where does language come from?

via dienekes (go there for all the juicy bits!):

Parallel Evolution of Genes and Languages in the Caucasus Region

“We analyzed 40 SNP and 19 STR Y-chromosomal markers in a large sample of 1,525 indigenous individuals from 14 populations in the Caucasus and 254 additional individuals representing potential source populations. We also employed a lexicostatistical approach to reconstruct the history of the languages of the North Caucasian family spoken by the Caucasus populations. We found a different major haplogroup to be prevalent in each of four sets of populations that occupy distinct geographic regions and belong to different linguistic branches. The haplogroup frequencies correlated with geography and, even more strongly, with language. Within haplogroups, a number of haplotype clusters were shown to be specific to individual populations and languages. The data suggested a direct origin of Caucasus male lineages from the Near East, followed by high levels of isolation, differentiation and genetic drift in situ. Comparison of genetic and linguistic reconstructions covering the last few millennia showed striking correspondences between the topology and dates of the respective gene and language trees, and with documented historical events. Overall, in the Caucasus region, unmatched levels of gene-language co-evolution occurred within geographically isolated populations, probably due to its mountainous terrain.”

i still can’t help thinking that different languages arise (arose) because different peoples think kinda differently. clearly speaking different languages can keep populations separated from one another (it’s easier to mate with someone with whom you can communicate) … but which came first? how we think or how we speak?

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which came first?

how we think or how we speak?

from boingboing:

“In English, we use ‘I am’ statements to describe our current biological state, things that are happening to us, or events that we are experiencing. We say, ‘I am hungry.’ We say, ‘I am dying.’

“But that’s not how it works in Irish. Yesterday, during a panel called There’s Perception, and Then There’s Reality, Irish storyteller Clare Murphy talked briefly about how the language you speak alters the way that you perceive the world. The Irish equivalents of ‘I am hungry’ and ‘I am dying’, for example, would literally translate into English as, ‘Hunger is upon me’ and ‘Death is beside me.'”

“how the language you speak alters the way that you perceive the world.” ooooooooooooorrrr, maybe the way a people perceives the world (i.e. how their braiiiiiiinz work) affects the sort-of language they come up with?

i mean, after all, where does language come from? unless you adopt someone else’s language (like how almost everyone in central and south america now speaks a language they got from the spanish … who got their language from the romans), doesn’t language come from your brain? languages (to paraphrase jared taylor) don’t just drop down out of the sky … they come from different peoples. and maybe different languages are different because different peoples are different.

from newsweek:

“[W]hile English says ‘she broke the bowl’ even if it smashed accidentally (she dropped something on it, say), Spanish and Japanese describe the same event more like ‘the bowl broke itself.’ ‘When we show people video of the same event,’ says Boroditsky [language researcher @standford], ‘English speakers remember who was to blame even in an accident, but Spanish and Japanese speakers remember it less well than they do intentional actions. It raises questions about whether language affects even something as basic as how we construct our ideas of causality.'”

or maybe it raises the question: are the spanish and japanese more fatalistic than the english?

also from that newsweek article:

“Language even shapes what we see. People have a better memory for colors if different shades have distinct names—not English’s light blue and dark blue, for instance, but Russian’s goluboy and sinly. Skeptics of the language-shapes-thought claim have argued that that’s a trivial finding, showing only that people remember what they saw in both a visual form and a verbal one, but not proving that they actually see the hues differently. In an ingenious experiment, however, Boroditsky and colleagues showed volunteers three color swatches and asked them which of the bottom two was the same as the top one. Native Russian speakers were faster than English speakers when the colors had distinct names, suggesting that having a name for something allows you to perceive it more sharply.”

what i’d like to know is, were all the native russian speakers actually russian|slavic (as opposed to say some indigenous siberian groups or something)? ’cause perhaps slavs actually see blues differently|better than other peoples, and that is just reflected in their language. there is, after all, some evidence for physical differences in color perception in some humans. (not to mention color blindness.)

i’m sure language prolly affects how we think. it seems likely. but i also think it seems likely that how we think (differently) must affect our languages.

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