ARTS1691 - Historical Language Change

A Timeline of Sorts

(introducing different language stages and how we study them)

  • 400,000 years ago homo erectus migrated out of Africa (we can see the trail of crafted axes they left behind). Communication must have been around, in order to execute the migration and survive the Ice Age.
  • ~120,000 years ago the last major Ice Age ended and homo sapiens appeared.
  • 14,000 years ago homo sapiens are everywhere (we have remains from these dates to confirm this). They leave cave paintings, musical instruments and the feeling that they are not just talking, but also self-aware, behind.

Reasons for Transitions Between Mutually Intelligible Dialects and Distinct Discourses

  • Changes in Population Size
  • Victors and Losers of warfare
  • Disease
  • Climate change
  • Contact with neighbouring populations through the following brought about changes to larger populations, who in turn spread changes with new technological advances and transportation:
    • Trade
    • Exogamy
    • War

As some languages were stable, others were coming into existance as combinations of other languages. When these came to stable fruition, the process would start again, creating whole new families of languages heading towards our current spread.

Effect of Late Climate Change

When the ice-caps melted and lands began to separate it caused a few things to happen:

  • Agriculture developed and farming began in earnest
  • Languages were now tied to the land.

With languages being tied up in politics and powerful governing institutions a sense of pride and community developed based on what language they spoke. Partly this pride came from growing self-awareness and cognitive maturation, but also from a sense of preserving the great 'golden age' that was 'just passing'.