Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Language

Language defines culture and culture defines language. The Rosetta Stone software has long been used as a means of allowing people to learn a language outside the classroom.

Now archaeologists have found another use for the software - it's so good at constructing language that linguists can use it to put dead languages back together and back to life. I hope that this new use can also be made available to ethnic groups who's language has been lost, allowing them to resurrect that important part of their culture.

A living language, of course, evolves. Shakespeare and Chaucer both spoke English - but it takes practice to learn to read Chaucer in the original and some people struggle with Shakespeare. English is changing pretty rapidly right now...technology causes rapid language change as new words are constantly needed and old words gain new uses. For example, we talk about books being "in print" - even if the book is only available as a digital download. In a couple of centuries our descendants may have as much difficulty with what's being written now as we do with Shakespeare. Or even Chaucer. Still, the ancestors of our living languages can be traced.

Dead ones are another matter, and it would be nice to see some of them come back.