Language and the Human Understanding Through Time Essay examples

1000 Words 4 Pages
If we were time travelers, would we be able to understand our ancestors? Would we even be speaking the same language? Important questions about the definition of a language arise when temporal shifts come into play. Where is the line between a new language, and simply a dialect? Were Shakespeare and Chaucer writing in different languages? Does Barack Obama use a different dialect than George Washington did? The deciding factor of whether a language has evolved past the point of dialectical variation is mutual intelligibility, which can apply to linguistic changes based on geography, ethnicity, and, although it is less concrete, time. But this begs an important question: how can we test this? Because we are relying solely on textual …show more content…
If we were time travelers, would we be able to understand our ancestors? Would we even be speaking the same language? Important questions about the definition of a language arise when temporal shifts come into play. Where is the line between a new language, and simply a dialect? Were Shakespeare and Chaucer writing in different languages? Does Barack Obama use a different dialect than George Washington did? The deciding factor of whether a language has evolved past the point of dialectical variation is mutual intelligibility, which can apply to linguistic changes based on geography, ethnicity, and, although it is less concrete, time. But this begs an important question: how can we test this? Because we are relying solely on textual sources to gauge mutual intelligibility, it is impossible to say with certainty the effect of time on language. The process for determining whether time has created a new language is especially similar to that for geography. In fact, since the two variables run parallel to each other, it is often impossible to isolate geographic change from the factor of time. When looking at the evolution of Indo-European languages, for example, it is fair to say that all Indo-European languages were at one time dialects of a singular Proto-Indo-European language. As the geographic region where the language was spoken grew in size, the forms of the language started to vary from region to region. This happened because: Each and every child, during the