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Old November 15th, 2012, 01:49 AM   #11
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I feel that the languages surviving today that share the most similarities to the 'mother language' are the Khoisan languages in parts of Africa, known commonly as the click languages. The Khoi incorporate over 200 sound variations in their speech pattern, wheras English only uses 46. The mother tongue must have been quite sophistocated.
I've never understood why people have the idea that Khoisan languages are at all close to any ancestral language. Because they mostly live as hunter-gatherers? Or because they're in the areas we think of as humanity's cradle?

While languages everywhere else in the world were rapidly diverging, they were also rapidly diverging back in humanity's homeland. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to assume that anything in their languages bears any relationship to anything spoken 100,000 years ago, beyond the slightly patronising attitude that these are the 'original humans', still living as everyone used to back in the day . The complex sophistication of their languages, and the unique sounds found within them, have had millenia to evolve - just as the unique features of other language groups have.

Most tellingly, it's not even clear if the Khoisan languages form a family. Linguists are in disagreement over whether the similarities between them are due to descent from a common ancestor, or more recent borrowings and reciprocal influence between neighbouring languages.
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Old November 15th, 2012, 02:48 AM   #12
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I've never understood why people have the idea that Khoisan languages are at all close to any ancestral language. Because they mostly live as hunter-gatherers? Or because they're in the areas we think of as humanity's cradle?

While languages everywhere else in the world were rapidly diverging, they were also rapidly diverging back in humanity's homeland. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to assume that anything in their languages bears any relationship to anything spoken 100,000 years ago, beyond the slightly patronising attitude that these are the 'original humans', still living as everyone used to back in the day . The complex sophistication of their languages, and the unique sounds found within them, have had millenia to evolve - just as the unique features of other language groups have.

Most tellingly, it's not even clear if the Khoisan languages form a family. Linguists are in disagreement over whether the similarities between them are due to descent from a common ancestor, or more recent borrowings and reciprocal influence between neighbouring languages.
From my limited knowledge on this issue must wholeheartedly agree with this superb summary.

Any good online material you would recommend on the Khoisan linguistics?
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Old November 15th, 2012, 02:49 AM   #13
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For the record, why is this thread in the speculative (alternative) history Forum?
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Old November 15th, 2012, 03:33 AM   #14
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From my limited knowledge on this issue must wholeheartedly agree with this superb summary.

Any good online material you would recommend on the Khoisan linguistics?
Afraid not - my argument was based on general principles rather than any detailed (or even superficial) knowledge of Khoisan linguistics. I only looked on wikipedia to find out how closely related these languages were.
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Old November 15th, 2012, 10:00 AM   #15

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In Click Languages, an Echo of the Tongues of the Ancients - New York Times
I feel the 'Khoisan' languages are the oldest surviving due largely to the fact that a 'click' language was once spoken in Australia. And since we've no indication of peoples migrating back to Africa from that far I suggest they originated in Africa. While they are probably much different from the first language I feel they are probably amongst the oldest still spoken today
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Old November 15th, 2012, 10:02 AM   #16

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Indo-European languages - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Some examples are on basic linguistic similarities.

Mater-mother in latin[source of english and many romance languages]
Madar[in persian]
Mata[sanskrit,source of indic languages]

Pater-latin for father
Pidar-persian
Pita-sanskrit

Ignis- latin for fire
Agni-sanskrit for fire
Ogun- slavic languages[fire]

Dyaus pita- sky god/sky father in sanskrit
Zeus pater- king of gods in greek
Ijupiter- king of gods,romans
Teuz-germanic
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Old November 15th, 2012, 10:10 AM   #17

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Also, click noises would have been the first sounds languageless peoples would have been able to mimic from themselves. What I mean by this is during eating or drinking or even when being thirsty people would start to identify them and know how to create them with their own tongues and teeth. The 'smack' sound made when your mouth is very dry could have very easily become the (or part of the) word for 'thirsty' or 'water'. And was probably understood as such by an observer when the thirsty individual was not even attempting to relay it to anyone.
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Old November 15th, 2012, 11:01 AM   #18

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There are supposedly three major migrations that flow from human genetics in early human history. The first one out of Africa. So all human languages should be directly connected to this first migration. The second came out of Eastern Siberia after the Toba explosion 70,000 years ago. The third migration was supposedly out of Japan which is relatively more recent. Technically all languages should be directly related to the original migration from Africa. However, whatever language this was must have been very simple. And much more easily very mutable as language so often is. There are hundreds of languages and thousands of dialects. The infusion of humans from Siberia and Japan would have heavily affected future language transmission.
There have been major indications that all of the Indo-European languages emerged from somewhere in Anatolia (Turkey) around 15,000 years ago. With all other areas of the World except Africa being affected by the languages that originally came out of Siberia and those that came out of Japan. The original Indo-European language is most likely a carry over of the original African one mixed with an evolution of the Siberian offshoot. Most of the Asian languages could very well be a mix of that original Siberian language mixed with the original Japanese transmission.
What is probably the most universal spoken word is "ma" which is very close to the sound a suckling baby makes when it is hungry. The sound of Mumm-mumm-mumm!
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Old November 16th, 2012, 01:36 AM   #19
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In Click Languages, an Echo of the Tongues of the Ancients - New York Times
I feel the 'Khoisan' languages are the oldest surviving due largely to the fact that a 'click' language was once spoken in Australia. And since we've no indication of peoples migrating back to Africa from that far I suggest they originated in Africa. While they are probably much different from the first language I feel they are probably amongst the oldest still spoken today
That article betrays a deep confusion that always seems to crop up whenever people discuss ths San. The idea that they are the oldest people on earth. What is really meant is that the genetic divergence between them and other people is the oldest. It just means that all other people are more closely related to each other than they are to the San, not that the San are older, as if this makes any sense. We all come from the same ancestors, so talking about some group being older than any other is pretty incoherent, and leads people to make false assumptions that things in San culture haven't changed, as you seem to be doing with language.

Whether or not clicks were present in the ancestral tongue has no bearing on whether San languages are older. Maybe the Ur-language contained a 'sh' sound, or a 'th'. This does not make languages that contain those sounds older than those that don't.

As is mentioned in the New York Times article, some of the different click languages are completely different from one another. They have completely different vocabularly and completely different grammar, and bear almost no relation to each other except for the prescence of clicks. They must, then, be completely unlike the ancestral language also - it makes no sense to describe them as being more like this language simply due to the prescence of a sound you consider unusual (if the Ur-language did, indeed, have this sound).

As for whether they are amongst the oldest languages, by any sensible manner this is certainly false - they are young languages. Languages change quicker when spoken by smaller groups; and when spoken by illiterate people. A language spoken by a small group of hunter-gatherers, then, will have changed a lot more over recent centuries than one spoken in a large literate society. If you want to find the oldest languages, you should be looking for things like Greek, or Chinese.
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Old November 16th, 2012, 09:54 AM   #20

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On thing for sure. Any language that carries a similar sounding word for the same meaning has commonality with other languages that have similar sounding words for the same meaning. Words do not spontaneously pop up with similar sounds for the same meaning. This is caused by linguistic connectivity. Strangely, today many English words for common cultural meanings are entering into the many languages of this planet. Will future linguists lose track of these origins and get them confused as to where they once originated from? With all the cultural diffusion underway, eventually a single planetary language may one day evolve. Such already is occurring in science and mathematics.
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