Language Evolution Over Time (New Words; Inter-Era Intelligibility; Etc.)

blessmycottonsocks

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Not sure if this is the best thread but, for anyone interested in the evolution of language, this article from today's Quora gives a fascinating summary of how Armenian has diverged so dramatically from its Proto-Indo-European roots:

"Armenian is distantly related to English. I say “distantly” because, rather than slowly drifting away from its relatives like most languages do, it’s paddling away at high speed. Unlike English or French, which have larger Germanic and Romance subfamilies respectively, Armenian has left any close relatives far behind.

It began its life on the river of language as Proto-Indo-European, a language that spent the next few thousand years fracturing into lots of different languages, like Proto-Germanic, Proto-Latin, Proto-Greek, Proto-Slavic, and the unexpectedly competitive little Proto-Armenian. “Normal linguistic development be damned!” it exclaimed, and sailed off into the distance.

We can start with some relatively normal sound changes. Armenian took all its p sounds and turned them into h sounds, and then it took all its s sounds and also turned them into h sounds. These changes might seem weird, and if you’re not familiar with the whole sound-change business they definitely are, but these sorts of things happen all the time. Greek, for instance, also turned all those s sounds at the beginning of a word into h sounds, which is why you have Latin septem but Greek hepta for “seven”.

This has lead to a number of superficially bizarre changes, like the word for “father”, *pater in Proto-Indo-European, swapping its p for an h and its t for a y to become hayr. Alright, that’s not too weird, is it? Well, yes, it is, but it’s not that weird. But, not to leave anything too simple, Armenian used the same common sound changes to turn the word for “five”, *penkwe in PIE, into the word hing. It still means “five”, and it’s still related, but the sound changes it went through turned it into a completely unrecognizable number.

Its most famous sound changes of all, though, are undeniably the ones involving w. Armenian has never been much for w sounds, and turned a whole whack of them into g sounds at one point. It hated combinations of a consonant and a w with a passion - and PIE had lots of these w-combination sounds, like sw in the word *swesor (“sister”) or dw in the word *dwo (“two”). Armenian wanted them out, and it would do anything it took to get rid of them.

Anything. Even if that meant turning the w-combinations into completely different sounds that they should not have changed into. The sw and tw sounds got shifted to none other than the kh sound. *Swesor became khoyr. This is a very weird thing indeed. *Presgwus (“elder”), too, developed into the word erech for no good reason at all.

But dw got the worst of it. As mentioned above, the word for “two” in PIE was *dwo, which is where we get the words “two” and “duo” from. If Armenian had behaved like a normal language, it could have kept the dw sound, or maybe turned it into a tw sound, or even a tv sound if it really wanted to (cf. Swedish två, also from *dwo). Alas, no, it could not content itself with the pitiful ranks of its phonological contemporaries; it turned the dw sound into erk.

Erk.

It turned the dw sound into the erk sound. Dwo became erku. Dweh₂ro-, “long”, became erkar. Where English has the perfectly good verb “dwell”, Armenian decided it should have argellum. This is an actual sound change that happened.

With many of its w’s now gone, Armenian had a sudden change of heart: as much as it had loathed these sounds, it enjoyed their company. In a gesture of forgiveness, whenever tr or kr, tl, or pn sounds appeared in the middle of a word, it turned them into wr, wl, and wn sounds respectively.

To give you an even better idea of just how extraordinary Armenian’s journey away from its siblings is, here’s the numbers from one to ten in Proto-Indo-European alongside their Armenian descendants. Every Armenian word here does really come from that PIE root, and with the exception of the word for “one” they’re all related to their English counterparts.

One - PIE *sem, Armenian mek: PIE had two words for “one”: *oynos and *sem. Proto-Armenian pulled *sem out into grand *smiyeh₂-, then chopped off half the sounds again to make mi for number one. It proceeded to stick the multipurpose suffix -ak on for a good ol’ miak, and then compress the vowels to make the modern word for “one”, mek.
Two - PIE *dwo, Armenian erku: As covered above, the dw sound inexplicably turned into an erk sound. This has left a lot of Armenian linguists very confused and been widely regarded as a bad move.
Three - PIE *treyes, Armenian erek: Armenian threw away that first t and exclaimed, “Normal linguistic development be damned!”.
Four - PIE *kwetwores, Armenian chhors: First it threw away the second of those wretched w’s, then shifted the kw to a puffy chh sound and stomped some of the vowels out.
Five - PIE *penkwe, Armenian hing: To develop Armenian words, take your starting word, shift any present p or s sounds to h sounds, and stir angrily for four millennia.
Six - PIE *swek’s, Armenian vetsh: The s had long run away in fear by this point, leaving a plain *wek’s whose w had unwisely still remained and was zapped into a v sound. The k’s was close enough to a tsh sound that it willingly ran over into that direction, entering vetsh into its final form.
Seven - PIE *septm, Armenian yoth: The s had of course long since left. An enterprising vowel took its place, leaving eaptm. Armenian was by now reconsidering its views on w’s, so it turned that eaptm to eawtm, and then further on to eowthn. The entrepreneurial e saw its chance and became a consonant just as the second syllable fled along with a still-shaken w, leaving behind modern yoth.
Eight - PIE *optow, Armenian uth: Armenian turned its p to an h and then got rid of it because it sounded funny. It turned the o to a u, scaring the final vowel. Worried for its fate, the ow fled; only an uth remained.
Nine - PIE *h₁newn, Armenian inə: The *h₁ fell off as per usual, and the initial n jumped over to be with its twin, hence Old Armenian inn. Alas, that one n turned into a vowel under the lack of stress to become a schwa, the little “ə”: the barely-present vowel in system or about.
Ten - PIE *dek’m, Armenian tasə: A few of Armenian’s more normal sound changes are the changes from d to t and from k’ to s, which are the ones that happened here to yield Old Armenian tasn. Eventually, though, the n collapsed into a schwa again; today’s Armenians count from mek to tasə.
To answer your question, while you could name several languages with only one weird sound change to their name, Armenian wins the all-around freestyle sound-changing gold medal."
 

blessmycottonsocks

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Great article in today's Guardian calling for the rehabilitation of long-forgotten words, officially known as "orphaned negatives".

Hope you appreciate my feck in posting this and, if you apply gorm in reading it and enjoy the article then I will experience confelicity.
I particularly enjoyed cacklefarts for eggs!
I hope the word of the year for 2022 will be respair.

https://www.theguardian.com/comment...ir-cacklefart-positive-words-english-language
 

catseye

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I read somewhere about two people (I think it was a Chinese ambassador coming to Oxford to translate some writings, and the Chancellor of the University) trying to communicate using their common language, which was Latin. Because of their various idiosyncratic pronunciations, neither could understand the other, even though they were speaking the same tongue. So I'm not sure that even someone who'd studied Latin would be any good sent back to Roman Britain, unless they wrote everything down and held it up on an idiot-board.
 

Trevp666

It was like that when I got here.........honest!!!
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unless they wrote everything down
You're assuming an ability to read and write there, which was something in short supply generally amongst 'peasants'.
 

catseye

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You're assuming an ability to read and write there, which was something in short supply generally amongst 'peasants'.
But the peasants didn't speak Latin...
 

Kondoru

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If we look at the curse tablets we see a certain degree of common man using writing, to a common degree of inaccuracy.

In the classical world, I suspect most shopkeepers could puzzle out a shopping list.
 

Cochise

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I read somewhere about two people (I think it was a Chinese ambassador coming to Oxford to translate some writings, and the Chancellor of the University) trying to communicate using their common language, which was Latin. Because of their various idiosyncratic pronunciations, neither could understand the other, even though they were speaking the same tongue. So I'm not sure that even someone who'd studied Latin would be any good sent back to Roman Britain, unless they wrote everything down and held it up on an idiot-board.
I understand the 'British' pronunciation of Latin, as taught in the best schools, was unintelligible to anyone else.
 

ChasFink

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Great article in today's Guardian calling for the rehabilitation of long-forgotten words, officially known as "orphaned negatives".
Technically not an orphaned negative, but...

When I was in the habit of visiting a bar that some friends hung out and/or worked at, I would pass the office of an investment firm called Gruntal & Co. I would sometimes remark to my friends that the people working there weren't very happy because when they walked out of the office they were disgruntaled.


My friends didn't laugh either.
 
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Cochise

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Technically not an orphaned negative, but...

When I was in the habit of visiting a bar that some friends hung out and/or worked at, I would pass the office of an investment firm called Gruntal & Co. I would sometimes remark to my friends that the people working there weren't very happy because when they walked out of the office they were disgruntaled.


My friends didn't laugh either.
Words don't die out as much as people think. it's because people confuse the written word with the spoken word. I seem to remember Bill Bryson talking about the obsolete word 'slobberchops' in a book he wrote maybe 30 years ago. Except it's still in normal use in what's left of my family for a messy eater.
 

ChasFink

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Words don't die out as much as people think. it's because people confuse the written word with the spoken word. I seem to remember Bill Bryson talking about the obsolete word 'slobberchops' in a book he wrote maybe 30 years ago. Except it's still in normal use in what's left of my family for a messy eater.
The word "dear", in the sense of "expensive", was almost unheard of in the US in my lifetime - except by my mother, who used it frequently.
 

blessmycottonsocks

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pie.png
 

Kondoru

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Oh, thats a great joke.

(So Five year olds speak Norman French, which is why I dont understand them?
 
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