THE NEWEST LANGUAGE.

A teacher writes to say that in a recent class discussion, a student named Kolette asked what the world’s newest language might be. “We decided to discount computer languages and manufactured languages, such as Esperanto and, yes, Klingon, even ASL. Would there be an answer to this question or a way to answer this question?” Interesting, thought I, so I’m turning the assembled multitudes loose on it. If you rule out artificial languages, I suppose the answer has to be a creole of recent origin; any suggestions?

Comments

  1. michael farris says:

    I want to say Hawaiian creole is the newest creole I’ve read about (but how’s it doing these days?) I actually think I’ve heard of a newer one but can’t quite pin my mind down.
    Off the top of my head I’d say a good place to look would be in African cities which often seem to develop pidgin/creoles of varying durability.
    Also there’s the idea of a recognized sign language, in which Nicaraguan Sign Language might be a reasonable guess.

  2. ASL is not a manufactured language. Neither is any other natural human sign language. The “sign systems” invented in attempts to model the written/spoken language of the surrounding hearing population are not, in fact, languages, but invented codes that neither developed nor evolve naturally within a language community.
    overview from wikipedia
    a good introductory ASL linguistics textbook:
    Linguistics of ASL, 4th ed.

  3. That’s a question fraught with difficulties, not the least of which is exactly how one measures the age of a language. I mean, it’s meaningful to speak of one language changing into another, but given how fuzzy the boundary often is, and how short the human lifespan is, how would we even know when one language ends and another begins?
    So, yeah I guess we have to discount new languages arising by natural evolution, and just go by documentable things like the invention of a new sign language, or a strange encounter that spawns a new creole.

  4. Given how many species of insects exist, it’s a fair bet that in any given year (or decade, or century) one is born that will be the progenitor of a new species. But how do we find this particular insect? It’s hopeless.

  5. Pseudonym says:

    I’m pretty sure that Tok Pisin post-dates Hawaiian Creole.
    I agree that the question is difficult, especially when you ask what constitutes a “manufactured language”. Bahasa Indonesia is arguably more “manufactured” than most sign languages.
    If we allow sign languages that arose from common usage, then the most recent that I’m aware of is Auslan, which didn’t settle into a single language until the 1970s.

  6. Michael Farris says:

    But Nicauraguan Sign Language (as opposed to various local sign languages in Nicauragua) isn’t really documented in its present form before the 1990′s IIRC.
    And Tok Pisin is a strange case in that (again IIRC) even as a pidgin it stablized to a large degree before really becoming a creole and acquiring native speakers. (This according to my memories of Roots of Language which itself may or may not be accurate).

  7. michael farris says:

    Apropos of the African kind of situation I mentioned, there’s Sheng (not accepted as a separate language by some people).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheng_(linguistics)
    And IINM there’s lots more similar urban patois(es?) in Africa.

  8. I understand what you mean, Marisa, about ASL, and I am the party responsible for asking Language Hat to post the question, so all of the faults behind using the word “manufactured” lies with me, and I’d ask you not to put to much onus on it. Users of ASL will argue that it does have its development within the community, e.g. the “dialect” that graduates of Gaullaudet seem to recognize in one another, and coders will have a field day. Our original discussion revolved around languages that a group had not made a conscious choice to create from scratch, e.g. the manner in which Esperanto came about. Perhaps the example was better left at that.

  9. A short to Mad Latinist, and then I’ll let the assembled do their thing: we were wondering about “new languages arising by natural evolution,” indeed. Can one pinpoint the moment ? Latin evolved into the Romance languages; and we can generally say when. Can we do this for a “new” language ?

  10. Jarek Hirny says:

    My competence regarding extra-European languages is next to zero (and is not much higher when limited to Europe), but I would say that Montenegrin language is quite new. Assuming it already exists, of course, but that would be the case for every language discussed, I believe.
    To those who not follow political fluctuations in Balkans: Montenegro is quite a new state (established in 2004, I believe) and since then has been actively promoting the idea that what they are speaking is a different language, not a dialect of Serbian. It’s not yet recognized by any official body I know (it has no ISO symbols, web version of Ethnologue also doesn’t know about it; but they didn’t even notice that Montenegro is a separate (and totally recognized, of course) country, so I guess they’re generally not very up to date), but the Constitution of Montenegro names it as an official language of the coutry, so I guess it would be unfair to simply ignore it.

  11. michael farris says:

    I’ve been out of sign linguistics long enough that I interpreted the original sentence completely differently:
    “such as Esperanto and, yes, Klingon, even ASL.”
    I mentally attributed a meaning like:
    “such as (famous planned languages) Esperanto and, yes, Klingon, even (a totally different category of language like) ASL.”
    Good call for Montenegrin.

  12. My first thoughts were Nicaraguan sign language. I wouldn’t count Montenegrin because I doubt their speech has suddenly changed since independence.

  13. I would say either Modern Turkish or possibly Modern Hebrew.
    Modern Hebrew may not cut it because it’s still quite similar to Biblical Hebrew. Additionally, it’s older than Modern Turkish.
    Turkish after Atatürk’s reforms became a very different animal from Ottoman Turkish. Loanwords were so ubiquitous that the word for “no” was borrowed from Arabic.
    Granted, not everybody spoke Ottoman Turkish before the reform; most (in daily life) spoke something close to Modern Turkish. However, the fact that Modern Turkish includes an influx of neologisms and elements of many diverse dialects could be grounds for calling it a new language.

  14. I have to side with all those that say that the concept of ‘new’ language can only really apply to sign languages or creoles/pidgins. Montenegrin might well be the newest to be officially recognised as a language, but the process that separated it from Serbian/Croatian would have taken many years, and of course, it’s just about impossible to identify a time in history before which it was the same language and after which it was different.
    My vote (for spoken languages) goes to Roper River Kriol, the lingua franca and first language of many thousands of top-end Australian Aborigines. It is well-known to have formed between about 1890 and 1920 when 200-odd people from various linguistically disparate places were congregated at a mission at Roper River, now called Ngukurr.
    I’m not sure of the timeline, but my intuition says that Tok Pisin predates Kriol by a few decades at least.

  15. Re Montenegrin: of course it’s not a dialect of Serbian. If anything, Montenegrin and Serbian and Croatian and Bosnian (did I get them all?) are dialects of one language. So definitely not a new spoken language, but definitely a new language in the spirit of Weinreich’s “A language is a dialect with an army and a navy” or it’s modern version “A language is a dialect with an army and a top-level domain”.
    Ben,
    re Hebrew: good catch. And so what if Ivrit is similar to Biblical Hebrew? Same goes for, say, Russian to Old Church Slavic and these are clearly separate languages. Same applies to Turkish.
    Jangari,
    nice to see ya, mate :) There are reports from 1906 of attempts by Australian government to eradicate Tok Pisin in New Guinea – “that vile gibberish – so it must have been spoken widely by then. Some linguists (Holm?) believe it was the German administration of New Guinea which promoted the early form of Tok Pisin as a lingua Franca, that would put the actual birth of the language somewhere between 1884 and 1906.
    If I were to vote, however, I’d pick either ASL or any new creole. I’m not sure about pidgins, though. Those newly emerged (like the Gulf Arabic pidgin discussed over at Lameen’s place a while back) are perhaps too young and unstable to count as languages. Or are they?
    And finally, I submit one candidate, a language which emerged long after WWII, possibly some time in the 60s and maybe even as late as 1990s: International English :)

  16. A language is a dialect with a top-level domain and an international telephony prefix.

  17. A language is a dialect with a top-level domain and an international telephony prefix.
    Better, but there’s still something missing. I was initially considering something like “a top-level domain and a localized version of Windows”, but that doesn’t sound quite right, either…

  18. Are there any real-life examples like Psammetichus’ quest for the original language? (It would have to be a situation of horrible abuse or tragedy.)

  19. Siganus Sutor says:

    I’m thinking of an undecipherable written language, sometimes as undecipherable as Linear A: SMS.

  20. Why leave ASL out?
    I’d guess the Nicaraguan sign language developed in , too. It was born in the 70s and 80s.

  21. Why leave ASL out?
    No theoretical reason; that was just the way the question was originally formulated in class. In any case, since it goes back to the 19th century it’s not a candidate.
    Obviously there’s not a single clear answer that everyone will agree on; it’s just an interesting topic to think about.

  22. MMcM,
    Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, is another famous example.

  23. I honestly see no reason why sign languages should be excluded here. Their exclusion is very arbitrary; it would be the equivalent of excluding all non-tonal languages.
    If we are going to include sign languages, the two best candidates would be Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language and Nicaraguan Sign Language (ISN). Between these two, I would side with ISN because we can say for certain when it began. The school where it developed was started in 1977, so we could place linguagenesis at some time in the 1980′s. I think we’d be hard pressed to find any other language that developed after that.
    -Ben

  24. Seconding SMS.
    See: Tweenspeak the international text-messaging lingo, which “enables tweens in the U. S. to talk with tweens in Japan with very little misunderstanding.”
    As an alternative qualifier to army, navy, country code, top level domain and/or Windows version, a language is also a dialect into which the Bible has been translated. On this basis, SMS qualifies.
    I suppose it might be disqualified on the basis that it is only texted, not spoken.

  25. Since I got Language Hat into this mess about sign languages, I’ll clarify again: the original question in class was about spoken (voiced, if you will) languages. I had actually hazarded a guess that a sign language would be a possible answer. The exclusion came out of mere curiosity of how x evolves into a “new” language (or perhaps becomes viewed as a language distinct from its origin/s), and not out of any formal or theoretical linguistic stance on sign, etc. I didn’t expect people to agree; it is how everyone is thinking about the answer that is so interesting.

  26. I vote for Modern Hebrew as well. It’s the only language with native speakers today who could not go back in time 150 years and find a community of native speakers of a very similar language. There are 100s of languages that have been only recently codified, classified and given formal status – especially in the former USSR. But a modern Kyrgyz or Montenegrin (or Turkish) speaker could have communicated fairly easily with his great great great grandmother. No Israeli can say the same.

  27. I think you’re exaggerating the lack of spoken Hebrew before its revival. My understanding is that a lot of learned Jews could and did converse in Hebrew, much as learned Christians conversed in Latin. And I’m not sure you’re right about Turkish, either; the Kemalist changes were pretty drastic.

  28. Hebrew’s been through some changes in its ‘modernization,’ but it’s ridiculous to claim that one could go back 150 years and not find communities to communicate with – Language Hat is right.
    Of the ‘new’ Balkan languages, I don’t think that the difference in labels has any meaning. I remember how excited I was to find a pocket English / “Bosnian” dictionary, until I realized it was simply a retitled version of my English / “Croatian” dictionary – same typesetting and pagination; the cover was the sole difference!
    And I’ve read plenty of travelogues wherein people refer to the “Bosnian” or “Transylvanian” or “Montegrin” languages centuries ago, the appellations derived purely from geography, not any sort of linguistic distinction. Today, witness the national language of Moldova, which no one really pretends is anything other than Romanian any longer – at least not in my experience.

  29. My understanding is that a lot of learned Jews could and did converse in Hebrew, much as learned Christians conversed in Latin.
    Well yes, but was it really the same Hebrew as the one spoken now? Many (Paul Wexler and Ghil’ad Zuckermann come to mind) insist it was not and today’s Ivrit is basically relexified Yiddish. Also, there is quite a difference between a bunch of scholars and two or three generations of an entire nation. With the latter, you have what you could call a normal language transmission, native speakers ‘n all. Not with the former. In that respect, Old/Mishnaic Hebrew and Latin and Sanskrit and Classical Arabic and a host of other languages are actually not that different from Klingon.

  30. Well yes, but was it really the same Hebrew as the one spoken now?
    No, but I’m pretty sure speakers could have managed to understand each other.

  31. theophylact says:

    How old is Afrikaans?

  32. I don’t buy the “Modern Hebrew is relexified Yiddish” argument. The fact that the Hebrew root system is still productive, as well as the similarities between Hebrew and other Semitic languages’ grammar (moreso than Indo-European) points towards a solid status as a Semitic language. Additionally, I understand that Hebrew speakers can read old texts (like the Bible) quite clearly. Considering this, I would say Modern Hebrew is not one of the newest languages – on the contrary, it’s one of the oldest.
    As a contrast, Atatürk’s famous first speech to the new Turkish parliament in 1927 had to be translated into Modern Turkish, due to Ottoman Turkish being so different as to be incomprehensible to Modern Turkish speakers.

  33. What about Yiddish?

  34. mollymooly says:

    There must be cases of children, especially twins, with parents having different mother tongues, who become not merely bilingual but trilingual, speaking to each other a hybrid private cant indecipherable even to their parents. Whether such a cant survives beyond their childhood, let alone into a new generation, is another question; but such “languages” must arise constantly.

  35. Good idea on the Afrikaans, theophylact. I looked it up, though, and the first evidence of an Afrikaans distinct from Dutch was from 1795. That’s well beyond the scope of the other languages we’ve discussed here.
    Oh, and I forgot to mention, the only serious supporters I’ve found of the Relexification hypothesis are Wexler and Zuckermann. Zuckermann says it’s relexified Yiddish, while Wexler says it’s a relexified Slavic language. Of course, Wexler is a huge proponent of Relexification across the board, and says that Yiddish is a relexified Slavic language (with Germanic lexemes, of course). Furthermore, he makes use of this hypothesis to claim that modern Ashkenazi (northern and eastern European) Jews are not descendants of the original Jewish population made famous by the Bible, but are descendants of the Khazars or other converts to Judaism.

  36. Some of the arguments being made here about Modern Hebrew seem rather silly to me — despite all the credit that goes to Eliezer Ben-Yehuda and his contemporaries for helping to make Hebrew more usable for modern secular purposes, and reviving its use for said purposes, it’s still fundamentally the same language as it was before. (One could well argue that it’s a creole of various existing forms of Hebrew, but as no one seems to be counting those existing forms as separate languages, that doesn’t really make Modern Hebrew a new language.) — but I think the silliest thing is the use of “Ivrit” to mean “Modern Hebrew.” I suppose I could buy it if you also referred to Tiberian Hebrew as “`ivrith” and 19th-Century Eastern European Hebrew as “Ivres” and Modern French as “Fraunsay,” but otherwise: Huh?

  37. Mollymooly: n Taiwan I met a woman who said she talked to her brother in a unique family language of that type. N. Chinese father, S. Chinese mother. This language was very short-lived, however. Though I could see something like that becoming fixed in a mountain valley populated by Romans married to Sabines.

  38. “Ivrit” to mean “Modern Hebrew” is not that farfetched. In Russian, Modern Hebrew is Иврит, Biblical Hebrew is Древнееврейский язык, and Yiddish is еврейский язык.
    Not sure if any self-designations have recently become formal English names of other languages, but casual English speakers do seem fond of talking about Bahasa, Deutsch, Nihongo, etc.
    Modern Hebrew no doubt has many areas that are full of calques from other languages, but then this is true for any modern language, except perhaps the most dominant like English that export much more than they import.

  39. How old is Buryat as an independent language?

  40. @JJD – “Our original discussion revolved around languages that a group had not made a conscious choice to create from scratch”
    If you still think that ASL is such a language, then you are incorrect. No one made any such conscious decision…
    My vote is for Nicaraguan Sign Language.

  41. I WOULD RESPECTFULLY SUBMIT THAT IT IS
    ELS-L (Equidistant Letter Sequence Language)
    That is a new name.
    Here’s a paper from the Second International Interdisciplinary Conference on Fundamental and Applied Aspects of Speech and Language:
    Linguistic Connections Among Torah Codes (2004).
    Note the “living” quality referenced at the end.
    And, for example, some of the latest ELS-L:
    Round Two, Buddha Codes
    While it could be called a new “computer” language, it’s also more of a “found” language – multicultural, multilingual, sometimes mathematical, scientific, archeological. At once an old creation, but most newly found, there’s a massive worldwide cross-referential etymology descending from Biblical Hebrew to the latest name spelling published in a newspaper. Only around 1994 was it enabled to blossom linguistically. With long phrases and paragraphs, with exclamations, the strongest findings so far are based in the Hebrew lettering system. Some clear sentence findings are analytically, structurally, comparatively and poetically difficult and, like a good poem or a wine, evolve over time.
    Paul Grice is indicative.
    Of course, ELS-L is not just a language . . .
    Spoken? Well, one could argue that . . .

  42. Ran,
    but I think the silliest thing is the use of “Ivrit” to mean “Modern Hebrew.”
    What caffeind said. There are even Russian dictionaries and grammars that refer to any Hebrew – including Biblical Hebrew – as иврит.
    Also: Farsi, not Persian. Saami, not Lappish. Lëtzebuergesch, not Luxemburgish (ugh), Tamazight, not Berber etc. Hence Ivrit. Perhaps not consistent, but definitely not unique and/or silly.
    Also, it’s way shorter than ‘Modern Hebrew’

  43. @”Also: Farsi, not Persian. Saami, not Lappish. Lëtzebuergesch, not Luxemburgish (ugh), Tamazight, not Berber etc. Hence Ivrit. Perhaps not consistent, but definitely not unique and/or silly.”
    Which raises the interesting question of why we only offer this courtesy to some languages in English, and not all. We generally don’t use français, deutsch, dansk, suomi, español, and on the list goes. But that’s a whole nother can of worms, I guess.

  44. Farsi, not Persian.
    This is controversial even among Persians/Iranians.
    Tamazight, not Berber
    Tamazight is only one variety of Berber.

  45. Tamazight is only one variety of Berber.
    Indeed, but it is also sometimes used instead of ‘Berber’ to refer to the entire family.
    This is controversial even among Persians/Iranians.
    Perhaps, but if you get the [ɒ] right, they don’t seem to mind that much :)

  46. Ben,
    Zuckermann says it’s relexified Yiddish, while Wexler says it’s a relexified Slavic language.
    Actually, Zuckermann used say it’s a Semito-European hybrid with a Yiddish substrate and Biblical/Mishnaic Hebrew superstrate. He later revised it to Hebrew and Yiddish are both main contributors. Wexler is the one who believes Ivrit is relexified Yiddish, which in turn is relexified Sorbian. Gotta love those guys :)
    The fact that the Hebrew root system is still productive, as well as the similarities between Hebrew and other Semitic languages’ grammar
    Morphology and lexis, yes. But what about phonology and syntax? This is basically the core of Zuckermann’s argument: he believes that phonetics / phonology is as important in determining a language’s kinship as anything else (especially morphology). And while Hebrew may never actually died, for a very long time between Masada and Ben-Yehuda (or his son Itamar Ben-Avi, the first native speaker of Ivrit) it wasn’t a language with native speakers. So when the Israelis started actually speaking Hebrew (and Hebrew only) en masse, where did they get all their consonants and vowels and prosody from? Yiddish seems the most likely source. And same could be said about syntax.
    I’m not saying I agree with Wexler or Zuckermann – relexified Sorbian? Please. But they sure do raise a whole lot of interesting questions. And they’re not alone – just consider the similarities between Zuckermann’s theory of hybridization and Bakker’s mixed languages (Michif etc.).

  47. The differences between spoken modern Turkish and the Turkish that was spoken by the average inhabitant of Constantinople in 1890 are certainly real, but also exaggerated, and I wouldn’t consider them significant enough to say that modern Turkish constitutes “a new language.” If you speak modern Turkish – simply go look at some of the 19th century Ottoman phrase books (you can find a bunch in Google) – it’s clearly the same everyday language. And many Turks still use the traditional colloquial Arab and Persian loanwords in their everyday speech – a lot of the calques and neologisms invented by Ataturk are still fighting for popular acceptance. It is probably more accurate to say that the Ottoman literary language went extinct than to say a new language was born.

  48. Anyone who says that Modern Hebrew gets its phonetics and phonology from Yiddish … well, let’s just say they’re not someone worth listening to. (Obviously I can’t claim it gets them from Ancient Hebrew, either, though to some extent they evolved over time with a lot of pressure from the native languages of its speakers. But the main contributor is the creolization I mentioned above; in many ways Modern Hebrew phonetics and phonology is a least-common-denominator of the Eastern European Hebrew and the Muslim-world Hebrew of the 1800s. Yiddish did get its hand in with almost the only way that Hebrew phonology became more complex and permissive — its consonant clusters — but that alone is not enough to declare it relexified Yiddish, and if it were, then that would now be an obsolete declaration, as most of the world’s languages, including Hebrew, are now relexified English.

  49. If we’re going to stick with the original charge as explained by JJD of limiting the discussion to instances of spoken languages that have evolved into a new language out of another spoken language or languages, then Tok Pisin, Hawaiian creole and other recent creoles would be the top candidates. But I’d put Afrikaans in there also, not as being among the newest, but as worth studying for the process of language evolution, because its formation is probably better documented than the various creoles. On the Hebrew discussion, can it really be said that modern Hebrew evolved naturally out of its precedents, or was it more of a conscious and deliberate act of language creation, or re-creation, in the same class as Esperanto but with more historical roots?

  50. > On the Hebrew discussion, can it really be said that modern Hebrew evolved naturally out of its precedents, or was it more of a conscious and deliberate act of language creation, or re-creation, in the same class as Esperanto but with more historical roots?
    I’d say that both are true; there was a natural process of evolution over the course of several thousand years (though striking in that for about two thousand of those, the language had very few true native speakers and survived primarily because of its decent number of dedicated second-language speakers), and then, less than 150 years ago, there was a brief but significant partly-artificial process of filling in the blanks — adding things that the second-language speakers had never needed, bridging gaps between different dialects and accents, and so on. (I say only “partly-artificial” because the people who did this actually used the language they were creating, so in some sense it was the same sort of conscious innovation you often see in every language, just in a larger scale over a shorter time-frame and due largely to a smaller group of people than is usual.) And then, since then, of course, there’s been a lot of natural evolution, with a lot of influence from European languages (especially English, German, and Russian) and some from Arabic.
    Above, people are implicitly arguing that the short partly-artificial process was a break between two separate languages, not-Modern-Hebrew and yes-Modern-Hebrew; but the Hebrew of three hundred or four hundred years ago is really quite similar to the formal Hebrew of today, just a lot more limited. (Caveat: this is discounting phonology and phonetics, which, as bulbul points out, are very important. If an Israeli from today encountered a Hebrew speaker from the 1600s, no matter where in the world that speaker was from, it would probably take a few minutes for them to get used to each other’s accents — a much, much greater difference than, say, that between U.S. and U.K. English today.)

  51. Lingvo ekestas pro politika decido. Tial la montenegra estas unu el kvar lingvoj kiuj farighis post la disfalo de Jugoslavio el la t.n. serbokroata. En la momento kiam ekestis Kroatio la kroata varianto de la serbokroata farighis oficiala lingvo de tiu shtato kaj nun 17 jarojn poste, ghi jam pli senteble diferencighas de la serba ol en 1991 char ghi jam havas 17 jarojn da sendependa evoluo. Same okazas pri la bosna kaj monenegra lingvoj, sed ankaŭ pri la serba mem. Ili estas baze ankoraŭ reciproke kompreneblaj, sed la diferencoj daŭre kreskas.

  52. If you discount the “created” languages, you’d have a hard time saying any language is the newest. Languages evolve and as they do they evolve and change from other established languages and because language is always evolving, when do you differentiate it from its roots? You’d be hard pressed, for example, to say when modern English began…at what point was it separated from “Middle” English? Interesting thoughts, though.

  53. Definitely has to be Filipino which mixes asian/pacific island with the Spanish. I’d venture to stake an educated guess to this as the ‘newest’ language which the Earth people use to communicate. Although the actual ‘newest’ languages do not come from the surface of the planet. {The new non-human dialects are comprised of mutant birds and actual communication between machines.}

  54. My apologies in advance for throwing this rather silly suggestion into what is clearly a serious academic discussion:
    LOLcat. (http://www.icanhascheezburger.com)
    Yes, it is a spoken language (my roommate is fluent), and it has its own grammar and idioms, and while it doesn’t have an army and a navy yet, it does have a Bible translation: http://www.lolcatbible.com

  55. I try to keep a good mix of academic and silly here at LH, so thanks for that!

  56. I was poking around looking for one thing, and stumbled across this. Surzhyk is a kind of blend of Russian and Ukrainian, and I think it has been around for awhile. But there is a new sub-set of it, “reverse surzhyk”:
    “The fifth category, Post-independence surzhyk, includes mixing brought about by the new state status of Ukrainian, with adults who are not used to speaking Ukrainian (especially in official contexts) trying to do so in the post-Soviet period. This entails Russian speakers trying to speak the Ukrainian they learned during their childhood in summer village visits or at school, or are just learning now. When lacking a Ukrainian term, these speakers borrow words from Russian and use Russian phonology, which adds to the perception of impurity. This surzhyk, which may be referred to as “reverse surzhyk” (Krouglov, 2003), emerges due to the aspirations of native Russian speakers to speak Ukrainian. However, it does not necessarily correspond to a Ukrainianized Russian base language, since the speakers in this category have often had some Ukrainian schooling. People whose profession used to be dominated by Russian, but whose work now requires public or written statements in Ukrainian, frequently produce such surzhyk. These practices fall on the Codeswitching through Language Mixing end of Auer’s continuum.”

  57. A very promising candidate!

  58. I’m going to argue for computer languages. And no, I’m not being flip.
    In some sense they are not about *human* communication, but anyone’s worked with programmers knows that around the core of machine communication is a rich tissue of human communication—you’re writing to be understood by other programmers as much or more as you write to be “understood” by the computer. That you’re not free to “say” anything is hardly an argument—what is language if not mutually-understood constraints?
    And anyway, if communal communication directed primarily toward non-human entities is to be ruled out, we might as kill all sacred communication too. That would do a number on early languages, for sure.

  59. spacchus says:

    [...] You’d be hard pressed, for example, to say when modern English began…at what point was it separated from “Middle” English? Interesting thoughts, though.
    Posted by V Vixa at March 18, 2008 01:15 PM
    Not so much actually! I mean inasmuch as Modern English became very, very distinct from Middle English during the Great Vowel Shift, the meat and pertaters of which occurred over the course of a couple generations. That marked a *huge* change in the language, far greater in scope than from Old to Middle, and happened very quickly. While I appreciate your sentiment, I just wanted to point out that that specific example is kind of flawed.
    Example: it’s easier for me as an L2 German speaker to read Middle High German texts (e.g. Hartman von Aue) than as an L1 English speaker to read Chaucer, even though Chaucer antedated von Aue by nearly 200 years.
    (The “couple generations” I refer to is roughly 1500-1600, i.e. right before Shakespeare. The reason I singled out that on is that’s the period when the vowels really began to collapse and change: many of th shifts before 1500 were comparatively minor.)

  60. michael farris says:

    At a conference of Korean studies I was told that even if you wrote it all in hangul, modern Koreans can’t understand newspapers from 100 years ago without special training.
    I don’t know how this relates to the spoken language then and now…

  61. That marked a *huge* change in the language, far greater in scope than from Old to Middle
    Not true. Middle English is hard to get used to, but Old English is a completely different language, that has to be learned in the same way as Old Norse or German.

  62. Christophe.Strobbe says:

    I vote for chicken chicken (February 2007).
    On a more serious note, how old is Inglish (a mixture of English and some languages spoken in India, especially Hindi)? See for example Inglish as She’s Spoke.

  63. marie-lucie says:

    About the change of the long vowels with the Great English Vowel Shift, it has not had that much of an effect on the language since it did not require a parallel change in spelling (causing the English spelling system to be harder to learn than any other alphabetically-based system). The vowels are still changing, witness the differences between pronunciations in various areas of England, Scotland, North America and Australia.
    Chaucer’s English is recognizably a form of English in spite of some spelling and vocabulary differences, but Old English is not, which is why it was once known as Anglo-Saxon, a language which looks more like Icelandic than current English.

  64. Example: it’s easier for me as an L2 German speaker to read Middle High German texts (e.g. Hartman von Aue) than as an L1 English speaker to read Chaucer, even though Chaucer antedated von Aue by nearly 200 years.
    I think that’s just you. I would call them broadly comparable in difficulty for modern native speakers, and since English is my native language I find Chaucer easier to read. I would also guess that English speakers from England or Scotland find Chaucer easier to read than American English speakers, because unless I’m mistaken aren’t there, even to this day, English dialects where the Great Vowel Shift has not shifted as far from Chaucer as in standard English? When I read Chaucer it feels to me like a north English dialect.

  65. Christophe Strobbe says:

    Example: it’s easier for me as an L2 German speaker to read Middle High German texts (e.g. Hartman von Aue) than as an L1 English speaker to read Chaucer, even though Chaucer antedated von Aue by nearly 200 years.

    I find Chaucer somewhat easier to read than Hartman von Aue, even though I had more classes in Middle High German than in Middle English (more than 10 years ago, admittedly). My native language, Dutch, is closer to German (my 3rd (or 4th?) language) than to English (my 2nd language), but that doesn’t help that much.

  66. “And many Turks still use the traditional colloquial Arab and Persian loanwords in their everyday speech – a lot of the calques and neologisms invented by Ataturk are still fighting for popular acceptance. It is probably more accurate to say that the Ottoman literary language went extinct than to say a new language was born.”
    I agree. Ataturk was trying to get rid of the words of Arabic origin, not borrow words from other languages. When there was a Turkish equivalent, that was pushed over the Arabic word. Sometimes this worked (the word learned for “easy” is “kolay”, not the Arabic “basit”) and sometimes it didn’t (for “answer”, I always heard and used “cevap” which is Arabic word, and not “yanit”). Sometimes, the co-existed so entirely that they were functionally equivalent (both “sene” and “yil” are used for “year”).

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