language birth

Thomas Paikeday thomaspaikeday at SPRINT.CA
Thu Jul 29 19:20:20 UTC 2004


Is the analogy of languages being born and dying like us animals correct or
useful? So-and-so may be said to have been born at 3:20 p.m. ET, July 29,
2004, according to  hospital records. Ditto for death. But can the same be
said of Latin and such "extinct" languages and "modern" languages like
Italian, French, etc.? More to the point of Dennis Baron's question: A
language could die by its speakers dying out, as it happened to the Beothuks
of Newfoundland. Even so, birth and death of languages seem a very slow
process with no clear boundaries between life and death. An expert in
Romance languages could probably tell us when Late Latin (a vague and
abstract term for what it's worth) became differentiated and how long it
took for the Romance languages to evolve so much they became mutually
unintelligible to their speakers, if that is a good criterion of the birth
of Italian et al.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Dennis Baron" <debaron at UIUC.EDU>
Sent: Thursday, July 29, 2004 2:26 PM
Subject: language birth

> ---------------------- Information from the mail
header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Dennis Baron <debaron at UIUC.EDU>
> Subject:      language birth
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Okay, this is probably a question I should know the answer to, but I
> can't think of an example. I'm writing about English as a world
> language and I want to say that one option for the future of English
> could be what happened to Latin, ie not death but a segue into a group
> of related new languages. Sure, it's unlikely, but my question is this:
> are there examples of language birth, like that of the Romance
> languages, only more recent?
> Dennis

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