikely given that the clicks would alert the animals to humans’ presence. However, there are two other cases of clicks in the world that suggest that the clicks emerged first as features in an alternate avoidance form of language. The only other click language that has emerged outside of southern Africa is in Australia, a variety of the Daman language used only with mothers-in-law. Clicks are also common in languages of a different family spoken in proximity to Khoisan, including various Bantu languages such as Zulu and Xhosa.

21

Language Families of the World Lecture 5 The Click Languages

¯¯

¯¯

In these languages, there is a practice called hlonipha, in which a woman does not pronounce her in-laws’ names, or even syllables associated with those names. There are many ways people create hlonipha words, such as deleting a consonant. For example, in Xhosa, “I don’t want” is andifuni and could become andi-uni. One of the ways is to replace a sound with a click sound; for instance, the word that means ‘swing,’ lenga, is pronounced “|enga” with the dental click. It is reasonable to suppose that these Bantu languages adopted clicks from Khoisan languages as an avoidance strategy as in Australia. Since then, however, the clicks have become part of normal language as well. One piece of evidence supporting this hypothesis is that hlonipha is used most extensively in the Bantu languages that have the most click sounds.

The World’s First Languages? ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Evidence exists that the Khoisan languages may have been the world’s first. Two groups of click speakers are divergent genetically by 70,000 years, which is when humans first left Africa. It is reasonable to reconstruct that the clicks were present 70,000 years ago: That they only arose elsewhere for an unusual purpose and then were adapted by Bantu languages for that same purpose suggests that they would have emerged for a similar purpose in Khoisan itself. Since the hunter-gatherer lifestyle has been unchanged for tens of thousands of years, researchers might suppose that conditions at the root of their existence created the clicks. Click languages were once more widespread in the region. There are two languages with clicks spoken quite far from the Khoisan area, which suggests that Bantu languages spread southward and eliminated what once were a larger number of click languages.

22

Language Families of the World Lecture 5 The Click Languages

¯¯

There are also other languages in Tanzania of a different family that don’t have clicks. However, they do have some words from a nearby click language for basic terms like the numbers four and five and the word for boy, suggesting that speakers of such languages once had wider influence on other people and their speech.

SUGGESTED READING Suzman, Affluence without Abundance. Vossen, The Khoesan Languages.

23

LECTURE 6

Niger-Congo: Largest Family in Africa I

Although some Indo-European languages diverge from the proto-language more than others, all of them are, with a certain amount of examination, identifiably variations on a pattern. This is not true of the Niger-Congo family in Africa. The Niger-Congo family comprises almost all of the languages native to Africa below the Sahara, and the majority on and considerably inward of the upper West African coast.

24

Language Families of the World Lecture 6 Niger-Congo: Largest Family in Africa I

Overview of Niger-Congo Languages ¯¯

¯¯

There are about 1,500 Niger-Congo languages by some counts. There are certainly 1,000, and perhaps 1 in 13 people worldwide speak a Niger-Congo language. They range from languages that can pack a whole sentence into one word to others that have very short words and use tones, very much like Chinese. All of these languages trace back to a single proto-language, which has not been reconstructed in the detail that Proto-Indo-European has. It may have been spoken about 15,000 years ago. Only in the 1950s did anthropologist and linguist Joseph Greenberg classify all of these languages as belonging to one family.

25

Language Families of the World Lecture 6 Niger-Congo: Largest Family in Africa I

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

In many Niger-Congo languages, such as Swahili, there are genders as in European languages, but in greater numbers. For example, Swahili nouns are marked for gender with a prefix (not a suffix), which is different according to eight features. Then, each prefix has a plural form. Noun class prefixes also occur on adjectives and demonstratives as well, just as in languages like Spanish. This feature is traced to the proto-language because many of these prefixes are present in different forms in languages across the family. Additionally, even in the languages that are grammatically like Chinese and don’t have prefixes, there are some vestigial semiprefixes, such as in the Fongbe language. These are ghosts of an earlier stage when these languages still had the original prefixes.

FONGBE

ENGLISH

nù ò-nù kú ò-kú sá à-sá

drink mouth die corpse crawl leg

Swahili ¯¯

¯¯

Swahili is the most widely known Niger-Congo language. It is spoken widely in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and a few other East African countries. It began as an obscure coastal language, but amidst trade with Arabs, it was chosen as the African language of trade. There is evidence for this trade as far back as the 2nd century CE. A few of Swahili’s number terms are borrowed from Arabic (such as sita, meaning ‘six;’ saba, meaning ‘seven;’ and tisa, meaning ‘nine’) as well as many other words. Because Swahili has been used as a second language and as a language of trade for so many people, it is less difficult than other languages in its subfamily.

26

Language Families of the World Lecture 6 Niger-Congo: Largest Family in Africa I

The Bantu Subfamily ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Swahili is a member of the largest subfamily of Niger-Congo languages, Bantu, with about 500 languages. Bantu languages are also typical of many Niger-Congo languages in having prefixes to mark person and number just as Romance languages do, but also to mark verb tenses. Most Bantu languages below the Sahara are quite similar to Swahili in their grammatical plans. However, in the northwestern Bantu region, in Nigeria and Cameroon, the languages are much more different from one another. This shows that the Bantu subgroup emerged in this area because the languages have had longer to become different from one another. The similarity of the languages farther south shows that they have not been there as long. This joins the spotty distribution of the click languages to show that Bantu speakers overran southern Africa relatively recently. The Pygmy people of central Africa also once spoke languages now extinct; Bantu overran them as well. Scholars know this because many of their words for natural phenomena are different from any Bantu (or other Niger-Congo) words, and are thus remnants of languages they once spoke. In the same way, an earlier stage of Niger-Congo likely overran many other languages northward as well.

SUGGESTED READING Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel. Heine and Nurse, eds., African Languages.

27

Language Families of the World QUIZ FOR LECTURES 1–6

QUIZ

LECTURES 1–6 1 How many main language families does Africa have? [1]

CLICK to navigate.

To go back to the page you came from, PRESS Alt + ← on a PC or ⌘ + ← on a Mac. On a tablet, use the bookmarks panel. 2 Is Australia or New Guinea home to more language families? [1]

3 What was the Proto-Indo-European word meaning ‘father’? [2]

4 Was the Proto-Indo-European language written? [2]

5 From what language did the Romance languages descend? [3]

6 What factors make the Balto-Slavic languages difficult to master? [3]

28

Language Families of the World QUIZ FOR LECTURES 1–6

7 Who is the subject of the Behistun Inscription? [4]

8 Why are languages learned by adults less complex? [4]

9 What is the formal name of the click languages? [5]

10 How many basic click types are there? [5]

11 In the 1950s, who was responsible for classifying the Niger-Congo languages as one family? [6]

12 What is the most widely known Niger-Congo language? [6]

CLICK to navigate. See page 162 for answers. 29

LECTURE 7

Niger-Congo: Largest Family in Africa II

The Niger-Congo family demonstrates some of the different language outcomes that can result from the same original materials. This lecture looks at a diverse array of Niger-Congo languages, including the approaches used by Fula, Swahili, and other languages. The lecture also discusses the ongoing work being undertaken to classify Niger-Congo languages.

30

Language Families of the World Lecture 7 Niger-Congo: Largest Family in Africa II

The Fula Approach ¯¯

The Fula language, spoken in many West African countries, has as many as 20 genders, most of which do not correspond to anything like shape, personhood, or sex. On top of this, within each gender, the suffix changes shape from noun to noun. In the class of round things, with FULA ENGLISH orange the suffix is -re, but with other leemuu-re orange words in this class, the suffix takes other loo-nde jar shapes (see table). tummu-de

¯¯

calabash

When adjectives are used, they often take a different suffix shape than the noun. For example, leemuu-re mau-nde means ‘big orange.’ Additionally, adding a plural suffix changes the first sound of the word: gor-ko means ‘man,’ while wor-be means ‘men.’ A Fula speaker must know which noun class a word belongs to, what shape of the suffix to use, and how the word’s first sound might change when they add something to it.

31

Language Families of the World Lecture 7 Niger-Congo: Largest Family in Africa II

Other Elements of Niger-Congo Languages ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Some Niger-Congo languages, like Swahili, keep each unit of meaning separate instead of having long words containing multiple elements of meaning. However, in the Fon language of Togo and Benin, each concept gets a word to itself, which is how Chinese works. Most Niger-Congo languages use tone (Swahili and Fula are rare exceptions). However, the languages that keep words short use it more heavily, as Chinese does. In Fon, just the tone makes the difference in meaning between words. The tones can even indicate grammar. In the Edo language of Benin, using a different tone is the way to change a verb’s tense.

FON

ENGLISH

gbà gbǎ xù xú

break build sea bone

EDO

ENGLISH

ì mà í mà ì má

I show I am showing I showed

In the Bambara language of West Africa, a difference in tone makes the difference English makes with the words the and a. For example, bá means ‘a river’ and bâ means ‘the river.’ From a European perspective, it can seem as if a language that lacks lists of suffixes and prefixes is somehow simple. However, languages that don’t mark gender, case, and conjugation can be complex in other ways. For example, the Yoruba language of Nigeria has several different verbs meaning ‘to be,’ while English has only one.

Family Classification ¯¯

Work on exactly which languages are Niger-Congo and what their relationships are continues. Initial appearances can be deceiving, and new techniques of analysis often reveal areas that need revision.

32

Language Families of the World Lecture 7 Niger-Congo: Largest Family in Africa II

¯¯

¯¯

For example, just as the click languages are really three separate families, the Kordofanian languages of Sudan are at least four families. They were once treated as one because they are spoken in the same location by similar groups of people and share some words in common. However, languages can exchange words, meaning that what may look like common inheritance actually is not. There are other cases in which it seems unlikely that some subfamilies of Niger-Congo actually belong to the family at all. The Ijaw languages in Nigeria have no trace of the noun class prefixes at all, and their verbs come at the end of the sentence instead of in the middle, which is odd for the Niger-Congo group. Some today think this suggests that the Ijaw languages were present before NigerCongo even came to the area and represent what pre-Niger-Congo inhabitants spoke.

SUGGESTED READING Dimmendaal, Historical Linguistics and the Comparative Study of African Languages. Heine and Nurse, eds., African Languages.

33

LECTURE 8

Languages of the Fertile Crescent and Beyond I

About 70,000 years ago, humans moved out of Africa to the Middle East. The next African language family probably descended from what those humans would have spoken—that is, the Afro-Asiatic family. Today, Afro-Asiatic, which includes about 300 languages, sits on top of Africa, covering the Sahara and extending into the Middle East. It includes six subfamilies. This lecture’s focus is on the Semitic subfamily, which includes Arabic and Hebrew.

34

Language Families of the World Lecture 8 Languages of the Fertile Crescent and Beyond I

Arabic ¯¯

¯¯

Arabic is known for the beauty of its writing. However, the spoken aspect of the language is equally magnificent, in that Arabic is so multifarious. Modern Standard Arabic is an artificially preserved version of language, held fast as it was more or less when the Qur’an was written, although with new vocabulary. In Arab-speaking locations, people exist in a world that deals with two languages: Modern Standard Arabic and the local variety, which is different in two ways. ww

One way they differ is in words. For example, the Modern Standard Arabic word for nose is anf. The Egyptian Arabic word is manaxir.

ww

Then, the local Arabic varieties have a different grammar from the standard. In Standard Arabic, yamšiyan translates to ‘they walk.’ In Egyptian, the equivalent term is biyimšu. 35

Language Families of the World Lecture 8 Languages of the Fertile Crescent and Beyond I

¯¯

¯¯

In all, Arabic actually covers a dozen different languages. Arabic, as dominant as it is today, began as the obscure language of Bedouins. Its influence spread through Islam across the Middle East and into Africa. The language of the ancient Egyptians was not Arabic but a different Afro-Asiatic language (fittingly called Egyptian). Additionally, the languages spoken by peoples elsewhere in North Africa were Berber ones, also another branch of the Afro-Asiatic family.

The Essence of Afro-Asiatic Languages ¯¯

¯¯

The defining characteristic of an Afro-Asiatic language is the use of words that consist of two, three, or four consonants. The vowels change according to tense, number, and other additions. In Semitic languages, there are three consonants in a typical word, with vowels modifying the words. For instance, in Hebrew, kotev means ‘he writes’ and katav means ‘he wrote.’ That triconsonantal root is known elsewhere in the world only in two Native American languages of California, and one of them inherited it from the other through contact.

The First Alphabet ¯¯

¯¯

The first alphabet was written in Afro-Asiatic. Manual laborers in Egypt figured out that one could use the first letter of a word indicated with a hieroglyphic to indicate a sound. For instance, a snake symbol, pronounced “nun” in Egyptian, could be used to signify the sound /n/. The Phoenicians, who were maritime-focused traders, fashioned this into a writing system—the first to track with sounds rather than pictures. However, they spoke a Semitic language with the triconsonantal roots, in which the vowels seemed less important than the consonants. Thus spawned today’s Arabic and Hebrew systems, where the vowels are indicated only approximately.

36

Language Families of the World Lecture 8 Languages of the Fertile Crescent and Beyond I

Beyond Arabic and Hebrew ¯¯

Arabic and Hebrew are but two of many Semitic languages. By chance, the others tend to begin with the letter a: ww

Akkadian is dead, but it was the language of the people known as Assyrian and Babylonian.

ww

Aramaic was once used as a lingua franca by the king of Persia and throughout what it is now the Middle East. It is the language of portions of the Hebrew Bible, used for that source with the assumption that people of the time would be familiar with it. Aramaic is today used by scattered communities in the Middle East in varieties that have evolved into multiple distinct languages.

ww

Amharic is the national language of Ethiopia. Its ancient language, like Modern Standard Arabic and Biblical Hebrew (or Latin), is Ge’ez, which evolved into not only Amharic but many obscure Semitic languages now spoken in Ethiopia.

ww

Additionally, there are several languages spoken in the south of Arabia called South Arabian. They are all endangered.

SUGGESTED READING Hetzron, The Semitic Languages. Versteegh, The Arabic Language.

37

LECTURE 9

Languages of the Fertile Crescent and Beyond II

Modern research suggests that the Semitic languages emerged in the Middle East. However, other Afro-Asiatic languages began and stayed in Africa. Those languages—particularly the Berber subfamily and three others—are the focus of this lecture.

38

Language Families of the World Lecture 9 Languages of the Fertile Crescent and Beyond II

The Berber Subfamily ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The Berber languages were spoken across North Africa before the spread of Arabic. The term Berber comes from the Greek word for barbarian. It is not preferred by most speakers, who refer to the language according to the name of the local variety, such as Tamazight SHILHA ENGLISH and Shilha. In these languages, words can have no vowel at all, as in the words from the Shilha variety shown in the table at right.

ks fk sχf fqqs

feed on give fade away irritate

The next three subfamilies of Afro-Asiatic are less known to outsiders, in part because they tend to be unwritten. However, each subfamily contains vast numbers of interesting languages, and each subfamily can also teach a valuable lesson about the nature of language.

The Hausa Language ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The most well-known language of the next three subfamilies is Hausa, which is one of the three indigenous lingua francas of Nigeria. (The other two are Yoruba and Igbo, Niger-Congo languages.) Hausa teaches us how important a language can be despite unfamiliarity in the West. Hausa is also spoken in Niger, Benin, Ghana, Togo, Chad, and Cameroon, and is used by about 40 million people. It has been written since the 1600s, at first in Arabic script because Hausa’s original speakers were converted to Islam. Hausa was the language of the Sokoto caliphate of the 19th century. Before that, in the medieval period, it was the language of the Hausa kingdoms. It has been the language of traders travelling as far as the Mediterranean.

39

Language Families of the World Lecture 9 Languages of the Fertile Crescent and Beyond II

The Omotic and Cushitic Languages ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The Omotic languages are all deeply obscure beyond their area. However, they show how difficult it can be to chart relationships between languages beyond a certain time depth. Some researchers question whether Omotic is an Afro-Asiatic group at all. Researchers have compared the modern Omotic languages, reconstructed what the words would be in the original Omotic language, and compared them to words in various Afro-Asiatic languages of other subfamilies. They have presented this as evidence that Omotic is akin to them. However, one counterargument goes that on this basis, one could trace Omotic back to Proto-Indo-European. The Cushitic languages, too, are quite obscure, except for the Somali language spoken in Somalia. It has only been written since the 1970s, but it teaches that a language can be quite sophisticated even when not written. For example, Somali oral poetry has strict, elaborate rules.

SUGGESTED READING Johnson, “Somali Prosodic Systems.”

40

LECTURE 10

Nilo-Saharan: Africa’s Hardest Languages?

Africa can be roughly thought of as divided between Afro-Asiatic languages on the top and Niger-Congo languages on the bottom. A third band of languages runs across the middle (except for a spread northward in Chad) that belongs to neither family. These languages are classified as a separate family called Nilo-Saharan, comprising about 100 languages.

41

Language Families of the World Lecture 10 Nilo-Saharan: Africa’s Hardest Languages?

Overview of the Nilo-Saharan Languages ¯¯

¯¯

The Nilo-Saharan languages are even more different from one another than the Niger-Congo languages are. When Joseph Greenberg first classified African languages, he proposed 16 families, of which 12 are today considered Nilo-Saharan. This indicates how different from one another the different subgroups within Nilo-Saharan are. The most widely known Nilo-Saharan languages are Fur, because it is the language of the people known as Darfur, and Maasai, because of the fame of the African Maasai people. Meanwhile, only a few NiloSaharan languages are used significantly in writing: Luo, Kalenjin, Dinka and Nuer. 42

Language Families of the World Lecture 10 Nilo-Saharan: Africa’s Hardest Languages?

Unique Features of Nilo-Saharan Languages ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Nilo-Saharan languages can be strikingly unlike European languages. For example, English features only about a dozen irregular plurals, like children, geese, and oxen. In Fur, as in many Nilo-Saharan languages, plurals are all irregular like this. In the Dinka language of Sudan, just changing the pronunciation of a vowel changes the entire meaning of the word. For example, cól means ‘mouse’ while cǒol means ‘charcoal.’ Many Nilo-Saharan languages lack the sound /p/. This is not unknown in languages—Standard Arabic has no /p/ sound, either—but the concentration of languages like this in the Saharan region is unusual. It may be because traditionally, people practiced lip-distorting procedures in this region, which could have discouraged the /p/ sound.

Languages and Archaeology ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The words that Nilo-Saharan subfamilies have in common can be correlated with archaeological evidence to show the emergence of the family along with African humans’ technological development. One word is found in all the Nilo-Saharan subfamilies except two, which likely branched off very early from Proto-Nilo-Saharan. This means that the word is very old in the family. Originally, the word roughly meant ‘to lead,’ and it is used in many languages to refer to handling animals. Another word that is found this widely in the family means ‘cow.’ This would place the origin of most of Nilo-Saharan near the emergence of the raising of livestock in the area, which archaeology dates to 9000 BCE. Words like the one for ‘cultivated field’ have roots in fewer subfamilies, which are thought to be later branches. This word came along later in the family’s history, as does archaeological evidence for cultivation, in 7000 BCE. 43

Language Families of the World Lecture 10 Nilo-Saharan: Africa’s Hardest Languages?

¯¯

Then, the words in the subfamilies meaning ‘sheep’ and ‘goat’ came from Afro-Asiatic languages. This correlates with archaeological evidence that Nilo-Saharan speakers indeed inherited those animals from the north in 6000 BCE.

SUGGESTED READING Ehret, A Historical-Comparative Reconstruction of Nilo-Saharan.

44

LECTURE 11

Is the Indo-European Family Alone in Europe?

Not every language spoken in Europe falls under the Indo-European family or Basque. This lecture looks at the intricacies of several such languages, including members of the Uralic family.

45

Language Families of the World Lecture 11 Is the Indo-European Family Alone in Europe?

Estonian ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Estonian features three key traits. First, a sound in Estonian can be doubled and even tripled, and this can make the difference between words’ meanings. For example, sada means ‘hundred,’ saada means ‘send,’ and saaada means ‘to get.’ Second, in Estonian, irregularity is almost the rule. It can be a highly difficult language for non-native speakers to pick up. Third, Estonian is not a Slavic language, but one of the few languages in Europe that aren’t Indo-European. Namely, this language, and more famously Finnish and Hungarian, are part of a different family called Uralic. The Uralic family has a rather eccentric distribution, covering the cap of Europe and then stretching in fits and starts eastward into Asia. The Uralic family has its roots in the Ural Mountains. From almost all of the Uralic languages, it is possible to trace words for certain trees, among them pine trees, the Siberian fir, and the elm.

46

Language Families of the World Lecture 11 Is the Indo-European Family Alone in Europe?

The Sami Languages ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

An important subset of the Uralic family is the Sami languages, once known as Lappish. The Sami people were originally referred to as Finns until the name was switched to today’s Finns, who had a more settled lifestyle while the Sami were nomadic. Sami is first recorded in about 1200 on a shovel found in a bog in Iceland. It features writing in Sami and Old Norse. The modern distribution shows that the family was once much more widespread—another indication that Indo-European was an intruder. Additionally, Finnish and Estonian are closely related to two languages spoken much further east called Mari and Mordvin, meaning there were once likely similar languages spoken between them.

Hungarian ¯¯

¯¯

Another Uralic language spoken in Europe is Hungarian, located in areas far from Estonian and Finnish speakers. Hungarian speakers came from Siberia, arriving at their current region in 895. There is a reference in ancient Greek literature to an Onogouroi people who had been driven from their native Siberia. This seems to be a version of the name Hungary, as opposed to what Hungarians call themselves, Magyar. The Uralic languages most like Hungarian are a few spoken in Siberia.

47

Language Families of the World Lecture 11 Is the Indo-European Family Alone in Europe?

Uralic Characteristics ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The Uralic languages are rather tidy in allocating each unit of meaning to one suffix. For example, in Spanish, a single suffix in the past can mean both ‘I’ and ‘past.’ In Finnish, by contrast, one suffix means ‘I’ while another one means ‘past.’ This is termed an agglutinative language, as opposed to a fusional language, which seems typical from an Indo-European perspective. Turkish is also agglutinative, which was part of why for a long time some linguists thought the Uralic languages were part of a larger grouping including Turkish and its relatives, called Ural-Altaic. Hungarians preferred this idea out of admiration for Turkish history. However, this idea is now defunct. Uralic languages do not assign arbitrary genders to nouns, which is quite unusual in Europe beyond English (and Basque). Uralic languages have elaborate lists of suffixes. In Finnish, for example, talo, meaning ‘house,’ takes various suffixes depending on whether one going into the house, leaving it, and so on.

The Health of the Uralic Languages ¯¯

In 1949, author Mario Pei wrote that the futures of Hungarian, Turkish, and Finnish were dim. This seems an odd notion today. ¯¯

SUGGESTED READING Abondolo, ed., The Uralic Languages. Karlsson, Finnish.

Many smaller Uralic languages are indeed endangered; for example, the last speaker of Livonian died in the early 2010s. Regardless, the extinction Pei predicted of even larger languages has not come to pass. Uralic is an obscure family, but not a moribund one.

48

LECTURE 12

How to Identify a Language Family

Languages always change, and when offshoots of a language separate and change in different directions, the result is a family of descendants of what was once one language. This lecture looks at the methods and difficulties of identifying separate language families.

49

Language Families of the World Lecture 12 How to Identify a Language Family

Identifying a Family: Polynesian ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The fundamental trait of a language family is that it is possible to posit a protolanguage from which the modern languages developed via regular sound changes. These changes need to be seen operating not just in one word, but in a great many. The languages of Polynesia are a useful demonstration, in that these languages are some of the world’s newest, many emerging only in the last millennium with the settlement of certain islands in the South Pacific. As such, the languages differ to a modest degree, making it relatively easy to not only see that they are related, but to reconstruct what the father language would have been. The following shows different English words, their equivalents in Polynesian languages, and their ancestral protoform:

ENGLISH MAORI HAWAIIAN SAMOAN FIJIAN PROTOFORM ¯¯

post

forbidden

cry

stay

pou

tapu

taŋi

hono

pou

kapu

kani

hono

pou

tapu

taŋi

fono

bou

tabu

taŋi

vono

pou

tapu

taŋi

fono

With the words corresponding to the English post, one can assume that if most of them have the letter p, then most likely the original language did as well. Thus, the Proto-Polynesian word for post was pou. Similar majority-rules principles can be used to reconstruct other words.

50

Language Families of the World Lecture 12 How to Identify a Language Family

Identifying a Family: Indo-European ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Identifying relationships between languages usually isn’t as straightforward as with the Polynesian group, however. For example, one could listen to or read Hindi for weeks and never figure out that it had the slightest relationship to English. Less obvious relationships between languages reveal themselves in a small collection of words that are most often used. This is because words used often are subject to the stasis of habit and therefore change more slowly than others. For example, the linguist Morris Swadesh composed a list of 100 concepts assumed to be shared by languages of any culture and used heavily. Among those concepts are the words for I, you, we, bird, and dog. Related languages will not match up perfectly on Swadesh’s list, as chance means that languages will exchange words for others over time. For instance, English is alone in Indo-European in its use of dog rather than a word related to hound. However, if languages share cognates for a representative portion of these words, and the sound laws used for Polynesian can be applied to them, then the languages have a family relationship. This allows linguists to know from words like father that there is an Indo-European family. To pick three examples, father is pater in Latin, vater in German, and athir in Irish. Once relatively obvious cases like this are clear, linguists have a basis for charting less intuitive processes of change, such that they can reconstruct how the various languages in a family came to be the way they are without any explicit documentation of the processes happening. For example, the Armenian word for bride, nu, began as a Proto-Indo-European word, snusos. The variations of the word daughterin-law, shown at right, is helpful for tracing the word snusos. 51

SANSKRIT OLD ENGLISH RUSSIAN LATIN GREEK

snuṣā snoru snokhá nurus nuós

Language Families of the World Lecture 12 How to Identify a Language Family

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Some of the words begin with sn- while others begin with n. It is more likely that several separate languages lost an s by ordinary sound erosion than that several separate languages somehow sprouted an s. Therefore, the word began with sn-. To decide whether the first vowel was an o or a u, we choose u, because more of the words have u than o. Thus, the first word would have begun with snu-. The second consonant is a bit harder to decide on. Here, some additional information provides a nudge the right direction. In many Latin words, the letter r between vowels had begun as s. In Russian, many /kh/ sounds trace back to s in earlier Slavic languages. This gives us another /s/ sound in the examples, so the assumption can be made that the first word began with snus-. Because daughter-in-law is a feminine concept, languages like Spanish and Italian would point in a certain direction: The suffix -o is the masculine ending and -a the feminine one, so scholars would expect the original ending to have been -a. However, Latin and Greek have -ós and -us as masculine endings. In Armenian, when the word is given case endings, an o appears on the stem: nuo. It is more likely that the ending was for some reason originally masculine and some languages corrected it than that some languages changed a feminine form to a masculine one. Thus, the ProtoIndo-European word must have been snusos. Through comparative reconstruction, then, it is revealed that a word that is merely nu in Albanian today began as the longer, chunkier snusos. IndoEuropeanists mark these hypothetical forms with an asterisk: *snusos.

Even without written records of earlier stages, linguists can reconstruct that seemingly disparate languages originated from a common ancestor—that is, they belong to a language family.

52

Language Families of the World Lecture 12 How to Identify a Language Family

Identifying a Family: Uralic ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Usually, identifying a family and the relationships within it requires proceeding with neither of the aids present in the Proto-Indo-European and Polynesian cases. For example, Finnish and Hungarian are members of the same family; however, this is little more evident from the languages as they are spoken today than the relationship between English and Hindi is, and records of older stages of these languages do not go back as far as Indo-European ones and are not as copious. However, core words of the Swadesh list type reveal the relationship. There are cognates of this kind, and these similarities could not be accidental. (See section A of table.)

ENGLISH FINNISH HUNGARIAN

A

Additionally, there are regular sound change processes that shape the differences between Finnish and Hungarian cognates, showing that there was once a single language that later became the two (and others). (See section B of table.)

B

C

blood

veri

vér

hand

käsi

kéz

water

vesi

víz

what

mitä

mit

two

kaksi

kettő

three

kolme

három

six

kuusi

hat

fish

kala

hal

head

pää

fő (‘main’)

nest

pesä

fészek

The Finnish ks is ironed out into a single consonant in Hungarian, and the k in Finnish is often an h in Hungarian. This means that the seeming unlikeness between words like Finnish’s kala and Hungarian’s hal for fish is actually illusory. Another rule is that p becomes f, just as in the Proto-Indo-European pater becoming the English father. (See section C of table.)

53

SUGGESTED READING Arlotto, Introduction to Historical Linguistics. Crowley and Bowern, An Introduction to Historical Linguistics.

Language Families of the World QUIZ FOR LECTURES 7–12

QUIZ

LECTURES 7–12 1 Do Niger-Congo languages that keep words short trend toward heavier or lighter usage of tones? [7]

2 Which Niger-Congo language is notable for its use of up to 20 genders? [7]

3 Arabic began as the relatively obscure language of which group of people? [8]

4 What is the defining characteristic of an Afro-Asiatic language? [8]

5 How many people use the Hausa language today? [9]

6 Which Afro-Asiatic subfamily features words that can have no vowels at all? [9]

54

Language Families of the World QUIZ FOR LECTURES 7–12

7 How many languages comprise the Nilo-Saharan family? [10]

8 What sound do many Nilo-Saharan families lack? [10]

9 On what item was the earliest recording of the Sami language, and where was it found? [11]

10 In general, how do the Uralic languages approach suffixes? [11]

11 What is the fundamental trait of a language family? [12]

12 Which linguist came up with the list of 100 concepts that are assumed to be shared by languages of any culture and used heavily? [12]

See page 163 for answers. 55

LECTURE 13

What Is a Caucasian Language?

The small and highly mountainous region of the Caucasus Mountains features dozens of very different languages (and likely featured more in antiquity). The languages here are called the Caucasian languages. The languages of the Caucasus are three separate families, with no demonstrable proto-language traceable as ancestral to the three.

56

Language Families of the World Lecture 13 What Is a Caucasian Language?

The Three Families ¯¯

¯¯

The names of the families are less important than their existence, but there is a southern family, a northwestern family, and a northeastern family. The southern family is the smallest and includes Georgian, which is the only Caucasus language with any renown beyond the area. Northwest Caucasian includes Kabardian and the Abkhaz language. Northeast Caucasian includes most of the languages of the area, including Lezgian, Tsez, Archi, and Avar.

The Area’s Diversity ¯¯

¯¯

Topography is why there are so many languages in such a small area. Mountains and valleys allow speakers to be separate from one another for long periods, such that languages have diverged considerably. As linguist Johanna Nichols has documented, the languages spoken in higher elevations tend to be the most complicated. That is because of invaders: When people overrun others, the relocated people often learn the invaders’ language. Roughly speaking, people who fled into the mountains were more able to keep their own language, rather than learning a simplified form of another language as adults. 57

Language Families of the World Lecture 13 What Is a Caucasian Language?

¯¯

Within the Northeast Caucasian family, Tsezic languages branched off earliest and are spoken highest up; another subfamily is spoken lower in the mountains, and then another one is spoken even lower down.

Complexity and Features ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The Caucasus languages are complex grammatically to an extent that can surprise speakers of languages like English. As languages rarely learned by outsiders, they have been able to amass massive elaboration. Roughly speaking, Northwest Caucasian languages have very complex case marking on nouns. Northeast Caucasian languages have very complex verb markings. South Caucasian languages are complex in both their nouns and their verbs. In Archi, for example, a verb can occur in 1,502,839 different forms. Additionally, Caucasian languages have the fewest vowels of any human languages, Abkhaz being one example. Other vowels come out based on what sound those vowels are next to. For example, Abkhaz speakers do use the sound /oh/, but it only comes out after sounds that involve putting your lips together, like /p/ and /b/. That means speakers create the sound /boh/ but not /bah/. In English, this is similar to how the word leaves is, at its base, the word leafs. Caucasus languages also tend to have ejective consonants, where speakers release air more explosively than usual, creating the impression of spitting out the sound. It is possibly not an accident that these sounds thrive in languages spoken in such a mountainous region. Caleb Everett has shown that worldwide, ejectives are more likely in languages spoken at high altitudes because compressing air is easier when air is thinner.

SUGGESTED READING Colarusso, A Grammar of the Kabardian Language. McWhorter, What Language Is.

58

LECTURE 14

Indian Languages That Aren’t Indo-European

This lecture focuses on non-Indo-European languages in India, namely the Dravidian languages. The Dravidian language family includes about 24 members, notably four prominent languages of southern India: Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, and Malayalam. These languages are no more related to the Indo-Aryan languages like Hindi than Finnish is to English.

59

Language Families of the World Lecture 14 Indian Languages That Aren’t Indo-European

History of the Dravidian Languages ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The pattern of distribution of Dravidian languages suggests that the languages were once spoken much farther northward as well. Members like Kurukh are spoken in northeast India, while Brahui is spoken in Pakistan. However, there is some evidence that the northern languages’ speakers may have moved there. Brahui and Kurukh folklore portray the groups as immigrants. Additionally, Brahui has many loaned words from Balochi, which arrived in the region around 1000 CE, but not from the ancient Iranian language Avestan, as other languages of the area that have been there much longer do. Tamil has one of longest written documentations of the world’s languages. It is first attested in cave inscriptions mixing Prakrit and Tamil in the 3rd century BCE, and is attested in full in 1st century AD Buddhist writings. There are so many Sanskrit-loaned words in Malayalam, Kannada, and Telugu that Western analysts long thought that they were IndoAryan languages. This is a lesson that the essence of a language is its grammatical structure, not its word stockpile. 60

Language Families of the World Lecture 14 Indian Languages That Aren’t Indo-European

Dravidian Structure ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Indo-Aryan languages were deeply influenced by speakers of Dravidian. As such, Dravidian languages roughly embody what distinguishes Indo-Aryan languages from other Indo-European ones. Retroflex consonants are pronounced with the tongue curled backward. In Tamil, a retroflex n makes the difference between the words for mind and fragrance. In the same way, in Hindi, a retroflex d makes the difference between lentil and branch. Gender marking is based on different plans in Dravidian languages than in IndoEuropean languages. Tamil divides nouns into rational groups (people and deities) and irrational groups (animals, children, and all else). Sadly, some dialects exclude women from the rational.

TAMIL

ENGLISH

mana

mind

ma a

fragrance

HINDI

ENGLISH

dal

lentil

al

branch

In Kurukh, verbs take different endings depending on whether a man or woman is talking. They also take different endings depending on whether a man or woman is being spoken to. In Tamil, the standard/written variety maintains the stage the language was at in antiquity. Colloquial varieties represent how the language has evolved naturally. They are essentially different languages from the standard. This is a common situation in languages called diglossia. For example, to say male student, written Tamil uses maan ̣avan while colloquial Tamil uses maan ̣avε.̃

61

Language Families of the World Lecture 14 Indian Languages That Aren’t Indo-European

The Languages of the Andaman Islands ¯¯

¯¯

The Andaman Islands are part of an archipelago eastward of India. Even though their combined area is only about 2,500 square miles, there were originally 14 languages spoken on them by about 5,000 people, comprising at least two and possibly more families. The indigenous people are descendants of the first humans to make their way across southern Asia on their way to Indonesia and Australia. The proliferation of languages demonstrates how much language change can take place in 50,000 years. One of the languages, Sentinelese, is unknown because its speakers have all but entirely resisted contact with the outside world.

62

Language Families of the World Lecture 14 Indian Languages That Aren’t Indo-European

¯¯

¯¯

The language situation here was inevitably fragile in the face of contact with the modern world. Today, there are no speakers left of the larger family—the last one died in 2010—and only a few hundred speakers of the two or three living languages in the other family remain. The British established a penal colony in the 1860s, and since then most inhabitants have come to speak Hindi. The Kusunda language of Nepal has been thought to have no living relatives. However, some of its words are very similar in shape to the equivalent words in some Andamanese languages, such as Juwoi. Since there would be no reason for contact between people in Nepal and Andaman Islands residents, this is likely evidence that Kusunda is a branch of the same language that seeded the Andaman Island families tens of thousands of years ago.

SUGGESTED READING Emeneau, “India as a Linguistic Area.” Krishnamurti, The Dravidian Languages.

63

LECTURE 15

Languages of the Silk Road and Beyond

The languages called Altaic are spoken across Asia, from Turkey through Mongolia to northeastern regions of Asia. These languages’ geographical as well as cultural relationship make them a natural fit for this lecture, which focuses on Turkish and its relatives, Altaic’s most famous members.

64

Language Families of the World Lecture 15 Languages of the Silk Road and Beyond

Turkic Languages ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Turkish is one of a group of languages quite similar to one another called, collectively, Turkic. This group began around Mongolia and spread eastward, then westward. Turkic was spoken by the Huns and by most members of Genghis Khan’s army, and it was the Khans’ court language. The Mughals who ruled India from the 16th through the 19th century also spoke a Turkic variety. Anatolia—today’s Turkey—was first occupied by early Indo-European speakers and then by Greeks, Anatolians (likely Hittite speakers), and Kurdish speakers. Turkic-speaking Seljuks and then the Ottomans took over, and Turkish was established there by the 1200s. Many of the Turkic languages are, to a considerable extent, less separate languages than a continuum of dialects shading into one another over a long distance. In these languages, a suffix’s vowel changes according to the vowel in the word it is attached to. Turkic words can also have suffix sandwiches, in which what would be a whole sentence in English can be rendered by a single word. The Turkic languages have been spoken amidst much linguistic and cultural contact with Persian and Arabic, and as a result, they have often taken on a great deal of vocabulary from Persian and Arabic. The written variety of Turkish under the Ottomans, for example, was barely recognizable as Turkic because it was so mixed a language. Kemal Atatürk, leader of Turkey starting in 1923, wanted to steer Turkey from Arabic to Western influence. He changed the script from Arabic to Roman and also instituted a purge of Arabic and Persian words, substituting Turkish words.

65

Language Families of the World Lecture 15 Languages of the Silk Road and Beyond

Mongolic Languages ¯¯

¯¯

The native languages of the Mongols who ruled much of the Western world in antiquity have not spread much because they ruled in Turkic. However, this group includes varieties of Mongolian and a few other languages, including one spoken as far east as Russia called Kalmyk. Mongolian has a trait that lends a sense of how languages can focus on different facets of being human. For instance, both of these sentences say that it rained yesterday: Eucegder borao or-lao. Eucegder borao or-jai.

¯¯

The first one, with -lao, means that the speaker knows that it rained because the speaker saw it. The second one, with -jao, is what a speaker would say if the speaker had been inside, walked outside, and saw evidence that it had rained, such as half-dried puddles.

66

Language Families of the World Lecture 15 Languages of the Silk Road and Beyond

¯¯

This is analogous to the difference in English between “It rained yesterday” and “It must have rained yesterday.” However, Mongolian forces the speaker to express that difference more consistently, and the equivalence isn’t exact. This nuance is a type of mood, like the imperative and the subjunctive, called evidentiality.

Tungusic Languages ¯¯

¯¯

The Tungusic languages are a small, scattered group spoken in eastern China and parts of Russia, including Siberia. The one with a written history is Manchu, spoken by the people who ruled China for almost 300 years until 1912. They teach a lesson: Rulers have often not ruled in their native language. As the Persians ruled in Aramaic and the Mongols ruled in Turkic, the Manchu ruled in Chinese (Mandarin) and kept their language to themselves. However, they sent a large number of speakers to the Xinjiang province in the west to a garrison, and 30,000 of their descendants still speak a variety of Manchu there today. They outnumber people who speak all of the other Tungusic languages combined, vastly removed from where the languages emerged.

SUGGESTED READING Johanson and Csató, The Turkic Languages. Lewis, The Turkish Language Reform.

67

LECTURE 16

Japanese and Korean: Alike yet Unrelated

This lecture discusses the Japanese and Korean languages. Some linguists have proposed that Japanese and Korean are Altaic languages, but that proposal has had little success. Both languages have certain Altaic features, but this could be due to borrowing rather than inheritance. Japanese and Korean words do not trace back to ones in Altaic in any real way. However, there is likely some relationship between them.

68

Language Families of the World Lecture 16 Japanese and Korean: Alike yet Unrelated

Japanese Writing ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The Japanese writing system is both unusual and interesting. The word order is quite unlike what Indo-European speakers are used to. For example, the Japanese equivalent of saying “That girl bought a book at Disneyland” would translate to “That girl Disneyland at book bought.” Writing Japanese requires knowing three different systems of writing, all used together. For example, in “That girl bought a book at Disneyland,” the words for girl, book, and buy would all be written in Chinese. The foreign word for Disneyland would be written with symbols corresponding to syllables. Finally, the words for grammar would be written in yet another system, also based on syllables. The Chinese system is called kanji, the system for grammar words is called hiragana, and the system for foreign words is called katakana.

その 少女 は ディズニーランド で 本 を 買っ た Sono shōjo wa

Disneyland

de hon o

That

Disneyland

at

girl

book

kat -ta

bought

“That girl bought a book at Disneyland.”

Refer to the video or audio lesson for more details on the Japanese writing system.

69

Language Families of the World Lecture 16 Japanese and Korean: Alike yet Unrelated

Other Features of Japanese ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

When using Western languages, speakers attend to person and number especially closely. In Japanese, one attends in the same way to issues of status. This is called the honorific aspect of the language. For example, how you would say something as simple as “I’d see him” varies according to your gender. Japanese requires more attention to gender than Western languages. Sentences also change according to the status of the person you are talking to and the status of who you are referring to. An analogy is that you might say, “The king was dining,” rather than saying, “The king was having some grub.” This kind of difference is entrenched in everyday expression in Japanese. Japanese also has three kinds of words: native words, ones derived from Chinese, and ones derived from other languages such as English. Often, there are three different words for the same concept but from these three sources, with the native one the humblest, the Chinese one more formal, and the Western one more cosmopolitan. For example, there are various ways to render hotel in Japanese:

METHOD

WORD

MEANING

Japanese-derived

yadoya

‘inn’

Sino-Japanese-derived

ryokan

‘Japanese-style hotel’

English-derived

hoteru

‘Western-style hotel’

70

Language Families of the World Lecture 16 Japanese and Korean: Alike yet Unrelated

¯¯

This difference makes the writing system even more complicated, in that kanji can refer either to the native Japanese word or the Chinesederived one. Often, there are two Chinese-derived words borrowed at different periods in the history of Chinese. Thus, here are three ways to read the kanji for rice:

METHOD

SYMBOL

WORD

MEANING

Native method



kome

‘rice’

gai mai

‘imported rice’

米国

bei koku

‘rice-land’ (or ‘America’)

Chinese method 1 Chinese method 2

外米

Korean Language Features ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

To learn Japanese after Korean or vice versa is to feel as if one is learning the same language with different words. They are similar not only in Altaic-style features such as having the verb at the end of the sentence, but in specifics of sentence structure such as the markers of topic and object and even the shape of the past marker. Korean also has honorifics in the same way as Japanese, along with other features. The reason for this is not yet known. However, a promising idea from archaeology, history, and early attestations is that Japanese began as a mainland Asian language, perhaps Austronesian. Speakers of another language from northwards began speaking their language in “Japanese,” with their own words (Korean) and the new grammar ( Japanese). Korean requires attention to different shadings of consonants than English-only speakers are accustomed to. There is a difference between a /p/ sound pronounced with an aspirated versus a non-aspirated method—that is, how much the speaker “pushes” the sound out. Refer to the video or audio lesson to hear this in action.

71

Language Families of the World Lecture 16 Japanese and Korean: Alike yet Unrelated

Korean Writing ¯¯

¯¯

Korean’s writing system is called Hangul. Half of the Korean language’s words are derived from Chinese, and the language was once written with Chinese. However, its modern writing system is quite unlike Chinese’s or Japanese’s. It was invented in 1443 by King Sejong. It corresponds beautifully to the sounds of the actual language. For example, there are different letters for aspirated versus non-aspirated sounds. Thus, the writing systems of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean are quite distinguishable.

SUGGESTED READING Miller, The Japanese Language. Shibatani, “Japanese.”

72

LECTURE 17

The Languages We Call Chinese

The course now turns to the languages of East and Southeast Asia beyond Japanese and Korean. Several families occupy this space. This lecture focuses on a group that we conventionally think of as just one language: Chinese. However, that label actually corresponds to much more than one might suppose.

73

Language Families of the World Lecture 17 The Languages We Call Chinese

Overview of the Chinese Languages ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

In one East Asian language, the way to say introduce is jièshào. In another in the same area, the way to say it is gaaisiuh. These languages are as different as Spanish and Italian. They use the same writing system, however, and therefore you write both of the words the same way. These languages are Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese. They are typically termed dialects of Chinese, but this is graphocentric. Because Chinese writing is based on words rather than sounds, Mandarin and Cantonese can be written with the same system. The so-called Chinese dialects are different languages, just as the Romance languages are. They are the descendants of the Old Chinese language that existed 3,000 years ago, just as the Romance languages descended from Latin. The terms language and dialect are often used arbitrarily, in reference to culture and writing as well as speech. China is a classic case. Mandarin is spoken by about 1 billion people in China, Taiwan and Singapore—that is, about every seventh person in the world. Seventy percent of Chinese speakers speak it. Cantonese is the next most prominent language, especially in America. That is because most Chinese immigrants to the US before 1965 spoke Cantonese. Taiwanese is one variety of Min, spoken by more people than Cantonese. Shanghainese is an entire separate language, as different from Mandarin as Dutch is from German. Hakka, Gan and Xiang are less known outside China, but are all distinct as well. These languages all exist in various dialects, many mutually unintelligible. Min, for example, is actually various languages. One could say that there are actually dozens of Chinese languages rather than seven. The writing system, however, encourages a sense that they are all one unit. Additionally, education and policy inculcate Mandarin, such that it permeates the other dialects to an extent, giving the illusion that there is a single “real Chinese.” 74

Language Families of the World Lecture 17 The Languages We Call Chinese

Tones ¯¯

In Chinese languages, the pitch one utters a syllable on is as central to expressing meaning as different consonants and vowels are in English. For instance, Mandarin has several tones, in which the word ma has different meanings according to tone.

MANDARIN

ENGLISH



‘rough’



‘scold’



‘mother’



‘horse’

ma

‘huh?’

Compounds ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Mandarin words are single syllables consisting of a consonant and a vowel, and some with a final n. Other dialects may have a wider selection of consonants at the end, but still, there are only so many of these single syllables possible. Even distinguished by tones, a language needs more than this equipment to cover tens of thousands of basic words. Thus, in Chinese languages, combinations of two or more words— compounds like blackboard and bluebird—are the default rather than possibilities as they are in languages like English. For example, movie is diàn yǐng, meaning ‘electric shadow,’ and the word for Mandarin Chinese is pǔ tōng huà, meaning ‘general connection talk.’ Many of these compounds do not make sense as combinations of their words and are simply chunks, like understand in English. One is the jièshào word mentioned earlier, which combines the words meaning ‘put between’ and ‘continue.’ The word corresponding to thing, dōngxi, combines the words meaning ‘east’ and ‘west.’

You can’t learn to read Chinese simply by memorizing what all of the symbols mean. Learners also have to know what they mean when combined. 75

Language Families of the World Lecture 17 The Languages We Call Chinese

Numeral Classifiers ¯¯

¯¯

In Chinese languages, whenever something is used with a number, you have to use a little word that corresponds to various qualities of the thing. For example, sān means ‘three.’ The table below lists just a few of the 25 or so words one must use to say that there are three of something.

CHINESE

These numeral classifiers are often irregular. For instance, one uses zhī not only with animals, but also with eyes and suitcases.

SUGGESTED READING Norman, Chinese. Wiedenhof, A Grammar of Chinese.

76

ENGLISH

sān

ge

háizi

‘three children’

sān

zhī

gǒu

‘three dogs’

sān

tiáo



‘three fish’

sān



shù

‘three trees’

sān



dāo

‘three knives’

LECTURE 18

Chinese’s Family Circle: Sino-Tibetan

Chinese is actually one branch of the Sino-Tibetan family. The other branch is Tibeto-Burman, including about 400 languages spoken mainly in southern China, northeastern India, and Burma. This lecture looks at the Sino-Tibetan family’s roots and features.

77

Language Families of the World Lecture 18 Chinese’s Family Circle: Sino-Tibetan

Proto-Sino-Tibetan ¯¯

¯¯

The Sino-Tibetan protolanguage likely emerged in China, with Chinese developing via a movement northward. The rest of the language, making up the Tibeto-Burman subfamily, developed amidst a movement southward. Most Sino-Tibetan languages are similar to Chinese in being based on single syllables, often with tone. This makes it hard to reconstruct Proto-Sino-Tibetan because so many of the original prefixes and suffixes have been worn off.

78

Language Families of the World Lecture 18 Chinese’s Family Circle: Sino-Tibetan

¯¯

Linguists can reconstruct, by comparing many of the modern languages in the family, that the Proto-Sino-Tibetan word for eight was approximately baragjat. However, eight in modern Mandarin is just a shard of that original word, bā. The intermediate stage was, in Middle Chinese, pwæt. Thus Proto-Sino-Tibetan words were quite unlike their modern descendants.

Tibetan ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

As the family’s name suggests, the two biggest Tibeto-Burman languages are Tibetan and Burmese. Tibetan actually refers to roughly 25 different languages in Tibet and beyond that have developed from an ancestor now called Classical Tibetan. These languages show another feature that makes it hard to trace back to Proto-Sino-Tibetan: how tone develops. Tonal distinctions often develop when a consonant erodes and leaves the tone behind. We tend to pronounce a vowel on a somewhat lower pitch after b than after a p, for example. Thus, we might say back on a lower pitch than pack, using a lower-pitched /baa/ sound and a higher-pitched /paa/ sound, respectively. Over time, a natural change would be if the k wore off the end of the words. If it does, then the only thing distinguishing the words is the difference in pitch. As counterintuitive as that can seem to an English speaker, humans can process this normally just as they can process the difference between vowels and consonants. This is how tones emerge in a language. Classical Tibetan was not tonal, but many of the modern Tibetan languages are. When a consonant wore off the beginning of words, it often left a tone behind, so that today, words are different only in tone that used to be different in terms of consonants. For example, in a Tibetan variety of Nepal, the word for sky is nam with a high tone. The word in Classical Tibetan is gnam.

79

Language Families of the World Lecture 18 Chinese’s Family Circle: Sino-Tibetan

Burmese ¯¯

¯¯

As is common in languages of South and Southeast Asia, to use Burmese is to speak quite differently from how you write. It is also common to speak in radically different ways depending on social context. Burmese writing is based on an early stage of the language, such that the difference between speech and writing is pronounced. Additionally, Burmese is highly diglossic: The vocabulary of formal contexts and writing differs massively from that of informal speech, in the sense of English’s kids versus children and bag versus parcel, but to a much vaster extent. To speak Burmese is essentially to speak two languages, so-called high and low varieties.

The Nature of Grammar ¯¯

It is easy to suppose that languages on the Chinese plan lack what is traditionally thought of as grammar. However, the other TibetoBurman languages provide a useful lesson that there are many ways that a language can be complex. Some of the components of the sentence “I gave him one fruit” in Akha, of Burma, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and China are shown in the table below.

AKHA

ENGLISH

ŋá

I

àj

he

bì ̰

gave

áshì (aspirated)

fruit

thì (aspirated)

one

80

Language Families of the World Lecture 18 Chinese’s Family Circle: Sino-Tibetan

¯¯

¯¯

One might assume, given that there are no endings to worry about, that the way to structure it would be ŋà bḭ̀ àjɔ̰ ̀  thì áshì, meaning, “I gave [him] one fruit.” However, the structure is actually different, featuring the verb at the end and the phrase “fruit one,” not “one fruit.” Additionally, Akha has classifiers, an object marker, a marker you use when the subject does something to an object, and then a marker at the end of the sentence to mark it as a declaration. ŋà nɛ I

àj he

áŋ áshì thì shì bì ̰ ma fruit one

gave

“I gave him one fruit.”

¯¯

In sum, even a language without conjugations and a subjunctive can be quite complex in other ways. This is true of languages not only in SinoTibetan but in other families of Southeast Asia as well.

SUGGESTED READING Thurgood and LaPolla, eds., The Sino-Tibetan Languages.

81

Language Families of the World QUIZ FOR LECTURES 13–18

QUIZ

LECTURES 13–18 1 Why are there so many languages in an area as small as the Caucuses? [13]

2 What is one possible reason that ejective consonants thrive in the Caucuses area? [13]

3 Which four Dravidian languages are prominent languages of southern India? [14]

4 How are retroflex consonants pronounced? [14]

5 Where did the Turkish languages begin? [15]

6 Which Turkish leader was responsible for a purge of Arabic and Persian words, substituting Turkish words? [15]

82

Language Families of the World QUIZ FOR LECTURES 13–18

7 What three systems are involved in Japanese writing? [16]

8 What is Korean’s writing system called? [16]

9 Roughly how many people speak Mandarin Chinese? [17]

10 What system is used in many Chinese languages to produce multiple meanings from the same word? [17]

11 Where did the Sino-Tibetan protolanguage likely emerge? [18]

12 Why is it difficult to reconstruct the Sino-Tibetan protolanguage? [18]

See page 164 for answers. 83

LECTURE 19

Southeast Asian Languages: The Sinosphere

There are three language families spoken in Southeast Asia just below the reach of Sino-Tibetan. It would be easy to suppose that Thai and Vietnamese are related, but they actually belong to two distinct families. Then, Hmong is part of yet another family. These families are called Austroasiatic, Tai-Kadai, and Hmong-Mien.

84

Language Families of the World Lecture 19 Southeast Asian Languages: The Sinosphere

Overview ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

These languages seem almost oddly alike, and in turn, uncannily like Chinese. Typical of this region is monosyllabic structure, tones, and also a telegraphic essence, in which ordinary sentences can leave more to context than European languages. When languages across families resemble one another structurally in this way despite their differing origins, it is called a sprachbund. Sprachbunds happen when a great many people in a region are bilingual or multilingual over long periods of time, such that the languages come to resemble one another. This shows that, along with origins, language contact is decisive in determining what languages are like. There is reason to think that the main reason for the resemblance of these families is that Chinese has had a major impact on all three of the families spoken to the south of it. This sprachbund is called the Sinosphere. Chinese speakers migrated southward and made most of the languages of Southeast Asia quite different from what they were originally like. 85

Language Families of the World Lecture 19 Southeast Asian Languages: The Sinosphere

The Hmong-Mien Family ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The Hmong-Mien family consists of perhaps three dozen languages. The most immediately striking feature of these languages is how many tones they can have. The White Hmong variety has seven, and some have up to 12. Through language reconstruction, linguists know these languages adopted features from Chinese. Reconstruction shows that Hmong-Mien languages used to have noun class prefixes like Swahili. There are more remnants of those in the Hmong-type languages, which have had less influence from Chinese, than from the Mien-type ones. These languages are stippled throughout their area in a way that suggests that they were once spoken uniformly across the territory and were later displaced by an immigrating group. That group would be the Chinese. Hmong-Mien speakers live up in the hills, which suggests that the Chinese displaced them in the same way some Caucasianlanguage speakers displaced others in the past.

The Austroasiatic Family ¯¯

¯¯

Vietnamese belongs to a family called Austroasiatic, about 150 languages spoken in Southeast Asia and extending westward into India. Vietnamese is a typical Sinosphere language, with six tones and monosyllabic words that occur in many compounds. This is because northern Vietnam was a part of China for about 1,000 years before 939 AD. 86

Language Families of the World Lecture 19 Southeast Asian Languages: The Sinosphere

Chinese words permeate Vietnamese vocabulary in the same way as they do Japanese and Korean.

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The Chinese influence upon this family is clear in that while Vietnamese (and nearby languages) are of the Sinospheric profile, the languages of the family spoken farther away are much less of this type, such as the Munda languages in India and the Aslian languages spoken in the southern part of the Southeast Asian peninsula. They still have prefixes and/or suffixes, for example. Many Austroasiatic languages also have a feature called register, which functions like tone to encode meaning differences between otherwise identical syllables. Tones and register differences transform from one into another, and when both disappear, they often leave behind many subtly different vowels. Austroasiatic languages have some of the largest numbers of vowels of any languages (in contrast to click and Caucasian languages with more consonants). Cambodian, for example, has about 30 different vowels including its diphthongs, as opposed to English having about 15.

The Tai-Kadai Family ¯¯

Thai is one member of the Tai-Kadai family. It, too, is a typical Sinospheric language. However, the family is likely an offshoot of one that is quite unlike Chinese.

87

Language Families of the World Lecture 19 Southeast Asian Languages: The Sinosphere

¯¯

¯¯

Because most of the 75 or so languages of the family are still spoken in southern China, it is apprarent that early speakers of this language family migrated southward from there as the Chinese expanded. Contact with Chinese (and other languages already affected by Chinese) made the languages Sinospheric. It is very important in Thai to have a politeness particle at the end of a sentence, and the particles differ according to the speaker’s gender. For example. there are two ways to say “thank you” in Thai. The male version is kɔ̀ɔp kun kráp, and the female version is kɔ̀ɔp kun kâ.

SUGGESTED READING Enfield, A Grammar of Lao.

88

LECTURE 20

Languages of the South Seas I

The Austronesian group is one of the world’s vastest and most widespread language families. The family consists of well over 1,000 languages that spread from Indonesia across the island of New Guinea, throughout the South Seas, eastward of Australia, and all the way to Easter Island.

89

Language Families of the World Lecture 20 Languages of the South Seas I

Overview of the Austronesian Family ¯¯

Scholars know that these widely separated languages are a family because they have words in common that can be used to reconstruct a protolanguage, as in the five languages shown below. (Tagalog is the main language of the Philippines, and Motu is a language spoken on the island of New Guinea.) MALAY

¯¯

¯¯

TAGALOG

MOTU

FIJIAN

SAMOAN

ENGLISH

mata

mata

mata

mata

mata

eye

batu

bato

nadi

vatu

fatu

stone

kutu

kuto

utu

kutu

ʔutu

louse

ibu

inâ

sina

tina

tinaa

mother

Austronesian is the group that the Tai-Kadai language family likely branched off from. The language that became Japanese in contact with Korean may also have been an Austronesian one. It is difficult to give a single characterization to a family this large, just as there are few traits universal to the Niger-Congo languages. However, Austronesian languages often exhibit a feature unusual to most speakers of European languages: The verb comes first. 90

Language Families of the World Lecture 20 Languages of the South Seas I

¯¯

Austronesian languages often duplicate words for various meanings. In Indonesian, rumah rumah means ‘houses’ or ‘a bunch of houses.’ Duplication can also apply to a single syllable of a word (usually the first one) and create new meanings. For instance, in Tagalog, bili means ‘buy’ while bi-bili means ‘will buy.’

Origins ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Given its distribution, one might assume that Austronesian originated in Indonesia, in the South Seas, or perhaps on the Asian continent. However, a family originated where it is the most diverse today because there has been the longest period there for languages to become distinct from one another. By that rule, Austronesian must have spread from the small island of Taiwan because it consists of four subfamilies, three of which are on Taiwan. These Formosan languages once numbered 25, and the diversity among them is greater than among Austronesian languages elsewhere. Further evidence for this is that Austronesian speakers from Asia to Oceania make a cloth out of pounding bark, and one of the trees used for this is the paper mulberry. The paper mulberry used by most of these people traces genetically to a variety that originated in Taiwan. The family may have actually originated on the coast of southern China, but the spread would have been from Taiwan.

Malagasy ¯¯

Austronesian languages were spread to a considerable degree via sailing from one island to another, often over great distances. For example, one Austronesian language is spoken as far afield as Africa: Malagasy. Note that it has Austronesian cognates.

91

Language Families of the World Lecture 20 Languages of the South Seas I

¯¯

¯¯

Genetically, the Malagasy people are a mix of Austronesian and Bantu, with later admixture of Indian laborers. The Malagasy also retain various Austronesian cultural traditions such as reliance on canoes, burying the dead in canoes, and aspects of music and dance. The point of departure has been traced to Borneo: Malagasy is an offshoot of the Barito languages spoken there. The first migration to Madagascar was sometime in the early centuries AD. (The first unequivocal evidence of people is 490 AD.)

Language Migration ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

From Taiwan, Austronesian speakers sailed first to the Philippines. One indication of this is that Austronesian words—other than the ones from the Formosan languages—trace back to proto-language words for taro, breadfruit, banana, coconut, and other items indigenous to the Philippines and the surrounding region. The dominant language of the Philippines is Tagalog, or Filipino. It is one of about 120 languages of these islands, acquiring its present-day status because it was indigenously spoken in the area of Manila. The migration next moved farther southward and created another large group of languages. The most influential one became Malay, known in its modern standardized version as Indonesian. Indonesian is now spoken as a lingua franca by about 200 million people. Javanese is a close relative. 92

Language Families of the World Lecture 20 Languages of the South Seas I

Indonesian and Javanese are among the 20 most widely spoken languages in the world.

¯¯

¯¯

Indonesian is one of the few languages of the world that does not have a great many prefixes, suffixes, or other constructions that distinguish subjects from objects or mark gender, number, or tense, and so on. It also does not feature tonal distinctions. That is because it has been a language of trade. When Austronesian speakers spread throughout the Philippines and Indonesian areas starting about 6,000 years ago, there were already people living on the islands of the area. Thus, Austronesian languages took on many words and even aspects of grammatical structure from these other languages.

SUGGESTED READING Adelaar and Himmelmann, eds., The Austronesian Languages of Asia and Madagascar. Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel.

93

LECTURE 21

Languages of the South Seas II

This lecture continues the course’s discussion of languages of the South Seas. A particular area of focus is the Polynesian languages, which emerged only within the past millennium. Languages in this group include Tongan, Samoan, Tahitian, Maori, and Hawaiian. The Polynesian languages are part of the Oceanic branch of the Austronesian language family.

94

Language Families of the World Lecture 21 Languages of the South Seas II

The Polynesian Languages ¯¯

¯¯

The earliest people of the Polynesian culture were on Samoa and Tonga. Starting in about 1200 BC, they sailed in canoes, reaching as far eastward as Tahiti by about 100 AD. At this point, westward winds blocked canoe travel. Ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl argued that the people who settled Polynesia more plausibly came from the west coast of South America. However, it has been discovered that between 1140 and 1260, the direction of the winds shifted amidst a temporary change in world climate, which allowed the settlement of New Zealand, Easter Island, and probably Hawaii.

95

Language Families of the World Lecture 21 Languages of the South Seas II

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Because the Polynesian languages have been separate for so little time, they are quite alike. Take, for example, their corresponding words meaning ‘bird’ and ‘canoe,’ shown below: TONGAN

SAMOAN

TAHITIAN

MAORI

HAWAIIAN

ENGLISH

manu

manu

manu

manu

manu

bird

vaka

va’a

va’a

waka

wa’a

canoe

During the migration of the Polynesians, they left behind peoples who stayed put at the islands reached along the way. These are today’s Melanesians and Micronesians closer to the east coast of Australia. The Polynesian languages’ parent group, Austronesian, consists of four subfamilies. Three are spoken on Taiwan. The fourth includes all other Austronesian languages. That fourth subfamily consists of three branches: a western one that includes Tagalog and Indonesian, a central one that includes Timor’s lingua franca Tetun, and then an eastern branch in the South Pacific. The eastern branch is the Oceanic branch.

Oceanic Sounds ¯¯

¯¯

Oceanic languages have some of the smallest numbers of sounds of any languages of the world. For example, Hawaiian has only the five basic vowels a, e, i, o, and u, plus the consonants p, t, m, n, h, l, w, and a glottal stop. Oceanic languages also tend to have relatively simple syllables, consisting mostly of consonant-vowel chunks without many consonant clusters. This leads to interesting renditions of words from languages like English. In Hawaiian, Christmas is Kalikimaka.

96

Language Families of the World Lecture 21 Languages of the South Seas II

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Languages with so few sounds, and therefore so few possible syllables, tend to have longer words, as multisyllabic combinations are necessary to have a vocabulary of perceptibly distinct words. Thus, Hawaiian famously refers to one type of fish as the humuhumunukunukuapua’a. That begs the question: Why would any languages end up having so few sounds? One proposal is that as groups split off, they will naturally carry slightly less of the original language’s equipment with them, with there being fewer people to use and reinforce the entire body of what the language consists of. This would include sounds. Evidence for this is that the click languages of Africa, probably descendants of the world’s first language, have the most sounds of any languages in the world. The Polynesian languages were the world’s last languages to form, created by small groups leaving their homelands. It may not be a coincidence that it is here that languages have the fewest sounds in world.

Oceanic Language Components ¯¯

¯¯

The Oceanic languages feature interesting pronoun setups. It may be hard for an English speaker to imagine that a language wouldn’t have a regular way of distinguishing he and she, but a great many make no such distinction regularly. Then, there are languages that have a much finer array of pronouns than an English speaker might imagine, like the Melanesian language Kwaio. The term for we in Kwaio differs according to whether the speaker means to say “me and you” or “me and them.” Then, instead of there just being one set of plural pronouns, there are three, depending on whether one means two, three (or four), or more. Refer to the video or audio lesson for a further breakdown on this topic.

97

Language Families of the World Lecture 21 Languages of the South Seas II

¯¯

¯¯

Oceanic languages are also more specific when it comes to possession than English. For example, take the Maori words for grandparent and grandchild: tupuna and mokopuna. The way to say “my grandparent” is tōku tupuna. Therefore, one might assume that to MAORI ENGLISH say “my grandchild,” the tupuna grandparent correct choice would be tōku mokopuna grandchild mokopuna. However, this is not the case. There is actually my grandparent tōku tupuna a different form of my when my grandchild tāku mokopuna used with grandchild. This is one of the subtler aspects of grammar in languages like Maori (and other Polynesian ones, which have this feature). There are efforts to revive Maori and Hawaiian, and one of the most challenging features for learners to master is which form of possessive marking nouns use.

SUGGESTED READING Heyerdahl, Kon-Tiki. Lynch, Ross, and Crowley, The Oceanic Languages.

98

LECTURE 22

Siberia and Beyond: Language Isolates

The Russian language is not indigenous to Siberia, and there are four patches of the area where languages are spoken that are not related to one another. For convenience, these are referred to as the Paleosiberian languages, but this does not refer to a group of related languages. They and other languages are a good introduction to the topic of language isolates, the subject of this lecture.

99

Language Families of the World Lecture 22 Siberia and Beyond: Language Isolates

Paleosiberian Overview ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Among the Paleosiberian languages, only one group constitutes an actual family: the small ChukotkoKamchatkan cluster. This is a handful of languages spoken by small groups, under threat from Russian. One of them, Itelmen, has ejectives. This is very rare in this part of the world, and it has been suggested that this came from languages spoken here even before. Specifically, many Native American languages of the Pacific Northwest have ejectives. Yukaghir covers two different languages spoken by groups that lead different lifestyles. Yukaghir may be related distantly to Uralic. Additionally, Nivkh is a single language spoken much further to the south, and Ket is a single language spoken further to the west. These languages represent an earlier layer of language in this area, before the arrival of languages such as Russian, Uralic, and Turkic. They also allude to the fact that many languages of the world do not classify into families, and are instead isolates. Sometimes, isolates are identifiably part of former families, such as Ket. Other times, linguists have lost all indication of what the language’s relatives may have been.

Ket ¯¯

Ket is spoken today by only a few hundred people natively, on the banks of the Yenisei River in central Russia. It is related to no other languages today. The language is very complicated grammatically.

100

Language Families of the World Lecture 22 Siberia and Beyond: Language Isolates

¯¯

¯¯

Ket is a lone survivor of the spread of other languages. Its speakers live in a swampy area that would have been less attractive to the nomadic people who otherwise spread westward and eliminated indigenous groups across Siberia. Ket also once had relatives—that is, it was one member of a family. Linguists recorded several languages, now extinct, that were related to it. Thus, Ket is today an isolate, but is the sole survivor of what was once a family called Yeniseian.

Ainu ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Among the languages called Paleosiberian, some linguists also include a language isolate of Japan called Ainu. Its inclusion occurs because it was once spoken not only in much of Japan but as far north as Sakhalin Island. That it does not happen to be spoken on the mainland is a flimsy reason for not including it from the Paleosiberian scattering. Ainu has been essentially exterminated by Japanese. Today, almost no native speakers survive, with most speakers only knowing it as a second language and themselves advancing rapidly in age. Ainu varied enough across its homeland that some consider it to have been a family of different languages, now reduced to a single one that had served as a general standard. Grammatically, Ainu parallels Altaic in a general sense, just as Japanese and Korean do. However, this may well be because of sharing (language contact) rather than common ancestry, and Ainu cannot be shown to have any living relatives. Ainu is one of many languages that reveal that a language doesn’t need writing to have a literature. There were lengthy oral epics in Ainu, usually performed by women.

101

Language Families of the World Lecture 22 Siberia and Beyond: Language Isolates

LANGUAGE ISOLATES ACROSS THE WORLD There are language isolates worldwide. Many Native American languages have, or had, no known relatives. Additionally, there is a language straddling India and Pakistan called Burushaski that is structurally unlike any Indo-European or even Dravidian language, and is related to no other living languages. The first known writing is in an ancient language of the Middle East called Sumerian, which, despite its central role in the history of language and humanity, was related to no known language of the past or present. It too qualifies as a language isolate.

Basque ¯¯

¯¯

There is only one language isolate in Europe, Basque, which straddles southwestern France and northeastern Spain. Its grammar is quite unlike that of Indo-European languages. Like Ket, Basque was once more widespread and likely was one member of a family of similar languages. The word Basque is a cognate of the word Gascony, referring to an area of France containing, but larger than, the area where Basque is spoken today. 102

Language Families of the World Lecture 22 Siberia and Beyond: Language Isolates

¯¯

¯¯

There are inscriptions of a language spoken in this area until perhaps the early Middle Ages, which are clearly a precursor or relative of Basque. For example, Basque for man is gizon, and in in Aquitanian inscriptions, the word is gison. Basque has successfully fought for coexistence with French and Spanish. However, it is a survivor of an onslaught from Indo-European speakers millennia ago, a single branch alive of what was once a family tree.

Etruscan ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Before Latin emerged and spread in Italy, the language spoken there was Etruscan. Etruscan civilization was a sophisticated monarchy with a literature. The Roman Empire built upon the Etruscan civilization that had been in the area previously. Etruscan is known from about 13,000 inscriptions in a Greek-derived alphabet. Because some of them have accompanying translations into, for example, Greek, the language is partially known. Etruscan left words such as military, column, people, and tuba. Etruscan neatly shows that language is inherently complicated, rather than only having become so with the emergence of modernity. It had ample case marking and rules like son being clan but sons being clenar. Language isolates can often be assumed to be remnants of what once was a whole family. Etruscan demonstrates this: There are a few scantily attested ancient languages of Europe that Etruscan resembles too closely to be accidental. There was likely a family, today called Tyrsenian, that Etruscan was one member of.

SUGGESTED READING Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language.

103

LECTURE 23

Creole Languages

Social history has dictated that sometimes a people are forced to first create a makeshift kind of speech that isn’t full language, and then build this into a real language. That creates a language that is truly a new one. Linguists call such a creation a creole language. This lecture looks at several examples of creole languages.

104

Language Families of the World Lecture 23 Creole Languages

Tok Pisin ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

When white people settled Australia, a makeshift language, or a pidgin, developed between them and the local inhabitants. This way of speaking came to be used between English speakers and other people encountered during the colonization of the islands eastward of Australia, and eventually, as a lingua franca between speakers of different indigenous languages. Used extensively for decades, what was once a primitive pidgin became a full language—that is, a creole. There are various dialects of this new language; the one used in Papua New Guinea is called Tok Pisin. This language did not exist until the 19th century. It is genuinely a new one. In Tok Pisin, words can have very different meanings than in English. Sapos, from the word suppose, means ‘if.’ Meanwhile, save is from the Portuguese saber and means ‘know.’

Jamaican Creole ¯¯

Many creoles formed when African slaves were transported to European-run plantations. This is why the English of Jamaica is so distinct from Standard English. For example, below is a sentence from a folktale known as “William Saves His Sweetheart” along with its translation. Unu sii dat tida gyal de kom ya, unu main mi tings, no tiek non gi im. “If you see that other girl coming here, you watch my things, don’t bring any to her.”

¯¯

The term unu is a word meaning ‘you all’ in the African language Igbo. The use of the words take and give to mean ‘bring’ comes from the way that certain African languages string verbs together in the same way.

105

Language Families of the World Lecture 23 Creole Languages

¯¯

The term tida, meaning ‘other,’ spawned because the colloquial British for “the other” can be pronounced “t’other.” Creoles often reveal features of varieties of a language that are otherwise less known.

French, Spanish, and Portuguese Creoles ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

There are also creoles based on French. Haitian is one of them. There was also until recently a French creole language spoken by descendants of African slaves in Louisiana. There lives another such creole on the island of Mauritius near Madagascar in Africa. It shows how a creole makes a real vocabulary from just a few words. In French, the words foie (‘liver’), foi (‘faith’), and fois (‘time’) are all pronounced the same. However, in ENGLISH FRENCH MAURITIAN Mauritian, these liver le foie lefwa words come out with faith la foi lafwa the article fused to two of them, so that time fois fwa all three are different. In Mauritian, lefwa does not mean ‘the liver,’ but just ‘liver.’ The term meaning ‘the liver’ is lefwa-la, with the article added. (In Mauritian, the article comes after, not before, the noun). Additionally, there are creoles based on Spanish, such as Papiamentu in Curaçao, and Portuguese, such as the Cape Verdean language. Cape Verdean shows another way that a new language builds a vocabulary—through the process of reduplication, where a duplicated form of a word has a related-but-different meaning from the root. For example, in Cape Verdean, peli means ‘skin’ while pelipeli means ‘stark naked.’

106

Language Families of the World Lecture 23 Creole Languages

Complexity ¯¯

¯¯

Creoles are less complex than older languages, but they still have complexities. For example, the verb be in Saramaccan—a creole based on English, Portuguese, and two African languages spoken in Surinam—is more complex than English’s. If a speaker says, “I am Jacob,” then the speaker uses the form da. However, if the speaker discusses possession and says that something is theirs or someone else’s, then there is no be word necessary at all. Yet, if the speaker stresses that something is theirs or SARAMACCAN ENGLISH someone else’s—as if to say, “The dog is mine!”— Mi da Jacob. I am Jacob. then a different form of Dí dágu u mi. The dog is mine. be is used than in neutral U mí a dí dágu! The dog is mine! sentences.

SUGGESTED READING McWhorter, What Language Is. Sebba, Contact Languages.

107

LECTURE 24

Why Are There So Many Languages in New Guinea?

This lecture focuses on the languages of the island of New Guinea. Today, New Guinea is politically divided between a western half consisting of two provinces of Indonesia—formerly called Irian Jaya—and an eastern half which is an independent nation called Papua New Guinea.

108

Language Families of the World Lecture 24 Why Are There So Many Languages in New Guinea?

Background on New Guinea ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Humans arrived on New Guinea perhaps 70,000 years ago. The terrain is alternately mountainous, jagged, or swampy, and the coast has many islands, making groups relatively isolated from one another. This situation, where language has been morphing among groups who have been relatively separate from one another’s languages, has led to New Guinea being perhaps the most linguistically rich spot on the planet. There are 750 Papuan languages, plus 200 or so Austronesian languages on the coasts, from when Austronesian speakers migrated on their way eastward. Most of these languages are spoken by a few hundred to a few thousand people. The Papuan languages are not a single family. Rather, there are about two dozen families of languages, plus many isolates. About half of the languages do constitute a family called Trans-New Guinea, however. The families in New Guinea are a patchwork on the island, many as different from one another as Indo-European is from Uralic or SinoTibetan is from Austronesian. A better term for Papuan languages might be simply non-Austronesian, especially as some Papuan languages are spoken westward in Indonesia, while others are spoken eastward of New Guinea in the Solomon Islands. 109

Language Families of the World Lecture 24 Why Are There So Many Languages in New Guinea?

Tracking Relationships ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

For tens of millennia, these languages have been diverging, mixing, going extinct, and changing constantly. This makes it practically impossible to chart the historical relationships between these languages in the way that one can with Indo-European ones. The languages have been diverging for so very long that often, the only evidence of original relationships is in pronouns alone. Pronouns from various languages of the Trans-New Guinea family are shown in the table at right.

ENGLISH UNA EKAGI MIANMIN OKSAPMIN BOSAVI GENDE ONJOB

I

you

he/she

na

ka

e

na na

no-g ne na na

kan ka

go ge ka

ga

er a

o-g e

ya

me

That separate languages would have the same sound pattern in these pronouns is difficult to ascribe to chance, and languages don’t borrow pronouns easily like this. Still, this is some of the only evidence that conclusively reveals the relatedness of these languages. The resemblances probably reflect that about 70,000 years ago, people reached New Guinea and populated it rather rapidly.

Characterizing a Papuan Language ¯¯

¯¯

To characterize a Papuan language beyond the pronouns is difficult, given the amount of variation. However, there are a few very common features among them. Papuan languages tend to have only a basic set of five or so vowels, and a few of them rival the Polynesian languages for the most vowel-low languages in the world. Additionally, in many of these languages, when the subject changes as the speaker talks about something, it is indicated not only with the pronoun itself, but also with a marker that announces that the subject will now change. 110

Language Families of the World Lecture 24 Why Are There So Many Languages in New Guinea?

¯¯

Most Papuan languages have the verb at the end of the sentence. Given how natural it feels for the verb to be in the middle to an English speaker, it’s easy to suppose that this order is somehow the default. However, verb-final languages are actually slightly more common. The default status of that order in a place like New Guinea makes it seem more plausible that subject-object-verb is the default order in language, as many linguists believe, possibly tracing back to the first language.

Unusual Traits ¯¯

¯¯

In a place where so very many languages have been developing for such a very long time, the languages often challenge an English speaker’s very sense of how a language could work. These languages can indeed surprise with what they lack. ww

In Berik, for example, there is one word for he, she, it, and they, as well as for both singular and plural you. This means there is only a plural pronoun in the first person, as in we.

ww

In the Mai Brat language, there are no tense markers at all. To be specific about time, one uses actual words such as tomorrow, but there is no grammatical way to place a verb in the past or future.

ww

In the Berik language, a verb has prefixes and suffixes that specify things like how big an object is; whether there was one, two, or three of them; its distance; and the specific time of day.

Most verbs in the Yele languge change shape in a random way that simply has to be learned depending on tense and other shades of meaning. Yele has 90 different sounds, over 1,000 prefixes and suffixes, and 11 different ways of saying on, depending on whether something SUGGESTED READING is on a horizontal surface, a vertical surface, and so on. Foley, The Papuan Languages of New Guinea. Pawley, Attenborough, Golson, and Hide, eds., Papuan Pasts. 111

Language Families of the World QUIZ FOR LECTURES 19–24

QUIZ

LECTURES 19–24 1 What is the most striking feature of the Hmong-Mien family? [19]

2 What factor made members of the Tai-Kadai family Sinospheric? [19]

3 What is the main language of the Philippines? [20]

4 Where is it most likely that the Austronesian group originated? [20]

5 What is the parent group of the Polynesian languages? [21]

6 Why do Oceanic languages trend toward having longer words? [21]

112

Language Families of the World QUIZ FOR LECTURES 19–24

7 What is a language isolate? [22]

8 What is Europe’s only known language isolate? [22]

9 Are creoles full languages? [23]

10 Where is Tok Pisin primarily spoken? [23]

11 How many language families make up the Papuan languages? [24]

12 What trait do many Papuan languages share with Polynesian languages? [24]

See page 165 for answers. 113

LECTURE 25

The Languages of Australia I

Australia was formerly home to about 250 different languages. Today, only about 150 of them are spoken at all, and only about a dozen are being passed on to generations of children. Thus, the story of Australia’s languages is largely a matter of recounting a bygone situation than a current one, as English has all but exterminated the original diversity of languages on the continent.

114

Language Families of the World Lecture 25 The Languages of Australia I

Vocabulary in Alternate Situations ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The Australian languages do not constitute members of a single Australian family; rather, they constitute over two dozen families. Sorting out these families and reconstructing what the ProtoAustralian language was like is extremely difficult. A staple of many Australian cultures has been the use of special alternate vocabularies in certain situations. Serving as an example is the Lardil language, which was spoken on an island off of the northern coast. During a male initiation ceremony, a special language called Damin was used. Damin consisted of many fewer words than Lardil had—only about 150—used with Lardil grammar. For example, Damin’s only pronouns were one for me and another for not me. Damin also had clicks, making it the only speech variety in the world with clicks outside of the click languages in Africa. Similarly, the Queensland language Dyirbal used a similar alternate vocabulary with in-laws and cousins because they were within the circles of people who one might marry or be an in-law to. Thus, it was thought best to avoid contact with close relatives within that circle.

Reconstruction Difficulties ¯¯

¯¯

In Australian language usage, there has been comfort with a high degree of word substitution. This general tendency has extended to permanent, as opposed to ceremonial, usage. For example, intermarriage between groups has been quite common, leading to a great deal of multilingualism and language mixture. The languages Ngandi and Rithargu are from different families. However, Ngandi shares more vocabulary with Ritharngu than with its own relatives, such as Nunngubuyu.

115

Language Families of the World Lecture 25 The Languages of Australia I

¯¯

Considering that humans reached Australia about 65,000 years ago, with change having taken place over that entire period, tracing the relationships of these languages is a massive undertaking. It is especially difficult in Australia to decide whether features languages share are due to common ancestry or later influence.

Family Tree Fundamentals ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

There are very few words common enough among all Australian languages to be seen as protowords. Some of the few are nga (meaning ‘I’), bu (meaning ‘hit’), na (meaning ‘see’), and wo (meaning ‘give’). It is possible that there was not a single Proto-Australian language but several, especially given that New Guinea and Australia were contiguous until about 10,000 years ago. Nevertheless, there is no family likeness between the Papuan languages of New Guinea and those in Australia. A family of languages called Pama-Nyungan occupies most of the Australian continent. The name comes from words for man in two of the subfamilies. A segment of the north contains about two dozen other families within a relatively small area. These are referred to as nonPama-Nyungan, but this is a description rather than a family name. The relationships between the non-Pama-Nyungan families are still being worked out. Based on this distribution, it would appear that the first Australians migrated from the north, such that in that area, languages have had the longest to diversify. This would correspond to the fact that humans would have encountered Australia while travelling southward from Indonesia and New Guinea.

116

Language Families of the World Lecture 25 The Languages of Australia I

¯¯

¯¯

The Pama-Nyungan family represents a more recent spread, such that the languages are more alike than the non-Pama-Nyungan ones in the north. Pama-Nyungan languages are quite different from one another, but the family has been established on the basis of commonalities of vocabulary and some in grammar. The family relationship is not as cleanly evident as that of IndoEuropean languages. However, Australia demonstrates that it is unrealistic to expect the Indo-European degree of detail in, perhaps, most language families.

Australian Language Traits ¯¯

¯¯

Despite their diversity, Australian languages, partly because of endless contact, tend to exhibit certain traits across the continent. They tend to have relatively few vowels, often just a, i, and u. Additionally, Australian languages often lack the “hissy” sounds like /f/, /s/, and /sh/, as opposed to “stop” sounds like /p/, /t/, and /k/, and nasal ones like /m/ and /n/. Word order in many Australian languages is largely free. The words can be in any order, except the word corresponding to is.

SUGGESTED READING Dixon, Australian Languages. ———— , Edible Gender, Mother-in-Law style, and Other Grammatical Wonders.

117

LECTURE 26

The Languages of Australia II

Various features of the Australian languages give a sense of how many different ways there are to be a language. Sometimes, they even show how many very different ways there are of being human in the bargain. These languages are very different from each other, but there are still certain hallmarks of Australian languages.

118

Language Families of the World Lecture 26 The Languages of Australia II

Unique Features ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

In many Australian languages, there are very few verbs. For example, in Jingulu of the Northern Territory, there are only three verbs: come, do, and go. The Guugu Yimithirr language of Queensland is distinctive first in having been the first Australian language documented by Europeans. However, the language is also interesting in that speakers do not think of things being in front of, behind, to the left of, and to the right of them. Instead, they think of objects as always being to the north, south, west, and east. If a tree is in front of them and to the north, then they say it is north of them. Even when they turn around, they do not say it’s behind them; they still say it is to the north. This trait is connected to flat geography, in which case it is useful to keep careful track of geographical direction. Speakers of the language tend not to use this feature when living in towns. Australian languages usually mark subjects in two ways: one for when there is an object in the sentence and one for when there isn’t. This means that these languages keep track overtly of whether a subject is acting on something or just undergoing something. This is called an ergative language.

Dyirbal Language Features ¯¯

The features of the Dyirbal language serve as an interesting case study of the Australian languages. Dyirbal has four noun classifiers, which subdivide people and things in an interesting way. The classifiers are bayi, balan, balam, and bala. They mark four classes of noun. 119

CLASS 1 men, kangaroos,

possums, bats, most animals

CLASS 2 women, fire, water,

stinging animals, some other animals

CLASS 3 fruit and the trees that bear them

CLASS 4 inanimate objects and everything else

Language Families of the World Lecture 26 The Languages of Australia II

¯¯

There are four reasons a language would split nouns up that way: 1 Change over time. In an earlier stage of Dyirbal, there were many more classifiers that subdivided things into more categories, such as water, animals in general, stinging animals, and so on. 2 Folklore, in which the Sun is thought of as female. 3 Semantic extensions: With the Sun as female, it is natural to think of fire as female as well, as well as the burning sensation from being stung. 4 Resemblances in sound.

¯¯

The Dyirbal described above is actually extinct. The Dyirbal spoken by young people today uses a simplified system. Such simplification processes can occur naturally, but when they happen to such a degree within a short period of time, it is a sign that the language is no longer being used in its full, original form.

Mixed Languages ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Another way that Australian languages change under modern conditions and threat from other languages is to evolve into mixed languages. Both creole languages—which grow from pidgins—and outright mixture have occurred in Australia. When Europeans reached Australia, a pidgin English developed, which evolved into several creoles. One of them was Tok Pisin. However, another variety developed on Australia itself, and soon was used between Aboriginal groups themselves as a lingua franca. This language is called Kriol and is still used by Aboriginals. Today, young people’s version of Australian languages mixes words and grammar from this Kriol and the indigenous language, creating what is essentially a new language.

120

Language Families of the World Lecture 26 The Languages of Australia II

The Tasmanian Languages ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

One story remaining is that of the languages of Tasmania, an island southwards of Australia. The island has been separated from Australia for about 12,000 years. Europeans documented about 12 languages spoken there. They only transcribed words and sometimes very basic grammar, and the actual names of the languages are lost. The Tasmanian languages consisted of about three distinct families. Those languages were only spoken until the 1830s. The English largely exterminated the indigenous people and relocated those left to Flinders Island, where a mixed version of the Tasmanian languages developed. That, too, is long extinct. Some form of Tasmanian language, possibly this mixed version, was recorded in 1903 by an indigenous woman born on Flinders Island. The Tasmanian languages are not a farther group of Australian languages—they are quite unlike them. This likely sheds light on an earlier situation in Australia. Human languages have been spoken there for about 65,000 years, while Pama-Nyungan languages are closely enough related that the family cannot have existed for longer than several thousand years. Thus, it is likely the Pama-Nyungan speakers spread throughout most of Australia relatively recently, overtaking what would have been innumerable languages spoken there originally. Most of Australia’s linguistic map may have been as dense with distinct languages and families as the non-Pama-Nyungan region in the north is today. The Tasmanian situation may have reflected this original situation, with SUGGESTED READING its dozen languages of three families spoken Dixon, Australian Languages. on an island not much bigger than Ireland. ———— , Edible Gender, Mother-in-Law style, and Other Grammatical Wonders.

121

LECTURE 27

The Original American Languages I

Before the arrival of white people in North America, there were about 300 distinct languages spoken. About 200 of those languages are no longer spoken, about 50 are barely hanging on, and only about a dozen will likely be spoken by 2050. That dozen includes Navajo, Cree, Ojibwe, Inuktitut, Hopi, Lakhota, Choctaw, and Apache. However, within the United States, about half of speakers of Native American languages are Navajo speakers, of which there are about 170,000. Roughly 350,000 total people speak any Native American language.

122

Language Families of the World Lecture 27 The Original American Languages I

Migration History ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The most recent research suggests that Native Americans’ ancestors migrated from northeastern Asia (Siberia) across to modern-day Alaska. What is today the Bering Strait was a landmass linking Asia and North America, termed Beringia. Archaeological, biological, and genetic evidence suggest that around 1,000 Asians migrated to Beringia about 23,000 years ago, but were blocked from crossing to North America by ice for several thousand years. About 15,000 years ago, the ice melted and allowed passage into North America. There is controversy as to whether the migrants spread via land, through the middle of North America and southward, or entered the continents from the Pacific coast. Archaeological evidence of the Clovis culture, typified by a type of arrowhead and other tools, dates from around 13,000 years ago at various sites in North America. This represents the earliest settlements of Native Americans. The El Monte site in southern Chile possibly complicates this account in that it has remains of human habitation that date to almost 15,000 years ago. This would be too early for a migration that supposedly began at that point in Alaska.

Family Relationships ¯¯

¯¯

Native American languages exhibit massive diversity. Predictably, their classification has been difficult and quite controversial. The so-called textbook account recounts that linguist Joseph Greenberg proposed in 1987 that Native American languages fell into three families: one composed of Arctic languages spoken by the Inuit, called Eskimo-Aleut; another spreading from Alaska down to the American Southwest that includes Navajo, called Na-Dene; and another including all of the hundreds of other languages, called Amerind. 123

Language Families of the World Lecture 27 The Original American Languages I

¯¯

However, historical linguists have almost universally rejected this system. Rather, it is agreed that Eskimo-Aleut and Na-Dene are families, but that what Greenberg classified as Amerind really comprises a great many separate, unrelated families.

The Amerind Controversy ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Greenberg’s evidence for Amerind being a family was based on a tendency among these languages for words for I to contain the letter n and words for you (in the singular) to contain the letter m. Other linguists have claimed that the number of Native American languages with this pattern could be a matter of chance, especially given that languages might borrow pronouns and that pronouns in general tend to use nasal sounds. Additionally, a disciple of Greenberg’s, Merrit Ruhlen, has noticed that many so-called Amerind languages have words for child, son or brother, and daughter or sister that seem to suggest an original set. Most specialists on Native American languages reject this as evidence that Amerind is a family. They are correct in terms of the technical definition of what a language family is: The Amerind languages cannot be shown to have descended from a single protolanguage via regular sound changes the way Proto-Indo-European can. There is no set of cognates that all or most of these languages share in common. There is no complex of grammatical features the Amerind languages have in common, either. However, given how small the Beringian population was, it is quite plausible that the Native American languages stem from a small number of original languages. Here, it is relevant that speakers of Eskimo-Aleut languages and Na-Dene languages have a distinct genetic imprint different from that of speakers of the other Native American languages. It is possible that the latter languages descended from a single original one.

124

Language Families of the World Lecture 27 The Original American Languages I

¯¯

¯¯

Despite that, after such a long period of time, the likenesses between these languages would have diluted to such a degree that a family relationship could only be dimly perceptible. Thus, the Amerind languages are probably descendants from a single source. However, that probably does not render them a family at this late date. Rather, in the conventional sense, there are about 10 major families of Native American languages. The Amerind group is about eight families, rather than a single family. There are also about 20 other smaller families and various isolates.

125

Language Families of the World Lecture 27 The Original American Languages I

Na-Dene ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The Na-Dene family includes Navajo as well as Apache, a similar language, and less well-known languages spoken to the north. Most of the languages belong to a subfamily called Athabaskan. This family is unique in that it has become increasingly accepted that it traces to speakers of the Yeniseian languages like Ket. There are many words that are unexpectedly similar, such as the words for foot and stone.

ENGLISH KET

NAVAJO

foot

ki  s

kee’

stone

tə  s

tsé

ʔ

ʔ

Additionally, Ket and Navajo are dazzlingly complex in similar ways. In Ket, words often sandwich together assorted elements of meaning indicated with often a single sound. Navajo operates in a similar fashion. Another similarity is that both languages have tones. Navajo and the other Na-Dene languages are useful in showing that indigenous languages tend to be more, not less, complex than written ones. In Navajo, verbs are all irregular. The forms differ according to tense and other factors in ways different for each verb. For instance, below are five different versions of the term for carry.

PRESENT

PAST

FUTURE

REPETITIVE

SUBJUNCTIVE

teeh



tééł

tééh

tééł

SUGGESTED READING Mithun, The Languages of Native North America. Ruhlen, The Origin of Language.

126

LECTURE 28

The Original American Languages II

This lecture and the next cover some of the larger families of North America and some lessons they teach about language in general. The Eskimo-Aleut languages, the Algonquian languages, and the Penutian family are areas of focus in this lecture.

127

Language Families of the World Lecture 28 The Original American Languages II

Eskimo-Aleut ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The Eskimo-Aleut languages are spoken in Alaska, northern Canada, Greenland, and parts of eastern Siberia. In other words, this family is spoken in and near the Arctic. This family was the last to emerge: The first humans to inhabit the area came in a second wave from Beringia about 5,000 years ago, and were replaced by new populations that arrived 2,800 and then 1,000 years ago. This family consists not of a single language with various dialects, but essentially three such languages, within two of which dialects are so divergent as to essentially be different languages. Aleut is a single language. Yupik varies considerably from one location to another, as does the language often called Greenlandic or Inuktitut spoken eastward. In Greenland and Canada, Greenlandic is a co-official language with the dominant ones, and therefore remains a living language. However, in Alaska and Russia, where Yupik and Aleut are afforded no such status, the languages are all but extinct. These languages have unusually long words, often containing the information English would require an entire sentence for. This is called polysynthesis. For instance, Iminngernaveersaartunngortussaavunga would be the full sentence “I should stop drinking.”

Algonquian ¯¯

The Algonquian group of languages was spoken, among other places, on the East Coast. For this reason, it is Algonquian languages that Native Americans most familiar in American history most often spoke. The language of Squanto at Plymouth Rock was Naragansett, Pocahontas spoke Powhatan, and the original inhabitants of New York spoke Munsee.

128

Language Families of the World Lecture 28 The Original American Languages II

¯¯

¯¯

Thus, many words from Native American languages in English originated in these languages. An example is squash, which originated in Naragansett’s askutasquash, meaning ‘thing eaten raw.’ Interestingly, there are languages related to the Algonquian ones spoken in northwestern California. This shows that Algonquian languages were likely once more widespread. It also means that properly speaking, the family is one that includes Algonquian and these other languages. That family is called Algic.

Penutian ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

California is home to 78 different languages. A great many of them belong to a family called Penutian, whose composition has been highly controversial: It consists of what many would consider six or more separate families. Even by conservative estimate, California is home to five different language families, plus isolates suggesting there were once even more. The question is why. One reason may be that languages in the area were closely associated with their region, such that it was largely forbidden to speak a language outside of its territory for interpretational purposes. This discouraged languages replacing one another. It also discouraged the lexical mixture common in, for example, Australia, and encouraged languages to diverge from one another and even become different ones. The West and East dialects of Greenlandic are quite divergent for a similar reason: There was a taboo on using one another’s words.

129

Language Families of the World Lecture 28 The Original American Languages II

¯¯

¯¯

Penutian languages illuminate the complexity of Native American languages in showing that indigenous languages can have the case marking best known from Indo-European languages like Latin, Greek, and Russian. In these languages, intricate rules a native speaker would have difficulty explaining are common. These are languages that speakers were often required not to speak in school, and which are almost all as a result now extinct.

SUGGESTED READING Golla, California Indian Languages.

130

LECTURE 29

The Original American Languages III

This lecture continues the course’s discussion of original American languages. Topics discussed include the Iroquoian and Hokan language groups, Tanoan languages, and the death of languages.

131

Language Families of the World Lecture 29 The Original American Languages III

Iroquoian ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The names of many of the Iroquoian languages—such as Cayuga, Seneca, Oneida, Mohawk, Erie, and Huron— suggest where this family of languages has been spoken. Of them, only two, Cherokee (in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and North Carolina) and Mohawk (in Canada and northern New York) are viable. The others will soon be extinct. The relative vitality of Cherokee is due partly to the fact that it has its own writing system. A Cherokee silversmith who spoke no English, Sequoyah, was impressed by whites’ “talking leaves” and invented a writing system for his language in the 1820s. He first tried to have separate symbols for each word, but realized that was unwieldy. Then, he created not an alphabet but a syllabary. Sequoyah was illiterate, however, and thus the symbols do not correspond with their Roman values. Regardless, most Cherokee were soon literate in their language, and a great deal of material has been published in it.

A peculiar feature of the Iroquoian languages is that they tend not to have consonants that require putting the lips together—that is, there are no /p/, /b/, /f/, or /m/ sounds. Those sounds are simply missing, despite that from a European perspective, they seem basic to language itself. This is a highly unusual feature in terms of the world’s languages.

132

Language Families of the World Lecture 29 The Original American Languages III

Hokan ¯¯

¯¯

Whether the West Coast’s Hokan languages form a family is not firmly established. They have a scattered distribution pattern. They “feel” like several separate families, perhaps related in the way that Amerind languages likely are. However, one general Hokan trait is that prefixes often carry richer meaning than those in European languages. For example, in Central Pomo, there was a range of prefixes. The following is a list of them and what they meant:

PREFIX

MEANING

sh-

with a handle

cha-

by slicing

h-

by poking

qa-

by biting

ba-

orally

‘-

by fine hand action, such as with the fingers

s-

by sucking

ch -

involving vegetative growth

da-

by pushing with the palm

m-

with heat

sha-

by shaking

h

¯¯

Used with a verb, such as the one for mix, these prefixes were central to rendering the vocabulary a full one. For instance, h-yól meant ‘to add salt or pepper.’

133

Language Families of the World Lecture 29 The Original American Languages III

A Smaller Family ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The Tanoan languages are a small family, spoken in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. They provide a sense of the degree of loss involved in the extinction of most Native American languages in that even in such obscure corners, there are amazing ways of constituting a language. Kiowa is spoken in Oklahoma, and the way it handles the singular and plural is interesting. If you were learning how to do the plural in Kiowa, then you’d think it was pretty straightforward from the word skunk. However, the term for wings is seemingly confusing. What does that suffix mean if it makes a plural for skunk but a singular for wing? The confusion would continue as you learned how this suffix worked for horse and bone.

KIOWA ENGLISH tâl

skunk

tâl-g

skunks

c’ól

wings

c’ól-g

wing

cę̂

horse

cę̂-g

horses

thǫ́:sè

bones

thǫ́:sè-g

bone

In Kiowa, that suffix means roughly the opposite of the default number. Skunks are usually encountered alone, and so the suffix makes it plural. Wings are usually encountered in pairs, so the suffix makes it singular. Nouns fall into classes in Kiowa in which the suffix differs in this way.

The Death of Language ¯¯

Native American languages are useful in showing how much is lost when a language dies in terms of how these magnificently complicated grammatical systems gradually decay as new generations are not raised speaking the language daily throughout their lives.

134

Language Families of the World Lecture 29 The Original American Languages III

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Gros Ventre was an Algonquian language of Montana. Before its last speakers passed on in the early 1980s, even they no longer spoke the language fully. For example, the plural of duck was different, based on using a different plural ending on the wrong word. This ending was misused with other words as well, such as the word for pine tree. In the Pipil language of El Salvador, there was originally an ending used to make the future, which today’s speakers have largely let go in favor of using a different, easier construction. Though the new version is easier to use, it means the language is diluted, especially with much more of this kind of change happening throughout the language. Complexity could also be lost when speakers of different languages were forced together into reservations. When English and French speakers encountered speakers of various massively complex languages in the Pacific Northwest, a pidgin emerged based on words from the Chinook language and others. However, this pidgin, even when spoken fluently to the point that it was almost an actual language, lacked almost all of what made the indigenous ones interesting.

SUGGESTED READING Grenoble and Whaley, eds., Endangered Languages.

135

LECTURE 30

The Original American Languages IV

Native Americans continued their migration beyond North America to inhabit Central and South America as well. There are now about seven families local to Central America and about 15 more in South America.

136

Language Families of the World Lecture 30 The Original American Languages IV

Whistled Speech ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

As in North America, the families of Central and South America have been diverging for too long for there to be a Central American or South American type of language in any overarching way. However, many languages of the Otomanguean family resemble Chinese in having small words that are distinguished by tones. Speakers of these languages have often used special whistled languages for long-distance communication. Whistled languages are found worldwide, generally in mountainous or heavily forested locations. Chinantec, for instance, has seven tones, and also short and long vowels. The syllable ta, for example, can mean many different things, from ladder to foot to full sentences. In Chinantec, the whistled speech is used only by men. Worldwide, these whistled varieties are disappearing, supplanted by telephones, radio, and modern media.

Arawak and Cariban ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Two families of South America are Arawak and Cariban. Both stretch up into the Caribbean. The Garifuna language of northern Central America is interesting in two ways. First, it is Arawakan out of its normal range. Second, it has a great deal of Cariban vocabulary. The reason is this: Several centuries ago, Garifuna arose on the Caribbean islands of Dominica and St. Vincent. Men from South America, speaking the Carib language, invaded these islands, killed the men, and married the women, who spoke an Arawakan language. The women learned Carib only partly, retaining their own grammar, and this is what they passed on to children. The result was a new mixed language with Arawak grammar and a lot of Carib vocabulary.

137

Language Families of the World Lecture 30 The Original American Languages IV

¯¯

There were two more wrinkles. First, for a long time, the men used the Carib language among themselves. Second, the Carib the men were speaking was a pidgin Carib, used with other groups in South America. Therefore, Garifuna emerged as a mixture between a pidgin and a real language.

South American Language Traits ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

South American languages are among the world’s least completely documented. Some groups are still all but unreached by outsiders, and comprehensive fieldwork has begun only in recent decades. In many South American languages, one must be especially explicit in indicating the sources of information one imparts. This is called evidential marking. In a language like Tuyuca spoken in the Amazon of Colombia and TUYUCA MEANING Brazil, there are five different OF SUFFIX suffixes indicating how one díiga apé-wi I saw him. knows what one is stating. díiga apé-ti I heard him. For instance, take the suffixes shown in the table at right, díiga apé-yi I see his shoe print on which are used when saying, the field/his sweaty shirt “He played soccer.” on the bed. díiga apé-yigɨ I’ve been told.

South America is home to the most exotic word orders ever díiga apé-hĩyi One assumes. discovered, which were once considered impossible. In a few languages, the object comes first, then the verb, and then the subject. In the Brazilian language Hixkaryana, the way to say “A boy caught a fish” translates roughly to “Fish caught boy”: Kana yannimmo biryekomo. 138

Language Families of the World Lecture 30 The Original American Languages IV

Lack of Numbers ¯¯

¯¯

The Pirahã language of the Amazon has no words for numbers. The word hói means ‘small amount’ and the word hoí means ‘a slightly bigger amount,’ but they do not correspond to one and two. It is common for hunter-gatherer groups to have no, or very few, numbers. This is especially common where such groups have survived in large numbers, namely South America and Australia.

The Jarawara Language ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The Jarawara call themselves “We, the real people” in their language. They consider their language a separate language from two others spoken in nearby villages, which are actually varieties of the same language, mutually intelligible with the Jarawara variety. Jarawara is spoken only by about 170 people, and this appears to have been the situation since very long ago. There are many features in the language that Westerners would not expect. For instance, there are only four vowels: a, e, i, and an o that sounds more like /aw/. There are also only 11 consonants, which lead to only so many possible word shapes, and neither tones nor compounding have been adopted as a solution. Instead, homonymy is simply more common than in a European language. Mai means both ‘sun’ and ‘thunder.’ Jomee means both ‘dog’ and ‘jaguar.’ If no gender is specified, feminine endings are used, not masculine. There are also no pronouns for he, she, or it. Additionally, there is no pronoun for they, except if the things are living.

139

SUGGESTED READING Dixon and Aikhenvald, eds., The Amazonian Languages. Everett, Language.

Language Families of the World QUIZ FOR LECTURES 25–30

QUIZ

LECTURES 25–30 1 What is the only language to feature clicks outside of Africa’s click languages? [25]

2 Do Australian languages trend toward higher or lower levels of word substitution? [25]

3 How many noun classifiers does the Dyirbal language have? [26]

4 How does the Guugu Yimithirr language handle directions? [26]

5 How many distinct languages were spoken in North America before the arrival of white people? [27]

6 How many people speak a Native American language today? [27]

140

Language Families of the World QUIZ FOR LECTURES 25–30

7 How are the Eskimo-Aluet languages sometimes able to contain an English sentence’s worth of information in a single word? [28]

8 Which of the Eskimo-Aluet languages is a co-official language in Greenland and Canada? [28]

9 Which of the two Iroquoian languages are still viable? [29]

10 In the Hokan languages, are prefixes more or less detailed than those in European languages? [29]

11 Have South American languages been well documented? [30]

12 What factors have led to the decline of whistled speech? [30]

See page 166 for answers. 141

LECTURE 31

Languages Caught between Families

Categories in phenomena related to human beings tend to be inherently fuzzy. This is true of the difference between language and dialect, and also between language families. There are languages that have arisen via the combination of languages from two families, creating a language that one could see as belonging to both families.

142

Language Families of the World Lecture 31 Languages Caught between Families

Examples of Language Combinations ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

In Ecuador, indigenous men speaking the Native American language Quechua learned Spanish working outside of their villages. They spontaneously created a language expressing their new identity as people connected both to village and urban life. This language, known as Media Lengua, consisted of Spanish words used with prefixes and suffixes and grammar from Quechua. On both sides of the American border with Canada, the offspring of unions between French fur traders and Native American women identified as neither French nor Cree but as both, as did their language. Roughly, they used French nouns with Cree verbs and much else. Roma in many parts of Europe developed a language for use among themselves that used words from Romani (an Indo-Aryan language like Hindi) with English’s grammar. This kind of language is rather common, and yet they have yet to acquire an official name, even among linguists. They are often called mixed languages, but this is too general, as all languages contain some elements from others. It is perhaps more accurate to call them intertwined languages.

Creoles versus Intertwined Languages ¯¯

There is a distinction between intertwined languages and creoles, which roughly combine words from a dominant language with grammar from the language of subordinated people forced to learn the dominant one. The difference is that creoles grow from what start as pidgin varieties—that is, the kind of speech produced by adults who only know fragments of a language.

143

Language Families of the World Lecture 31 Languages Caught between Families

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

As such, even when the pidgin flowers into an actual language, that language is not simply one language’s words and another language’s full grammar. Intertwined languages are as if two languages parented a third language. The difference between Media Lengua and another contact language based on Spanish illustrates this. Palenquero Creole Spanish is spoken in one village in Colombia by descendants of African slaves. The slaves spoke the Bantu language Kikongo. Both Spanish and Kikongo divide nouns into largely arbitrary genders and require that the gender be marked also on adjectives, pronouns, and so on. Both also have extensive verbal prefixes and suffixes. However, Palenquero relies much less on these grammatical features. It has much of Spanish’s vocabulary but not all of it, and its grammar only faintly resembles that of Kikongo. It is relatively easy to learn the basics of Palenquero. Palenquero began as a pidgin variety and grew into a new language influenced by, but not determined by, Spanish and Kikongo. Media Lengua, however, is cleanly made up of Spanish’s words and all of Quechua’s grammar. It is as hard to learn Media Lengua as it is to learn Quechua itself.

English ¯¯

¯¯

English’s vocabulary is highly mixed, and the vast majority of English words are borrowed from Norse, French, and Latin. However, English’s grammar is also highly mixed. English inherited a portion of its grammar from the Celtic languages spoken by the inhabitants of England before Germanic speakers arrived. However, to contrast with intertwined languages, English is not simply words from some other language (or several) superimposed on the original grammar of English. For one, while most English words are from the other languages, the basic ones are from English itself, like brother, hand, fish, and so on. 144

Language Families of the World Lecture 31 Languages Caught between Families

¯¯

Additionally, English grammar is affected by Celtic but is still essentially Germanic. This shows that mixture between language families (and subfamilies) happens to degrees and in different ways. Mixture itself is a norm. Intertwined languages are simply hybrids. Creoles are the products of breakdown followed by hybridizing. The results are different.

Speaking “In” Another Language ¯¯

¯¯

A variation on this kind of family straddling is when a language retains all of its words, but uses them grammatically in the way that another language does, as if one were speaking a language “in” another one. The Tucanoan family is of South America and includes a language called Tucano. Meanwhile, the Tariana language is from the Arawak family, and it is essentially an Arawak language spoken in Tucanoan. This is because its grammatical patterns are those of Tucanoan rather than ordinary Arawak languages.

SUGGESTED READING Bakker and Mous, Mixed Languages. Meakins, Mixed Languages.

145

LECTURE 32

How Far Back Can We Trace Languages?

How far back can we trace languages? Certainly, families themselves are related in the same way as languages and subfamilies are. Likely, all of the world’s language families ultimately descend through sibling relationships from a single original language (or at most a few). However, the exigencies of language change make it difficult to chart languages’ relationships even within single families. As such, proposals for macrofamilies—proposed language groupings—have been controversial, with many professional linguists squarely rejecting the very attempt to even chart such relationships. However, it would be hard to say that the quest for macrofamilies has not yielded any scientific success.

146

Language Families of the World Lecture 32 How Far Back Can We Trace Languages?

An Attempt at Describing the World’s First Language ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Linguists Merritt Ruhlen and John Bengston have made an attempt to work out what the world’s first language would have been like, and they have proposed a list of supposedly original words. For example, they propose that the first word for two would have been pal, via comparing words in the world’s languages such as Russian’s pol (meaning ‘half ’), Quecha’s pula (meaning ‘both’), Nubian’s bar (meaning ‘twin’), and Malayalam’s pāl (meaning ‘part’). Because p and b are variations on the same sound, as are l and r, it is easy to see the likeness between these various words and their similar meanings. However, given the restricted number of sounds in human language and their combinations, it is inevitable that accidental cognates emerge between any two. Additionally, human language almost certainly traces back at least 100,000 years and likely much longer. The first language would have changed immensely since then due to natural processes. For example, the Proto-Algonquian word meaning ‘winter’ was peponwi. In modern Cheyenne of Montana and Oklahoma, the word is the vastly different aa’, based on natural step-by-step change patterns over just 1,500 years. Ruhlen and Bengston refer, where possible, to comparisons between not just languages, but proto-languages. If relationships between families are found, then the strongest evidence will be between the proto-languages, at which point not as much divergence would have happened as did when the two languages proliferated into families. However, even here, the state of research on most protolanguages is not as advanced as for Indo-European, and thus the research remains problematic.

147

Language Families of the World Lecture 32 How Far Back Can We Trace Languages?

Many language-change specialists feel that it is futile to trace relationships between languages farther back than about 10,000 years. This, however, can be seen as overcautious, and respectable research suggests that certain language families of Eurasia trace back to a single ancestor.

The Nostratic Macrofamily Proposal ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Some linguists believe that there is evidence of a Nostratic macrofamily. Adherents differ in which families they include, but typical members are Indo-European, Uralic, Altaic, Afro-Asiatic, Kartvelian, and Dravidian. Variations on this idea include the Paleosiberian languages and extend to Eskimo-Aleut. The protolanguage would possibly have existed 10,000–15,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent after the last Ice Age. For example, pronouns change less than most other words over time and are not readily exchanged between languages. The pronouns in these groups bear interesting similarities. In addition, Nostraticists have presented many reconstructed vocabulary items. Researchers determining language relationships must be alert to the difference between inherited versus borrowed features. However, under regular conditions, languages are less likely to borrow words for core vocabulary, except in cases where one group is especially dominant over the other one psychologically. As such, it seems significant that the Proto-Indo-European word for water was wed while the ProtoUralic one was wete. The Proto-Dravidian one was wet plus an unknown vowel.

148

Language Families of the World Lecture 32 How Far Back Can We Trace Languages?

The Tai-Kadai Family ¯¯

¯¯

There have long been proposals that the Tai-Kadai family, despite being so Sinospheric in structure today, is related to Austronesian. The evidence consists of various cognates between Tai-Kadai and ProtoAustronesian, or more properly, the protolanguage of Austronesian languages other than the ones spoken in Taiwan. The case became stronger with the discovery of a Tai-Kadai language, Buyang, which still has words of two syllables, rather than the Chinese-style single-syllable words. Many of its core words correspond closely to Proto-Malayo-Polynesian words. For instance, manùk in Buyang and manuk in Proto-Malayo-Polynesian both mean ‘bird.’

SUGGESTED READING Campbell and Poser, Language Classification. Ruhlen, The Origin of Language.

149

LECTURE 33

What Do Genes Say about Language Families?

With the transcription of the human genome, it has become possible to trace human migration through genetic material. Genetic research has largely confirmed what language families suggest, while sometimes helping resolve questions the families’ distribution leaves unanswered, and at other times leaving surprises.

150

Language Families of the World Lecture 33 What Do Genes Say about Language Families?

Glottochronology ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Glottochronology is a school of thought that approaches language change with the goal of charting relationships between families. Linguist Morris Swadesh’s list, for example, was created within a proposal that languages lose, on average, 14 out of 100 of the list’s words over 1,000 years. This would allow linguists to calculate that related languages whose Swadesh list words differ by 30 words have been separate for 2,000 years. Ones that differ by seven words have been separate for only 500 years, allowing for the charting of their family relationships. This method has been criticized as not taking into account that languages can borrow words from one another at unrelated rates. For example, Icelandic and Norwegian are both descendants of Old Norse. In Icelandic, the rate of change per millennium has been about 4 in 100 words, while in Norwegian it has been about 20 per 100. However, this is because Norwegian has borrowed many words from Danish and Low German. A revised version of glottochronology by Sergei Starostin in 2002 filters out the borrowings from Norwegian and finds that the rate was about 5 per 100 words. Hence, there are linguists today who consider glottochronology useful in cases where it is possible to distinguish native words from borrowings. In a recent controversy, glottochronology-related methods have placed the birth of Indo-European in present-day Turkey over 8,000 years ago. However, some specialists insist that linguistic and archaeological analysis, which places the birthplace in the Ukrainian steppes 6,000 years ago, must be given greater weight.

151

Language Families of the World Lecture 33 What Do Genes Say about Language Families?

Genetics and Europe ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Genetic research from the laboratory of David Reich at Harvard has shown that Europeans are descended from three waves of migration, only two of which are reflected in today’s language families. First were the hunter-gatherers, who arrived about 40,000 years ago. Around 8,000 years ago, a wave of farming people from northern Eurasia arrived, related to Siberians and Near Easterners. Finally, starting about 5,000 years ago, the Yamnaya of the Russian steppes arrived. They were also farmers and were technologically more advanced than the former group. The Yamnaya brought the Indo-European family to Europe. The northern Eurasian farmers would have spoken other languages. It is impossible to know how many families these would have been, but it is likely that Basque, unrelated to any other language today, was one of them. The languages of the original hunter-gatherers are possibly completely lost, although Basque people have an unusually strong genetic imprint from them, such that Basque may be descended from this original group.

Genetics and India ¯¯

¯¯

India is occupied primarily by Indo-European languages in the north and Dravidian languages in the south. Genetic evidence as late as the 2010s mysteriously indicated no gene flow into India within the past 12,000 or so years, but this was based only on mitochondrial evidence. More recently, Y-chromosome evidence from 20 different groups in and around India has shown, instead, that people from the Caspian Sea area arrived in India about 4,000 years ago. The evidence suggests that the invaders were mostly men. Dravidian languages are scattered somewhat northward; the new data supports the idea that Dravidian speakers were indeed the original inhabitants, displaced by IndoAryan speakers. 152

Language Families of the World Lecture 33 What Do Genes Say about Language Families?

¯¯

Some have speculated that Dravidian speakers only later migrated northward amidst Indo-Aryan speakers, but there is ancient genetic Indo-Aryan and Dravidian mixture throughout India, suggesting that Dravidians were the original inhabitants even in the north. This joins evidence from inscriptions of the Indus Valley civilization of northwestern India that the Indo-Aryan migration seems to have displaced. Linguists have hypothesized that the inscriptions are in a Dravidian language.

Genetics and Family Clusters ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

There are two main areas in which cultural unity suggests a single language family but the languages themselves are too dissimilar to be grouped that way, actually evidencing multiple distinct families. Genetic data has given reason to suppose that in both cases, there may have been a single family that became several. The click languages constitute three families that show distinct structural patterns and vocabularies, and some specialists hypothesize that the clicks emerged in one family and then spread to the others via contact rather than shared ancestry. However, a study by Jennifer Baker, Charles Rotimi, and Daniel Shriner shows that the speakers of all three families share a genetic imprint. That the clicks would only have spread from one family to exactly the two whose speakers were akin to them—and not to other surrounding languages—is a less economical explanation than that one original family with clicks gave birth to several. Similarly, among the languages of the Caucasus, the Northwestern and Northeastern families have been shown to have some kinship, but the Kartvelian group has seemed unrelated. Genetic analysis shows a kinship between speakers of all three.

153

Language Families of the World Lecture 33 What Do Genes Say about Language Families?

Genetics and Polynesia ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

The Austronesian family includes a subgroup called Oceanic, within which there are the Micronesian, Melanesian, and Polynesian groups. The Polynesian languages are somewhat unlike the Melanesian and Micronesian ones. They make much less use of prefixes or suffixes than Austronesian languages usually do. Genetic data provides a possible reason for this. It has traditionally been supposed that the Polynesian islands were settled from the nearby Melanesian ones, but actually, genetic data reveals that the first settlement was directly from Taiwan (via the Philippines). Only later did migrants from Melanesia add to the mix, and the data suggests that these migrants were men. Thus, at a certain point, men would have invaded the islands and learned the local languages imperfectly. This would explain the more streamlined aspect of languages in Polynesia, which before had no explanation.

Genetics and Surprises ¯¯

¯¯

In the Afro-Asiatic family, it has been difficult to establish that one of the subfamilies, Omotic, actually belongs. The likenesses shown between Omotic words and those of other Afro-Asiatic subfamilies are ones also identifiable between the Omotic words and Proto-IndoEuropean. The study by Baker, Rotimi, and Shriner has shown that genetically, Omotic speakers do not group with Afro-Asiatic speakers, which may be evidence that Omotic is an independent family. There have also been surprises related to Native American languages. The same study reveals no genetic relationship between speakers of languages like Navajo (the Na-Dene family) and speakers of Yeniseian languages in Siberia.

154

Language Families of the World Lecture 33 What Do Genes Say about Language Families?

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

There were two migrations from Siberia into the Arctic. Today’s Inuit are descendants of a second one (called the Thule) only about 1,000 years ago. The first migrants (called the Dorset) arrived 4,500 years ago, kept to themselves rather than interbreeding with other Native American groups, and went extinct after the second migration, about 700 years ago. The modern Inuit genetically parallel speakers of the Paleosiberian language family Chukotko-Kamchatkan, suggesting another Native American-Siberian parallel. However, caution is necessary in correlating genetic and linguistic data. In some cases, genetic data leads to conclusions flatly untenable with other facts. A detailed genetic survey of Britain has shown no genetic imprint from Norse speakers. However, the rich presence of Norse words in English, along with ample historical and archaeological documentation of the Norse invasion and presence, would seem to negate this finding.

SUGGESTED READING Joseph, “How Genetics Is Settling the Aryan Migration Debate.” Rutherford, A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived.

155

LECTURE 34

Language Families and Writing Systems

In many ways, writing systems are quite dissimilar to the spoken languages being written. Writing is known indisputably to have emerged independently in three places: the Near East, China, and among Mayans. Those three families of writing do not parallel spoken language families in any meaningful way.

156

Language Families of the World Lecture 34 Language Families and Writing Systems

Cuneiform Writing ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Cuneiforms are first attested in about 3500 BCE in what is now Iraq and Iran. Clay tokens from Susa (dating to 8000 BCE) correspond to early cuneiform, and therefore are thought to have been the precursor of the writing system. They were stored in containers with impressions of the tokens on the lid, and then the impressions came to be seen as useful symbols. Numbers were the first thing written. The idea of writing about things and actions came afterward. The Behistun Inscription in Iran describes the military exploits of King Darius, who ruled Persia from the late 500s BC when it was a wide-ranging empire. The inscription was meant to communicate widely and, using cuneiform, renders the text in three languages, which were Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian Akkadian. However, it is important to realize that there was no cuneiform language. The system was used to write countless languages from many families by a great many empires over about 3,000 years. Thus, to see a cuneiform tablet is to see a writing system rather than a language.

Hieroglyphics ¯¯

¯¯

Another writing system began in Egypt around the same time as cuneiforms emerged eastward. The hieroglyphics were the writing system not for Arabic, but for the Egyptian Coptic language, a now extinct member of the Afro-Asiatic family. Symbols could stand for concepts, but as often as not, for metaphorical extensions of the concepts, such as the pictogram for hand coming to also stand for power.

157

Language Families of the World Lecture 34 Language Families and Writing Systems

¯¯

There were also symbols for consonants, sometimes used to reinforce symbols used for concepts. The symbol for mouth (ro) also stood for the /r/ sound. For example, in this symbol, there is a branch plus the symbols for h and t. The word hti̛ meant ‘carve’ or ‘retreat’ in Coptic. With the knife, the symbol meant ‘carve,’ and with a pair of legs, it meant ‘retreat.’

Development of Alphabets ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

As natural as it seems now to have symbols corresponding to single sounds, humans have never intuited this immediately when creating writing systems from the ground up. Furthermore, the development of an alphabetic system did not correspond to what the languages being first written were like. Cuneiforms and hieroglyphics first had symbols corresponding to syllables. This did make sense for Afro-Asiatic languages, whose words are based on their consonants staying put while the vowels change around them. However, this system was also applied to Old Persian later, which is an Indo-European language. Additionally, Egyptian workers initiated using letters—pictographs used for their first sound— for the whole writing system. The hieroglyphic symbol for house, for example, was recruited to stand for b because the Semitic root for house begins with a b. This is called Proto-Canaanite writing, and was discovered in a turquoise mine in the Sinai. However, these workers presumably spoke Afro-Asiatic languages as well. The alphabet wasn’t a response to anything about their own language. The Phoenicians, a trading people, took this system over in about 900 BCE. They passed this system to the Greeks, who adopted some signs to indicate vowels. This probably was due to the fact that vowels are more important in distinguishing roots in an Indo-European language. This was the first true alphabet, and it developed into various alphabets throughout Europe and the Middle East. 158

Language Families of the World Lecture 34 Language Families and Writing Systems

Other Languages and Systems ¯¯

¯¯

¯¯

Aramaic, Mayan, and Chinese writing are other interesting case studies. Aramaic, a Semitic language, served as a lingua franca from about 1000 BCE through to a few centuries into the Common Era. It was used for external communication by the Persians, for example. As such, its writing system had an impact beyond what one would expect given the language’s marginal status today. Chinese writing is used for Japanese despite the two languages being entirely unrelated. It was used to write Korean in the past as well. As for Mayan writing, the Mayan hieroglyphics were used only for that language in that territory. Some theories suggest that cultural change diffuses horizontally, on the globe, more easily than vertically because of geographical and climatological issues. However, there is no identifiable reason that the Mayans developed writing but the Aztecs in Mexico and the Incans of South America did not.

The main takeaway is that writing gives very little indication of the relationship between languages and their families. The essence of language is how it is spoken, not how world history happens to have encoded it on paper.

SUGGESTED READING Coe, Breaking the Maya Code. Rogers, Writing Systems.

159

Language Families of the World QUIZ FOR LECTURES 1–34

QUIZ

LECTURES 31–34 1 What components went into the Media Lengua language? [31]

2 From which three languages are the vast majority of English words borrowed? [31]

3 Do pronouns change more or less than most other words over time? [32]

4 In most circumstances, are languages more or less likely to borrow words for core vocabulary? [32]

160

Language Families of the World QUIZ FOR LECTURES 31–34

5 According to research from David Reich’s laboratory, how many waves of migration are Europeans descended from? [33]

6 Which wave of migration brought the Indo-European family to Europe? [33]

7 In the cuneiform system, what were the first things to be written? [34]

8 Is cuneiform a language or a writing system? [34]

See page 167 for answers. 161

Language Families of the World Quiz Answers

QUIZ ANSWERS

LECTURES 1–6 1 Four.

2 New Guinea (which roughly 25 language families call home) has more than Australia (which has two major families). 3 pǝter. 4 No. 5 Latin. 6 Depending on the language, the use of tones, variations between dialects, sub-rules, and irregularities all factor in to the difficulty of this language group. 7 King Darius. 8 Adults are less easily able to pick up new languages than younger people, so they tend to shave off language complexities. 9 Khoisan. 10 Five. 11 Joseph Greenberg, a linguist and anthropologist. 12 Swahili.

Click here to go back to the quiz. 162

Language Families of the World Quiz Answers

LECTURES 7–12 1 Heavier usage of tones. 2 Fula. 3 Bedouins. 4 The use of words that consist of two, three, or four consonants. 5 Approximately 40 million. 6 The Berber subfamily. 7 Roughly 100. 8 The /p/ sound. 9 A shovel. It was found in a bog in Iceland. 10 They assign each unit of meaning to one suffix, making them agglutinative. 11 That it is possible to posit a protolanguage from which the modern languages developed via regular sound changes. 12 Morris Swadesh.

Click here to go back to the quiz. 163

Language Families of the World Quiz Answers

LECTURES 13–18 1 Topography, which allowed different speakers of different languages to exist separately. 2 The thinner air makes for easier air compression. 3 Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, and Malayalam. 4 With the tongue curled backward. 5 Around Mongolia. 6 Kemal Atatürk. 7 A Chinese system (kanji), a system for grammar (hiragana), and a system for foreign words (katakana). 8 Hangul. 9 Approximately 1 billion. 10 Tones. 11 China. 12 Many of its prefixes and suffixes have worn off.

Click here to go back to the quiz. 164

Language Families of the World Quiz Answers

LECTURES 19–24 1 Their wide variety of tones. (Some have up to 12.) 2 Contact with Chinese and other languages already affected by Chinese. 3 Tagalog. 4 Taiwan. 5 Austronesian. 6 Relative to most other languages, the Oceanic languages have fewer sounds, so multisyllabic combinations are necessary to have distinct words in the vocabulary. 7 A language that does not classify as part of a family. 8 Basque. 9 Yes. 10 Papua New Guinea. 11 Roughly two dozen. 12 Having relatively few vowels.

Click here to go back to the quiz. 165

Language Families of the World Quiz Answers

LECTURES 25–30 1 Damin. 2 They trend toward higher levels of word substitution. 3 Four. 4 Speakers refer to objects as being to the north, south, east, or west of them, rather than in front of them, behind them, or to their side. 5 Roughly 300. 6 Roughly 350,000. 7 They use unusually long words. (The practice is called polysynthesis.) 8 Greenlandic. 9 Cherokee and Mohawk. 10 The prefixes are more detailed in the Hokan languages. 11 No. (Some groups still haven’t had much contact with outsiders, and comprehensive fieldwork has only recently begun.) 12 Telephones, radios, and modern media.

Click here to go back to the quiz. 166

Language Families of the World Quiz Answers

LECTURES 31–34 1 Spanish words used with prefixes, suffixes, and grammar from Quechua. 2 Norse, French, and Latin. 3 Pronouns change less than most other words over time. 4 In most circumstances, languages are less likely to borrow words for core vocabulary. (An exception is when one group is psychologically dominant over another.) 5 Three. 6 The Yamnaya migration. (It came from the Russian steppes.) 7 Numbers. 8 A writing system.

Click here to go back to the quiz. 167

Language Families of the World Bibliography

BIBLIOGRAPHY Abondolo, Daniel, ed. The Uralic Languages. London: Routledge, 1998. Adelaar, Alexander, and Nikolaus P. Himmelmann, eds. The Austronesian Languages of Asia and Madagascar. London: Routledge, 2005. Anthony, David W. The Horse, the Wheel, and Language. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. Arlotto, Anthony. Introduction to Historical Linguistics. New York: Lanham Press, 1972. Bakker, Peter, and Maarten Mous. Mixed Languages: 15 Case Studies in Language Intertwining. Amsterdam: Uitgave IFOTT, 1994. Barber, Elizabeth Wayland. The Mummies of Urumchi. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000. Campbell, Lyle, and William Poser. Language Classification: History and Method. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Coe, Michael D. Breaking the Maya Code. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1992. Colarusso, John. A Grammar of the Kabardian Language. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1992. Comrie, Bernard, Stephen Matthews, and Maria Polinsky. The Atlas of Languages. New York: Facts on File, 2003. Crowley, Terry, and Claire Bowern. Introduction to Historical Linguistics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Crystal, David. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

168

Language Families of the World Bibliography

Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel. New York: W. W. Norton, 1997. Dimmendaal, Gerrit J. Historical Linguistics and the Comparative Study of African Languages. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Dixon, R. M. W. Australian Languages: Their Nature and Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. ——— . Edible Gender, Mother-in-Law style, and Other Grammatical Wonders. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. Dixon, R. M. W., and Alexandra Aikhenvald, eds. The Amazonian Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Ehret, Christopher. A Historical-Comparative Reconstruction of Nilo-Saharan. Cologne: Köppe, 2001. Emeneau, Murray. “India as a Linguistic Area.” In Language in Culture and Society, ed. by Dell Hymes, pp. 642–653. New York: Harper & Row, 1964. Enfield, N. J. A Grammar of Lao. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2007. Everett, Daniel. Language: The Cultural Tool. New York: Pantheon, 2012. Foley, William A. The Papuan Languages of New Guinea. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Fortson, Benjamin W. Indo-European Language and Culture. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Golla, Victor. California Indian Languages. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011. Grenoble, Lenore A., and Lindsay J. Whaley, eds. Endangered Languages: Language Loss and Community Response. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

169

Language Families of the World Bibliography

Heine, Bernd, and Derek Nurse, eds. African Languages: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Hetzron, Robert. The Semitic Languages. London: Routledge, 1987. Heyerdahl, Thor. Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990. Johanson, Lars, and Éva Á. Csató. The Turkic Languages. London: Routledge, 1998. Johnson, John William. “Somali Prosodic Systems.” In Horn of Africa 2, pp. 46–54. 1979. Joseph, Tony. “How Genetics Is Settling the Aryan Migration Debate.” In The Hindu, June 16, 2017. Karlsson, Fred. Finnish: A Reference Grammar. London: Routledge, 1999. Krishnamurti, Bhadriraju. The Dravidian Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Lewis, Geoffrey. The Turkish Language Reform. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Lynch, John, Malcolm Ross, and Terry Crowley. The Oceanic Languages. London: Routledge, 2002. McWhorter, John H. What Language Is. New York: Gotham, 2011. Meakins, Felicity. “Mixed Languages.” In Contact Languages, ed. by Peter Bakker and Yaron Matras, pp. 159–228. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter, 2013. Miller, Roy. The Japanese Language. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967. Mithun, Marianne. The Languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 170

Language Families of the World Bibliography

Norman, Jerry. Chinese. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Ostler, Nicholas. Empires of the Word. New York: Harper Perennial, 2006. Pawley, Andrew, Robert Attenborough, Jack Golson, and Robin Hide, eds. Papuan Pasts: Cultural, Linguistic, and Biological Histories of PapuanSpeaking Peoples. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, 2005. Pereltsvaig, Asya. Languages of the World: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Rogers, Henry. Writing Systems: A Linguistic Approach. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005. Ruhlen, Merritt. The Origin of Language. New York: John Wiley, 1994. Rutherford, Adam. A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived. New York: The Experiment, 2017. Sebba, Mark. Contact Languages. New York: St. Martin’s, 1997. Shibatani, Masayoshi. “Japanese.” In The World’s Major Languages, ed. by Bernard Comrie. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. Suzman, James. Affluence without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushmen. New York: Bloomsbury, 2017. Thurgood, Graham, and Randy LaPolla, eds. The Sino-Tibetan Languages. London: Routledge, 2003. Versteegh, Kees. The Arabic Language. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997. Vossen, Rainer. The Khoesan Languages. New York: Routledge, 2013. Wiedenhof, Jerome. A Grammar of Chinese. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2015.

171

Language Families of the World Image Credits

IMAGE CREDITS

titles. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . © mrPliskin/iStock/Getty Images Plus maps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Teaching Company Collection 3. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . © bpperry/iStock/Getty Images Plus 13. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . © bitlaurent/E+/Getty Images 159 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . © ivosar/iStock/Getty Images Plus

172