jeudi 17 janvier 2013
32 language families for 72 nations ...
Merritt Ruhlen enumerates 32 language families and isolates - from Khoisan (also known as hottentot and bushman) to Amerindian (which he admits is not yet considered a single family by all authorities) and including giants like Na-Dene and Indo-European - before enumerating 27 roots he considers Proto-World and which he finds in at least six families on the list.
After Babel, there were 72 nations. Some have coalesced since, some have branched off since. And ideally they all started off each with its own language, given by God as punishment for overdoing Human Unity into braving God. Each its own language, but a really new one. Not one slowly developed before as dialects or a dialect within a common language before a slow branching off made them separate, no, new ones.
So, why are there only 32 language families? Well, if all the world speaks 32 language families and still started out as 72 "unrelated" languages, there are only two options:
God gave each a language but not necessarily unrelated to other ones. If Abraham spoke Aramaic as native tongue - later reused by Hebrews like Ezra or the first Christians - some languages to branch out after Babel were related. So as to facilitate language learning later on. The languages of Mizraim - Hieratic, Demotic and Coptic Egyptian - and of Chanaan - including both Phoenician and the Biblical Hebrew that Abraham learned in Chanaan - were to start with related to Aramaic. Not genetically like Romance languages by all developing from Latin, but by the language construction that God did for that day. That could be true for other areas too: Iavan and Togarma (or their close successors) could have been given languages related from the start.
The other option is a relatedness coming from approach. Sprachbund is a term used about Balkanic languages and about what unites Karthvelian to certain other Caucasian ones and even to some degree Finnish and Swedish (both having ending after ending, like genitive after plural or passive after past, though in Finnish it is more pronounced, both having rounded front vowels y and ö (with y=ü) as well as mutual loan words). That does not imply Finnish and Swedish or Bulgarian and Roumanian are related closely. But that speech habits of bilinguals make for language cross overs.
Indo-European can have started out as independent branches approaching each other by some kind of lost Esperanto - especially as even Esperanto allows different pronunciations today, and as Latin allowed even more different pronunciations during the Middle Ages.
That basic grammatic forms would belong to that Esperanto and then been introduced as loan words into each of families is not a real problem to this theory. "Basic grammatic forms are very seldom borrowed" is one a priori which leads to the Proto-Langues-and-Branching-out Theory. But it is not proven.
Pidgins use grammatic morphemes from different bases, Greenlandic borrows all numerals above twelve from Danish, Japanese has "Personal Pronouns" that are nouns and is as much in a position to borrow Personal Pronouns - if it had as little cultural independence and pride, which is not the case - as Australian Aboriginl languages to borrow numerals. Indo-European verb system seems like a cross-over from Semitic Ablauts (simplified into e~o~zero) and Fenno-Ugrian personal endings. English has borrowed the word "very" from French, and Germanic probably the ending "-ari" (English/German "-er", Swedish "-are" etc.) from Latin "-arius".
And of course a grammatic feature from one language can be applied to a word from another. In Malta the English word Inch is pronounced "Insh", but its Arabic plural is "Unush." Often as in this case the grammatic feature is native and the word borrowed, but one can imagine the opposite process. Macaronic Poetry means applying by-now-foreign (though not originally so) Classical Latin endings to native Italian words.
Indo-European roots are not quite as stringently proven as Proto-World. For Indo-Europeanists two branches of Indo-European suffice (with presumably Italo-Celtic, Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranian pairs counting as each one branch), and Merritt Ruhlen takes six branches as a minimum. But one problem with accepting Proto-World as one once spoken language is the scarcity of roots. Would Indo-European be better off if Indo-Europeanists also required six branches in order to accept one root? Maybe not.
Bpi, Georges Pompidou, Paris