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Apr 10 2016 - 08:00 PM
What Word Connections Reveal About the Origin of Language

Have you ever wondered why we use the words we do? Where do the words water, rock or mountain come from? While etymology can teach us about the most recent evolution of these terms, it's more difficult to trace their origins the farther back in linguistic history you travel. At what point do different ancient languages look very similar? And what does that imply about the origin of communication and the way the human brain processes these concepts?

This vialogue describes a discovery that sheds some light on these linguistic mysteries. Linguists took words we use for nature, like sun, fire, and water, translated them into eighty-one languages, listed all the other meanings those words also had, and looked for underlying patterns and commonalities.

Languages as different as Spanish, Swahili, and Hopi all use nature words in similar ways and with similar meanings. Maybe this categorization seems fairly obvious, but it raises questions about how humans process ideas. Do our brains have a standard way of assigning words, and do all languages stem from a universal core? Add your own thoughts to the ongoing discussion on Vialogues.

Excerpts from the discussion:

@00:51 Dinosossi2: Once a language has a structure with words denoting meaning, it seems to make sense that meanings between them would tend to be similar across different languages. In short, the structure of language is similar but the constituent words may be different.

@02:01 Jennyshen: I think all languages stem from one universal purpose, but I feel like it would be tough to designate an original universal language.

|By: Sara Hardman|803 Reads