language evolution

idk I just love how we Young People Today use ~improper~ punctuation/grammar in actually really defined ways to express tone without having to explicitly state tone like that’s just really fucking cool, like

no    =    “No,” she said. 

no.    =    "No,” she said sharply.

No    =    “No,” she stated firmly.

No.    =    “No,” she snapped.

NO    =    “No!” she shouted.

noooooo    =    “No,” she moaned.

no~    =    “No,” she said with a drawn-out sing-song.

~no~    =    “No,” she drawled sarcastically.

NOOOOO    =    “No!” she screamed dramatically.

no?!    =    “No,” she said incredulously.

mashable.com
English Has a New Preposition, Because Internet

However it originated, though, the usage of “because-noun” (and of “because-adjective” and “because-gerund”) is one of those distinctly of-the-Internet, by-the-Internet movements of language. It conveys focus (linguist Gretchen McCulloch: “It means something like ‘I’m so busy being totally absorbed by X that I don’t need to explain further, and you should know about this because it’s a completely valid incredibly important thing to be doing’”). It conveys brevity (Carey: “It has a snappy, jocular feel, with a syntactic jolt that allows long explanations to be forgone” “It has a snappy, jocular feel, with a syntactic jolt that allows long explanations to be forgone”).

But it also conveys a certain universality. When I say, for example, “The talks broke down because politics,” I’m not just describing a circumstance. I’m also describing a category. I’m making grand and yet ironized claims, announcing a situation and commenting on that situation at the same time. I’m offering an explanation and rolling my eyes — and I’m able to do it with one little word. Because variety. Because Internet. Because language.

i always wonder why people even only a century ago were so much more articulate like why does it seem like when you read diary entries or whatever from the early 1900s it sounds like they’re writing poetry when they were just talking about their day like when and why did our common style of speaking switch from so intricate to like as simple and to the point as possible. also if someone back then heard the way we speak now would they think we’re dumb or be completely lost by how much shorter everything is also why is the evolution of language so fascinating

news.berkeley.edu
Dothraki developer, invented-language leader to teach summer class
David J. Peterson, who created the new language for HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones,’ found his passion for linguistics as a Berkeley undergrad

Here’s an article on my new conlang course at UC Berkeley being offered this summer. I translated and recorded part of Cal’s fight song for it. :)

i’m on summer break right now.

relaxing

▸ cleaning out last year’s papers. separate everything into things you may need next year (important papers, prerequisite course papers, etc.) and things to throw out. it feels so so refreshing to get old papers out of the way

▸ going outside. schoolwork sometimes makes it difficult to get outside during the school year so I take advantage of the summer break to get some fresh air and unwind. I like to garden and go for runs / walks. nature makes me very happy.

▸ eating good food. it’s so so great to be able to take the time and enjoy what I eat and try seasonal foods and new things. also: fruit always tastes so much sweeter during the summer + there’s a lot of fruit picking going on so I usually go with friends and family to pick and eat together. and there are usually more vendors that come to farmers markets during the summer so check those out!

▸ catching up on books. during the school year I don’t get time to read a lot so every summer I look forward to going to the library and getting books to read. 

▸ visit new places you’ve always wanted to go to. I’m planning on going to a couple cool places downtown with friends + family and there’s a botanical garden in my area that holds fun summer events. you can have fun without it costing you much at all!

learning 

▸ skills. try something new, start a new project! I’m going to try and learn something new on the piano and work on a scarf for the winter time.

▸ preview for the upcoming school year. don’t stress about it. go at a relaxed pace and skim through the material a bit. you’ll get a better understanding of the topics and it will be easier to grasp concepts during the school year. Here’s a post I’ve made on summer studies.

▸ learn something you’re interested in. if there is a topic you’re really passionate about or something you really like, learn more about it. I’ve always wanted to know more about the evolution of language so I’ll be reading about that during the summer time.

▸ visit museums. they often have cool and interesting exhibits. if you hear about one you think you would like, go for it!! 

▸ writing. if you like that sort of thing. I like writing poems and I’m also working on a story. I feel like my brain is more open during summer break and just works better in general.

reminders

▸ hydration hydration. drink lots of water and try different lemonades and teas.

▸ skin care. sunblock is necessary for healthy skin and you need to put some on so that you don’t get a painful sunburn. also be sure to moisturize your skin during the summer so that it doesn’t dry out. I like to use a ginger cream because it smells wonderful and it’s very light (I don’t like sticky and thick moisturizers).

▸ don’t stress. just relax and go about your day, don’t make a confining schedule because it’s often stressful when you aren’t able to do things exactly at that time and suddenly summer doesn’t feel so relaxing or free anymore. you need to find the balance between being productive and having a day that flows smoothly.

have a lovely summer! -hana from kiyoko-studies

Ok I don’t have anyone to talk to right now, I just had to be socially trans in person for an hour while signing legal forms, and I’m strung out and tired. SO I’M GOING TO RANT ABOUT CONSTRUCTED LANGUAGES AND MAGICAL SCRIPTS.

Look, I get it. You want your conlang/magic script to look mystical, cryptic, special. You want it to look different than any other language while still looking like a language people write in. If you’re a spiritual person or magic-user this may even be a language you’re channeling and that you believe to be ancient in nature or otherwise pre-existing. But 95% of conlangs and magical scripts look totally fake and made-up, and this is not a judgment I’m casting on their actual grammatical structure or language theory or the languages they were based on. The thing that makes a language look like one people ever actually wrote in for hundreds of years, that makes it look like the letters/characters are all from the same language, is that it looks like a language that’s been written in whatever tools you are claiming or feel like it was traditionally written in.

Let’s take cuneiform:

Looks super-neat, right? Man, who’d ever think of having those wedges in an alphabet! It’s totally different than most modern languages out there and very distinctive, and the wedges are consistent across the letters, so it makes them all look like they’re from the same alphabet. This wasn’t just arbitrarily designed as a font style. There is a reason for this!

Cuneiform writing was pressed into wet clay with these shaped bits and that’s why it looks like that. It got stamped with wedges. That’s how (this type of) writing was done at the time. It’s a technological solution and that’s what makes the lettering get that peculiar stylization. You’ll get variants based on craftsmanship and tools, but basically the method is the same across various implementations. Once someone tried to write that in pencil, you could imagine it’d look different, and you’d see evidence of people’s hand-motion between strokes, becoming more of a tilt between letters.

For instance, English looks like it does, even in tumblr’s sans-serif fonts, because it can be constructed with a pen. When it gets fancy with a variable-width pressure-sensitive pen nib, you can get more complex and flowy, but notice the flow and arc still go with the movements natural for a hand to make:

Originally posted by heaven-knows-im-miserable-n0w

Those little trails between letters exist today because nib pens were drippy and left ink trails. The written language adapted to the tools to incorporate the trails and still make it look legible, and that’s why we have cursive writing at all. This is a simplified history but it’s basically there to make you think about the letter shapes in various traditional ways of writing in English and why it looks like it does instead of like cuneiform.

Which brings me to conlangs. If you want your brand new ancient-looking language to truly look like people have used it for eons, write it out with the tools you think those people would have used, and keep adapting the letters if you find that, say, a brush or nib pen can’t construct the weird arcs and whirls you’ve designed the language to have. Languages by and large are made to be convenient to write. If you don’t know how to write kanji, Chinese words probably look complex and arbitrary to you. But their shapes are logical when you see them written with a brush:

So if you have some arcane-looking swooshy script but it still looks kind of fake, think about where the weight should really be. It should be where the brush presses down heavier and the trailing marks are where the brush lifts up (and usually leaves the paper and ends the stroke). Where the stroke is wide on one end is where the brush initially met the paper. Above, you can see how one swish immediately flows into another, the strokes are like arrows leading across the page when you understand how they’re created. Pick up a brush and figure out an actual stroke order for your symbol. If logically the stroke seems like it’d leave someone’s hand smearing it trying to follow its arc, then logically that symbol would eventually get redesigned if it were in an actual language. Someone would figure out a better way to write it and everyone would adopt that way over time.

So practice writing your language with different tools. Consider a calligraphy course or even just a kit with a guidebook (or youtube training videos!). Written language is a tool that people use, magical as it can be. And if you’re using it for magical purposes such as woodburning it into tools or painting it onto things or writing it onto paper, consider that your symbols will change a bit according to the tools, just like with mundane languages. A wedge-shaped wood burner will get you something a bit closer to cuneiform. A brush will get you something flowy and not super-precise. Pencil will not leave ink trails and will get you something more technical and practical. Your written language logically should shift for that and adapt like a proper tool. And if you do that right, if you really use it, then it will look much more genuine because it will have experienced an actual evolution of form adapting to the physical tools it’s been worked with via.

And if you’re not using it for magic but are just using it for a fantasy setting where people use it for magic in the story, all the above would still apply to them.

Even with just one symbol not meant to be in a greater language, think about the tool you’re creating it with. It’s hard to make a realistic brush-style symbol in pencil. Use the tool that fits the symbol and you’ll produce something much more genuine-looking.

That’s it! I’m not a language expert, this is not meant to be A Real Factual History Of All Language, it’s just a rough primer in How To Make It Look Like A Language Is Actually Written With. It’s not meant to be a critique in whether your magical language is “real” enough or “magical” enough either. It’s simply some pointers in how to make a magical/constructed language that’s actually reasonable to write with and suits the tools you’re writing it with and the purposes you mean it for. Hundreds of years of written language evolution is hard to replace, but I believe in you.

Few things in this world are static and unchanging. Probably nothing in this world is.

Languages change as is their nature. Knowledge increases and sometimes is lost or destroyed. Life evolves into new beings. Even space itself expands and changes scale.

The fact that some ways of being nonbinary are old and some are new is not jarring to an open mind.

Just because nonbinary people may not fit with an old, specific way of thinking, doesn’t mean that nonbinary people aren’t real.

The world is always in flux, and it’s our job to adapt to it.

6

About thirty minutes away from where I live, there is a small Chinese bookshop hidden away in the corner of a noisy, crowded mall. The last time that I visited it, I came across this little gem, titled 画说汉字 (huàshuōhànzì). It’s somewhat of a dictionary, with entries for one thousand characters organized in alphabetical order. However, its main purpose is to explain the evolution of Chinese characters throughout the different periods.

It begins with an illustration of each word, followed by the character as it evolved through four scripts or forms. The earliest is typically 甲骨文 (jiǎgǔwén) or Oracle Bone Script, which is the earliest form of Chinese characters. Next is 小篆 (xiǎozhuàn) or Small Seal Script, which was popular during the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC). The third form is usually 隶书 (lìshū) or Clerical Script, used mainly during the Han Dynastry (206 BC - 220 AD). Finally, 楷体 (kǎitǐ) or Regular Script is the last major stage of evolution, and this is the script used for Traditional Chinese characters today (although Simplified characters can also use it). Certain entries in the book also use other scripts, such as 金文 (jīnwén), but the majority of the entries follow the above four scripts.

Each entry in the book also provides an overview of the meaning and usage of the character as well as a brief history, allowing readers to better understand and appreciate the characters that constitute the Chinese language.

Why does English still have the “TH” sound?

The interesting thing about this topic is that English is one of two languages of the Germanic family that has retained the feature commonly called the <TH>-sound which stands for the dental fricatives /θ ð/. If you have a look at the map below which highlights the Germanic tongues in red, only Icelandic and British English (from England, Wales, Scotland + Northern Ireland) in darker red sport these sounds. It is also fascinating because there was a time when the ancestors of all these tongues had dental fricatives but lost them over the last centuries.

Then, why did English maintain a sound that was lost in almost all its sister-languages despite centuries of evolution side-by-side?

Grimm’s Law

First, you have to understand that on the whole, Germanic languages phonetically stand out from the rest of the Indo-European languages for a set of processes that made original IE sounds move one step closer towards fricatives. These evolutions were named Grimm’s Law, after Jacob Grimm discovered this phenomenon in 1875. This is a brief summary of what happened during the splitting of Germanic away from common IE:

This translates into these instances:

  • Greek: Podos/ Latin: Pedis/ Sanskrit: Pada vs English: Foot/ Danish: Fod/ Gothic:Fotus.
  • Greek: Tritos/ Welsh: Trydydd/ Russian: Tretij vs English: Third/ Old Saxon:  Thriddio/ Icelandic:  Þriðji.

There are many more examples but the most relevant here is of course the change of alveolar/dental stops /t d/ into the dental fricatives /θ ð/. This is the first steps in explaining the presence of dental fricatives in English. They descend from a millennia-old process that saw these sounds develop in all Germanic languages.

Verner’s Law

When Grimm’s Law was accepted, a new problem arose; some words clearly didn’t fit within the frame hypothesised by Grimm. For example, Proto-Indo-European pa’tēr turned into father instead of the expected fader while PIE ‘brahtēr gave brother like Grimm’s Law predicted. The alternation can also be found in different forms of verbs. So of course, Grimm must have missed something. It turned out that the solution lies in the change of accents in Proto-Germanic. While stress was relatively free (meaning rather unpredictable) in PIE, PG stress shifted and was placed on the root of the word. The evolution of the phonemes did not affect the consonant if it was word-initial or right behind a stressed vowel. The evolution of these consonants are illustrated in the table below:

This is the reason why PIE /t/ became [θ] and then [ð] in PG for *fadēr while *brōþēr remained untouched. This event helped increase the number  of instances of dental fricatives in Proto-Germanic. But it still doesn’t account for English dental fricatives. Be patient.

High German Consonant Shift  

A new phenomenon took place in the southern dialects of German in the 5th century that consisted in a large-scale shift in the consonantal system. By the mid-5th century, Old English had already been brought to Britain and thus remained utterly unaffected by these changes whose relevant features are the following:

  • θ > d
  • β > b
  • ð > d
  • ɣ > g

As you can see, the dental fricatives evolved into stops and were consequently lost in the phonology. The HGCS was not restricted to German as certain elements can be found as well in Dutch, Low German and Scandinavian Germanic. Probably under the influence of German in the following centuries, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish lost their own dental fricatives as there were multiple and intense cultural and linguistic exchanges between German and “Scandinavian”.

While English, isolated geographically from the rest of Europe and from Germanic influence because of Roman and Norman Conquest, kept /θ ð/. It’s interesting to note that Britons did not have as much as Romans and Normans the inclination to write. Manuscripts by monks may have helped bring a certain standardisation to the language.

Two additional and contradictory phenomena took place in Middle English where /d/ changed to [ð] and /ð/ to [d]. This is why fader changed to father and murðer changed to murder. The sequence of /d/ + unstressed ending -er triggered its evolution to [ð].

In short, dental fricatives appeared in Proto-Germanic via Grimm’s Law and Verner’s Law and Old English managed to maintain [θ] and [ð] because it left the continent before the effects of the High German Consonant Shift could be felt. Its geographical isolation (being on an island) certainly helped protect the relic of the Germanic legacy.

I saw once that Welsh may have had an influence on the upholding of these sounds since both languages had them. However, Latin and French were much more powerful influences on English but that did not impact the keeping of the dental fricatives so a foreign language influence is not really believable. However, French might have contributed to the phonemisation of [ð]. Before French came to Britain, /z v ð/ were only the voiced allophones of /s f θ/. By introducing new graphemes for sounds that were not “official” in English, it turned them into unquestionable elements of the phonology of English.

Isolation may be the biggest driving force on the upholding of these sounds since Icelandic, in a relative similar position, is the only other Germanic language with dental fricatives.

Further reading:

High German Consonant Shift

Grimm’s Law

Verner’s Law

Icelandic Phonology

“Notice Earth is a Timeship on a galactic mission. Time is the current dictator or creator of life and limits its functions on this planet. Many people feel stuck in what may be termed 3-D time loops. Until awakening, one cannot recognize programmed thought patterns, repeating situations and energetic interactions. This is reinforced by regularly-celebrated occasions and the nature of the calendar imposed behind it all. Collective perception is manipulated away from galactic central Time and the hidden power of numbers is widely forgotten. The result is illusions of separation, amnesia about equality of everything from gender to how we unconsciously co-create each moment based on the degree of active/ inactive DNA, and how DNA is reprogrammable via frequency. The orbits of planets in our solar system hold different frequencies of different stages and levels of consciousness. The Sun however, is undergoing inner transformation as part of stellar evolution. Its process mirrors the ongoing expansion of human consciousness. Human beings are re-calibrating genetically and changing sense of time according to a galactic harmonic timing frequency. Information upgrades are transferred via radiogenetics (light codes/ infrasound). Synchronicity is crop circles emerging near sacred sites. The cells of the plants are constantly communicating with all other cells, including human body cells. Imagine human beings are creating/ co-creating ‘real’ crop circles on an unconscious level with a galactic plan. The point is to establish a telepathic matrix where a critical mass of humans bond with Earth’s etheric, magnetic and biopsychic fields to function as a planet (The word ‘planet’ means ‘wandering star’) and active member of a wider galaxies. Each human being is then, 'the Living Book of God.’ The story of life is held within chambers of the human genome expressing our species’ evolution through time. It is encoded as sacred geometry, the language of consciousness which we are each gradually unpacking. It’s like a computer store of the memory is encoded in our DNA, a crystal microchip specific to each individual. Once DNA is fully active, infinity is no longer simply the illusion created by measure of linear time. The Spiritual Sun arises.” - Liara Covert

youtube

How languages evolve - Alex Gendler

youtube

We were really excited to get a chance to talk with Dr. Tecumseh Fitch! Dr. Fitch is an evolutionary biologist and cognitive scientist who received his PhD from Brown University, and is now a professor in the Department of Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna. He’s published extensively on the evolution of speech, language, and music, and is the author of the 2010 book The Evolution of Language.

In our interview, we discussed the following topics:
- his recent research on whether it’s anatomy or neurology holding back monkeys from speech
- his thoughts on Darwin’s hypotheses about how language may have evolved
- how to come up with good hypotheses about how language evolved, given that it doesn’t leave fossils
- what he believes is different about humans that led to the development of language

… and more! Thanks to Dr. Fitch for talking with us. Looking forward to hearing what people have to say!

Honestly before I discovered the langblr community I had never met anyone who actually wanted to study 10 languages at once or got excited about etymology or anyone who was interested in language evolution, and now I know so many of you and it’s great. You’re all such nerds and I love you for it