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The Science of Language

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posted on Dec, 27 2006 @ 03:23 PM
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I am assuming this to be the best place to start this thread, science etc...

I was pondering what are the "corporate values"
(sum(values of corporate entities))
of differing cultures around the world.
Such as:
Japan
China
EU
US
And there respective level of technological achievement and,
do these factors relate to the complexity of differing languages.
By complexity, I mean numbers of sounds and letters of an alphabet.

All this in an attempt to answer this question: Does the complexity of a language have any correlation to the advancement of its civilization in respect to the other civilizations around the world.

If this is the case, what then could be said about differing alternative origins
and histories?




posted on Dec, 27 2006 @ 04:18 PM
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Originally posted by Viszet Oki

Does the complexity of a language have any correlation to the advancement of its civilization in respect to the other civilizations around the world.

If this is the case, what then could be said about differing alternative origins
and histories?


Hi Viszet,

Your question has been asked by many professional linguists over the years. Unfortuantely the first issue in analyzing the question is defining exactly what we mean by "complexity". What shall we use as criteria to define the complexity of a language, and how shall we establish that criteria in a way that is not ad hoc to our research or begs the question?

Let's look at the two criteria you put forward, although we could come up with many more. It's very difficult to analyze whether one language has more sounds than another, precisely because it's not clear how to define a sound discretely, or how that sound might correspond to the linguistic structures of a language. Chinese is a highly tonal language as you might know, but it's not clear it has more sounds than English, although we might believe this given the difficulty many Westerners have in learning Chinese. So "sound" as a criteria of complexity would be difficult to analyze.

To the second criteria, not all languages have an alphabet, Chinese being one of them. Indeed, not all languages have a written form at all.

Perhaps one criteria we could offer is whether languages with a written form tend to have more technologically advanced cultures associated with those languages. One might make a case for that sense written language is, in a sense, a technology itself, and is very useful in disseminating ideas and having future generations improve upon those ideas.

The real issue becomes whether one of these literate cultures owes their technological dominance to something intrinsically complex about its language. Again, thinking through what we mean by complexity and how to analyze that would be a task we need to accomplish first I would think.

I'm not sure what you might mean by your second question unfortunately.



posted on Feb, 12 2007 @ 12:05 AM
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Surely 'complexity' in a language has very little to do with the number of elemental sounds (I believe they're called phonemes) or letters of the alphabet in a language? I would expect the real measure of complexity to be more or less grammatical -- a question of, on the one hand, how many parts of speech, cases, tenses, persons, etc., the language contains, along with the rules for using them, and on the other, how many conventional exceptions there are to these rules.

I speak a few languages, including the dominant tongue of my own South Asian birthplace. That language has an alphabet of almost 60 letters. Many of these letters are redundant; for example, a plain 'n' sound has two letters standing for it, and the decision which one to use used is determined by which of two ancient root languages the word in question is derived from. In terms of speech, the distinction is meaningless, but it persists. There are other lingual redundancies, such as letters standing for a pure vowel sound and others standing for that same vowel sound combined with a particular consonant.

At the next level, the language has a plethora of tenses and persons: particularly the latter, because the form of address or reference is dependent on the relative social class of individuals; this is combined with gender distinctions, religious status, etc., to create a mirror of the social and caste hierarchies in the traditional culture of my country's dominant ethnic group.

In my view, the impenetrability and inflexibility of this language (which was imposed on all my fellow-countrymen by government fiat for an entire generation, nothwithstanding the fact that the country itself is highly multicultural and large minorities have other mother tongues) have had a clearly detrimental effect on the economic and social development of the country, and particularly on those who speak it and no other language.

I believe that the principle of natural selection exists among peoples and cultures as much as species, and that, in the long run, such languages and the cultures that created them will die out. Although cultural diversity will suffer, such an outcome will ultimately be to the benefit of humanity. There are a lot of cultures around nowadays that should die out.



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