Humans first developed the physical ability to speak in a language around 50,000 years ago when our heads and necks evolved to make room for our vocal cords. In modern times, humans utilize more than 7,100 languages to communicate. Today’s blog from Akorbi discusses how languages evolve over time.
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Merging of Societies
When societies merge, one language may become prevalent over another. In ancient times, this happened when one culture conquered another or when one economic construct took hold over another. Empires rose and fell, and when the conquering people took over an area, their language became the norm. Local people then adopted the new language or adapted their own language to merge with other spoken languages of the area.
Romance languages offer the perfect example of this. As the Roman Empire grew 2,000 years ago, local people turned Latin into Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian.
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Migration from one country to another changes a language. This is where dialects come from. Look at English or Spanish for examples here.
English started in Great Britain, but it’s also the predominant language in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Yet each country has its own dialect of English, meaning people who speak English can understand each other for the most part but some terms may change from one country to the next. For instance, a biscuit is a flat cookie in Britain but a light and fluffy fist-sized piece of bread in America.
Spanish follows the same pattern as English. Speakers of Castilian Spanish in Spain can understand someone who speaks Spanish in Argentina, but some words may mean different things. Huevos and blanquillos both mean “eggs”, but various Spanish-speaking countries use the first word while others use the second word.
Languages evolve due to events. Some events happen over time, while others happen all at once. A volcanic eruption can wipe out a lot of speakers of a local language, or a battle may lead to the deaths of many people in a certain culture. However, other events can alter a language as a culture tries to explain what happens. Religious ceremonies, festivals, exploring new territories, and astronomical events like eclipses can all lead to new words in a language when someone tries to describe what’s happening.
Technology changes a language gradually over time. It starts with someone inventing something new, and then it has widespread adoption. Consider modern tools such as computers, cellphones, software, apps, and artificial intelligence. These things didn’t exist 100 years ago. Once these technological tools took hold, cultures needed ways to describe and communicate what these things were. An entirely new class of words came into use over time after these new technologies entered the entirety of human society.
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