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Chapter Five. Language and Religion: Mosaics of Culture they are mentifacts - component of the ideological subsystem of culture , serving as expressions of culture and as vehicles of its transmittal to succeeding generations. Definition of Languages. Language

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chapter five

Chapter Five

Language and Religion: Mosaics of Culture

they are mentifacts - component of the ideological subsystem of culture , serving as expressions of culture and as vehicles of its transmittal to succeeding generations.

definition of languages
Definition of Languages
  • Language
    • definition : an organized system of spoken words by which people communicate with each other with mutual comprehension. Like Chinese -Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghainese, Hakka, and others with different pronunciation but same written works.(Figure 5.3 – Chinese characters)
  • Communication of sound (vocalization) is the crucial part of this definition
  • Non-human languages- elephants, dolphins, chimpanzees - basic and static unlikely evolving into complex languages.
  • Languages are not static but change continuously
  • Modern English - computer expands the vocabulary of commonly used words.
extinction fear for languages
Extinction Fear for languages

TOP 10 LANGUAGES(percent of world speakers in parentheses)1. Mandarin/Chinese (16%)

2. English (8%)

3. Spanish (5%)

4. Arabic (4%)

5. (tie) Hindi, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian (3% each)

9. (tie) Japanese, French (2% each)Source: U.N. Environment Program

  • 6,800 world languages, nearly 1,700 languages are either endangered, critically endangered or vulnerable (report from Nature)
  • 27% of world languages are endangered.
  • Countries with the most endangered and extinct languages also have more endangered and extinct birds
  • here are 357 languages with fewer than 50 speakers each.


endangered languages
Endangered Languages

trace proto languages
Trace proto languages
  • Ancestral language
    • The predecessor of Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit
    • Link Romance language and other languages together

To prove its existence:

1) reconstruction

2) Locate the hearths

3) Diffusion routes must be traced

4) knowledge of the ways of life

  • Genetic classification: classification of languages by origin and historical relationship
language family
Language Family
  • proto-Indo-European languages (Fig 5.3) - originally hunters/fishers later became pastoralists and learnt to grow crops (in eastern Europe) 5000 bp.
  • Table 5.1
world pattern of languages
World Pattern of Languages
  • Language Spread - by migration, conquests, colonization. (fig 5.5)
  • Fig 5.6 - Amerindian language families
    • three waves of migration: Amerind, Na-Dene, and Eskimo-Aleut.
  • Innumerable indigenous languages - extinguished.
  • Colonization and conquest - 1000 to 2000 Amerindian languages disappeared
  • 16th century - Slavic expansion caused the lost of Paleo-Asiatic languages
  • Australian languages from English speakers
  • Austro-Asiatic speakers reduced by conquest/absorption (Sino-Tibetan)
  • Arabic/Bantu expansion
  • Latin replaced Celtic (abandonment of former languages)
  • Adoption (expansion diffusion, acculturation) - major cause of language spread. Indo-European languages was dispersed to other areas.
  • Arabic to N Africa,W Asia through conquest/religious conversion and superiority of culture
  • Relocation Diffusion - massive migration
  • Hierarchical Diffusion - adoption of new languages from administrator-schooling-daily contact-business.. proficiency of new languages symbolizing the culture and education, social status (in Uganda, English instead of Swahili being used to display the prestige..)
  • Cultural Barriers - (Greek/Turkish.. Cyprus, Breton/Caelic..)
  • Physical barriers - Pamirs/Hindu Kush mountains..obstacle for Indo-European), Euskara (in Basques)