Why words make language

From hieroglyphics to emojis, and grunts to gestures, humans have always used multiple modes to communicate, including language.

If you’ve ever sent a text using emojis, which the recipient received and understood, then you’ve communicated in a new language code. Communication codes have been with us since the grunts of our ancestors developed in to the first languages—Aramaic, Sanskrit, Tamil—the latter having made an appearance in 300 BC and considered the world’s oldest language.

Dr. Gilles Baro, a sociolinguist at Wits, says that what we consider languages today are “organised, systematised guides to communication”. “People have always communicated using multiple modes, such as gestures, sounds, words, scripts and images. Languages are one of those modes and they are not ‘invented’. Rather, people—usually the elite—decide on a norm for communication, and that is what we consider ‘language’ today.”

Linguistic migration

Over time, this code evolves, says Maxwell Kadenge, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Linguistics in the School of Literature, Language and Media at Wits. And where this code will be in future is anyone’s guess.

“Languages evolve naturally as a result of the migration of people, which in turn results in languages getting into contact with each other. Think of Afrikaans, which was originally spoken by the Dutch, but began to develop distinct characteristics as a result of its contact and borrowing from South African languages, especially Khoe and San languages.”

Similarly, says Kadenge, South African spoken languages that evolved because of contact between existing languages include Fanagalo and Tsotsitaal. “Both of them have borrowings from Bantu languages like Zulu, Xhosa, English and Afrikaans. Chilapalapa developed in Zimbabwe [then Rhodesia] from the contact between English, Shona varieties and Zambia languages,” he says.

Read more: phys.org

By |2019-11-12T18:25:57+00:00November 12th, 2019|Language, Words|0 Comments

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