Chapter 5 - Language
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Chapter 5 - Language. Q: What do you call a person who speaks three or more languages? A: A polygot. Q: What do you call a person who speaks two languages? A: Bilingual Q: What do you call a person who speaks only one language? A. An American. Chapter 5 - Language.

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Chapter 5 - Language

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Chapter 5 language

Chapter 5 - Language

Chapter 5 language

Q: What do you call a person who speaks three or more languages?

A: A polygot.

Q: What do you call a person who speaks two languages?

A: Bilingual

Q: What do you call a person who speaks only one language?

A. An American

Chapter 5 language

Chapter 5 - Language

  • Language is a system of communication through speech… a collection of sounds that a group of people understands to have the same meaning.

  • Many languages, but not all, have a literary tradition… or a system of written communication.

Chapter 5 language

  • Countries sometimes designate an official language, which is one used by the government. (laws, reports, road signs, etc.)

  • If there’s more than one official language, then everything is duplicated in the needed languages.

Chapter 5 language

  • Language is like luggage:

    People carry it with them when they move from place to place.

  • We can look at languages around the world to understand the diffusion and interaction of people.

Chapter 5 language

Key Issue # 1 - Where are

English Language

Speakers Distributed?

Chapter 5 language

  • The history of English serves as a case study for how a language originates and diffuses.

Origin and diffusion of english


  • English spoken fluently by one-half billion, more than any other language except Mandarin.

  • Mandarin speakers are clustered in China, whereas English speakers are spread around the world.

  • Official language of 42 countries

  • 2 billion live in a country where English is the official language (even if they can’t speak it)

English colonies

English Colonies

  • The distribution of English exists today b/c people from England migrated and est. colonies.

  • Beginning w/ Jamestown, 1607.

  • Took control of Ireland in 17th century, South Asia in mid-18th century, and South Pacific in early 19th century.

Origin of english in england

Origin of English in England

  • People lived in England for k’s of years, but little is known about them until the Celts invaded (500 BC).

  • Around 450 AD, Germanic tribes from Europe invaded (Angles, Saxons, and Jutes).

  • Modern English people are called Anglo-Saxons and England attributes their cultural heritage to these invaders.

  • The name England comes from “Angle’s Land”

  • The origin of English can be traced to these differing Germanic languages.

Norman invasion

Norman Invasion

  • English is a good bit different from German today b/c England was conquered by the Normans in 1066 AD. (William the Conqueror, Battle of Hastings, etc.)

  • They spoke French, which was the official language of England for 150 yrs.

  • After breaking from France, English became the official language again.

  • French and Germanic words merged to create a simpler language.

Chapter 5 language

William I, new king of England

Dialects of english

Dialects of English

  • A dialect is a regional variation of language distinguished by distinctive vocabulary, spelling, and pronunciation.

  • When speakers of a language move to other locations, various dialects may develop (ex: English in North America).

  • In a language with multiple dialects, one dialect may be recognized as the standard language, which is the most established and most widely recognized dialect.

Differences between british and american english


  • The early colonists obviously spoke the language used in England at the time.

  • Later immigrants from other countries found English embedded here.

  • Therefore, the earliest were mostly responsible for the language patterns in the US today.

Chapter 5 language

  • Why is our English diff from England’s? = isolation

  • Differs in three significant ways… vocabulary, spelling, and pronunciation.

Chapter 5 language

  • Vocabulary is different mainly b/c we encountered many new objects and experiences in North America. link

  • We also borrowed many words from Indians. link

Chapter 5 language

  • Spelling is different b/c we wanted our own identity.

  • Ex: gray/grey color/colour mom/mum tire/tyre

  • link

  • Noah Webster created many of these spellings by ignoring many recently created rules of spelling developed in England.

Chapter 5 language

  • Pronunciation is immediately recognizable.

  • Once separated, the main communication was by letters. Biggest differences are between “a” and “r.” fast, path, half.

  • American… a = / a /… “man”

  • British… a = / ah /… “father

  • British also eliminate “r” sound except before vowels… “lord” sounds like “laud”

Dialects in the us


  • Most differences are due to dialects of the original settlers.

  • Determined speech patterns for their communities.

  • Most dialect differences are on the east coast due to diverse groups settling the 13 colonies.

Chapter 5 language

  • A word not used nationally, but has some geographic extent is called an isogloss (a word use boundary).

  • On the east coast, we have 3 dialect regions – Northern, Midland, and Southern.

  • Some words are used in 2, but rarely all 3.

  • Ex: “pail” in North, “bucket” in other 2

  • Ex: “brook” in North, “run” in midlands, “branch” in South

Chapter 5 language

Chapter 5 language

  • Pronunciation differences in the US are more familiar to us than word differences.

  • Read 143-4

Key issue s 2 and 3 why is english related to other languages

Key Issue #’s 2 and 3

Why is English related

to Other Languages?

Chapter 5 language

  • English is part of the Indo-European language family.

  • A language family is a collection of languages related through a common ancestor that existed long before recorded history.

  • Indo-European is the world’s most widely spoken language family.

  • 3 billion total people

Chapter 5 language



Chapter 5 language

  • Indo-European is divided into 6 branches… Germanic, Romance, Balto-Slavic, Indo-Iranian are largest.

  • Branches are further divided into language groups.

  • The Germanic branch is divided into West Germanic and North Germanic language groups.

  • Our language, English, falls within the West Germanic language group.



  • Language Family: Indo European

  • Langauge Branch: Germanic

  • Language Group: West Germanic

  • Language: English

Origin and diffusion of indo european


  • All Indo-European languages must be descended from a single ancestor.

  • The ancestral language cannot be proved, however.

  • Evidence lies in the fact that words in various languages are almost the same. Pg 150.

  • Probably lived in cold climate b/c have common words from snow and winter, but not ocean.

  • People agree it existed, but disagree on when and where it existed.

Indo european origin theories

Indo-European origin theories

  • Kurgan people were among the first to domesticate horses and cattle.

  • As they spread out, they took their language with them of course. Was this them?

  • Anatolian hearth theory occurred 2000 years earlier than Kurgan theory.

  • Originated in “Turkey” and diffused from there?

Chapter 5 language

  • Regardless of where it came from, communication was poor and slow among people.

  • After generations of isolation, individual groups evolved increasingly distinct languages.

Classification of languages


  • About 50% of all people speak an Indo-European language.

  • About 20% speak a member of the Sino-Tibetan family.

  • About 5% each speak one of the following…

    Afro-Asiatic (Middle East)

    Austronesian (in SE Asia)

    Niger-Congo (in Africa

    Dravidian (in India)

  • The remaining 10% speak a language from a smaller language family.

Distribution of languge families


  • Sino-Tibetan – Encompasses languages spoken in the People’s Republic of China. *Remember, there is not one Chinese language.* Mandarin is the most important (spoken by 3/4ths of Chinese people)

Chapter 5 language

  • Afro-Asiatic – Includes Arabic and Hebrew. 4th largest language family. Arabic is the official language of over 2 dozen countries. It is also spoken by Muslims all over the world.

Chapter 5 language

  • Niger-Congo – Spoken by 95% of sub-Saharan Africans. Includes Swahili, spoken by much of Eastern Africa. One of few African languages with an extensive literature.

Chapter 5 language

  • Austronesian – Once known as Malay-Polynesian. Most common language is Malay-Indonesian (Indonesia is 4th most populous country).

Chapter 5 language

Austronesian = purple

Chapter 5 language

  • Dravidian – spoken by about 1/4th of Indians. The rest speak a type of Indo-European language.

Chapter 5 language

Key Issue #4

Why do People Preserve Local Languages?

Chapter 5 language

  • The distribution of a language is a measure of that ethnic group’s fate.

  • English diffused from a small island to the world. Some languages have never diffused. Others are in danger of extinction.

Preserving language diversity

Preserving Language Diversity

  • Thousands of languages are extinct languages… once in use, but no longer spoken or read.

  • When the Spanish reached the Amazon, they encountered 500+ languages. Today = 57.

  • Gothic was once spoken widely in E and N Europe as late as 3rd century. Today, entire branch is gone (East Germanic).

  • *People usually lose their language when they lose their military and political strength.

Chapter 5 language

  • Linguists expect hundreds of languages to become extinct in the coming years.

  • Only about 300 are safe b/c they have sufficient speakers and government support.

  • Some organizations are dedicated to the preservation of languages.

Hebrew revived from extinction

Hebrew - Revived from Extinction

  • Hebrew diminished in the 4th century BC and was used only in religious services.

  • Aramaic was spoken at the time of Jesus, which was eventually replaced with Arabic.

  • When Israel became a country in 1948, Hebrew and Arabic were the 2 official languages.

  • The people of Israel were from many countries and spoke many languages, so they all knew at least some Hebrew (symbolic uniting of the nation).

  • Had to create a “living language” for words that did not exist back them… automobile, telephone, etc.

Celtic preserving endangered languages

Celtic – Preserving Endangered Languages

  • Is of particular interest to English speakers b/c it was the language of the British Isles before the Germanic invasion.

  • Britain’s 1988 Education Act made it mandatory that Welsh be taught in Wales.

  • TV, radio, road signs are all Welsh or Welsh/English.

  • Revival of Celtic language is a long term challenge.

Multilingual states


  • Difficulties can arise at the boundary between two languages.

  • Sometimes, the boundary is inside of a country.



  • South is called Wallonia (Wallooms) and speak French.

  • North is called Flanders (Flemings) and speak Dutch.

  • Political divided, no bilingual signs, each selects own government, controls public health, road construction, etc.

Chapter 5 language




  • Exists peacefully with multiple languages.

  • Key is a decentralized government, which gives local authorities most of the power.

  • 4 official languages: German (68%), French (18%), Italian (12%), and Romansch (1%)

Chapter 5 language

Linguist Map of Switzerland

Isolated languages


  • An isolated language is a language unrelated to any other and therefore not related to any language family.

  • Similarities among languages are not a measure of the degree of interaction between groups of people.

  • Isolated languages come from the fact that no interaction with other languages took place.



  • Spoken by 1 million people in the Pyrenees Mtns (between France and Spain).

  • Only pre-Indo-European survivor in Europe.

  • Probably spoken over a wider area before, but was abandoned when interaction occurred.

  • Mountain homeland helps preserve it.



  • Is Indo-European, but has changed less than any other language of the Germanic Branch over the last 1k years.

  • Colonized by Norwegians in 874 AD.

  • The language of migrants usually changes with interaction of others… in this case, they had very little contact with other ethnicities.

Global domination of english


  • One of the most fundamental needs in a global society is the need for communication.

  • Today, that need is being met by English.

  • People of different languages speak English to each other quite often to communicate.

  • 75% of Internet is in English.

English an example of a lingua franca

English: an example of a lingua franca

  • A language of international communication, such as English, is known as a lingua franca. Other examples of modern lingua francas are Swahili, Hindustani, and Russian.

  • To facilitate trade, speakers of two languages would create a lingua franca by mixing parts of the two languages into a simple, common language.

The lingua franca joke

The Lingua Franca Joke…

  • The European Language Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the EU rather than German, which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty’s government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5 year phase in plan that would be known as “EuroEnglish”:

  • In the first year, “s” will replace the soft “c”..sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard “c” will be dropped in favor of the “k”. This should klear up konfusion and keyboards kan have 1 less letter.

Chapter 5 language

  • There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome “ph” will be replaced with the “f”. This will make words like “fotograf” 20% shorter.

  • In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent “e”’s in the language is disgracful, and they should go away.

  • By the 4th yar, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing “th” with “z” and “w” with “v”. During ze fifz year, ze unesesary “o” kan be dropd from vords kontaiining “ou” and similar

Chapter 5 language

  • changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.

  • After zis fifz yer, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubls or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech ozer.


Chapter 5 language

  • A group that learns English or another lingua franca may learn a simplified form, called a pidgin language.

  • To communicate, speakers make a pidgin language by learning a few of the grammar rules and words of the lingua franca, while mixing in their own words.

  • Has no native speakers. Is learned in addition to their own language.

Diffusion to other languages

Diffusion to Other Languages

  • English words have become increasingly integrated into other languages.

  • Franglais – widespread use of English in the French language. Combination of “Francais” and “Anglais.” French used to be the global lingua franca. Many French feel English is destroying their language. Since 1635, the French Academy has been the arbiter of the French language.

Chapter 5 language

  • Spanglish – English is diffusing into Spanish (spoken by 25 million in US alone). Is more of an integration of English into Spanish than just borrowing words like in Franglais. Has become really wide spread in popular culture, such as in lyrics, TV, and magazines.

Expansion diffusion of english

Expansion diffusion of English

  • Current expansion of English is not due to military conquest or migration.

  • It is due to expansion diffusion, the spread of a trait through the snowball effect of an idea.

  • For a language to remain useful, it must add new words and usage to deal with new situations.

  • Unlike most languages, English changes from the bottom up… ethnic languages (Ebonics, Appalachian dialects).

  • It stays up to date and even fuses with other languages.

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