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Old 04-27-2015, 03:24 PM   #1
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World Languages

Here's an article about the world's languages.

The world’s languages, in 7 maps and charts - The Washington Post

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The numbers are fascinating because they reflect the fact that two-thirds of the world's population share only 12 native languages. Those numbers were recently published by the University of Düsseldorf's Ulrich Ammon, who conducted a 15-year-long study.
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Old 04-27-2015, 04:00 PM   #2
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Here's an article about the world's languages.

The world’s languages, in 7 maps and charts - The Washington Post
That was interesting. Fortunately for me, English was pretty much the required language for internal business communications in the global mega corp I worked for. Even when I traveled internationally I was able to get by only speaking English everywhere I went. Sometimes it was a little challenging when English wasn't the "regions primary language". e.g. Japan

I was often impressed by some of the folks that worked for the company that could speak 4 or 5 languages fluently, and could even get by with a couple of more.
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Old 04-27-2015, 05:56 PM   #3
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The numbers are fascinating because they reflect the fact that two-thirds of the world's population share only 12 native languages. Those numbers were recently published by the University of Düsseldorf's Ulrich Ammon, who conducted a 15-year-long study.
So while he was conducting the study, about 60 languages went extinct. Really sad when you think about it.

New Estimates on the Rate of Global Language Loss - The Rosetta Project
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Old 04-28-2015, 09:27 AM   #4
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So while he was conducting the study, about 60 languages went extinct. Really sad when you think about it.
Sad? In what way? Isn't the point of language to make communication with others possible? Would it not be better if everyone spoke without "interpretation" -- other than trust... or lack of?
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Old 04-28-2015, 10:05 AM   #5
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Chinese "all dialects" seems a bit simplistic.

Seem to remember that a lot of those dialects are so far apart speakers don't understand each other.
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Old 04-28-2015, 11:34 AM   #6
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Sad? In what way? Isn't the point of language to make communication with others possible? Would it not be better if everyone spoke without "interpretation" -- other than trust... or lack of?
I think you may be looking at this in an oversimplified way. It might be better, but the world loses a bit of complexity/diversity with each dead language.

Our language colors our world view. Anyone who speaks more than one language will acknowledge that speakers of one see the world differently than others. And there are some things that can be said easily in one language but are essentially untranslatable into another.

To use the old, inaccurate stereotype, think about the many different words for snow used by the Inuit. Wouldn't it be cool to be able to communicate concepts like that, and wouldn't it be sad to lose it?
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Old 04-28-2015, 12:26 PM   #7
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Sad? In what way? Isn't the point of language to make communication with others possible? Would it not be better if everyone spoke without "interpretation" -- other than trust... or lack of?
I hate to see languages disappear. Haven't read the article yet, but I can see how it might happen to languages such as Flemish, Romansch, possibly even Hungarian, as people in those groups encourage their kids to learn the "mainstream" language and/or English so they can get a job.

So much gets lost- the literature, the folk songs, even the ability to understand letters written by ancestors. Most of the time you really do lose something in translation.
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Old 04-28-2015, 02:38 PM   #8
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I have always been amazed that so many languages developed. It means that lots of populations lived in relative isolation for centuries.
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Old 04-28-2015, 04:12 PM   #9
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Chinese "all dialects" seems a bit simplistic.

Seem to remember that a lot of those dialects are so far apart speakers don't understand each other.

I've always wondered why all those Chinese dialects that are not or barely understood by their various speakers are considered one language with various dialects but Spanish and Portuguese or Dutch and Danish are considered different languages and not different dialects of a common language. What are the salient differences the people who decide these things use to define them as languages or dialects?
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Old 04-28-2015, 04:44 PM   #10
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The Chinese question tends to have two key parts: 1/since they share a common written language they are knit together more than, say, Spanish and Portuguese. But more importantly 2/political. Since China recognises one common language that is more or less understood and used throughout the country and because it is one political entity, China defines the other "languages" as dialects, even though a lot of linguists would not and call them "topolects". This is a great paper on the subject: http://sino-platonic.org/complete/sp...se_dialect.pdf


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Old 04-28-2015, 04:49 PM   #11
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I've always wondered why all those Chinese dialects that are not or barely understood by their various speakers are considered one language with various dialects but Spanish and Portuguese or Dutch and Danish are considered different languages and not different dialects of a common language. What are the salient differences the people who decide these things use to define them as languages or dialects?
I can provide an answer to one small part of your question.

Most of South America speaks Spanish, due to the colonization efforts of Spain. Because of the frequent travel and huge trade back and forth across the Atlantic, differences between continental Spanish and Latin American Spanish are fairly minor.

The biggest South American country, Brazil, speaks Portuguese and the differences between Brazilian Portuguese and continental Portuguese are larger (mainly in pronunciation, but also in vocabulary) due to the smaller amount of travel and trade.

It is often said that modern Brazilian Portuguese is closer to the Spanish of Renaissance times than to modern continental Portuguese, due to the isolation of Brazil in the past.

So, after all that background, today the situation is that in South America the two languages have a virtual one-way mirror between them. An Argentine (for example) can be absolutely mystified when traveling in Brazil. He understands only a little of the spoken Portuguese he hears, although he can read it well enough.

On the other side, Brazilians have hardly any difficulty at all when traveling in the rest of the continent. And if they want to converse privately in Buenos Aires, all they have to do is affect a strong Rio accent.

I spent a number of years down there, and I always got a kick out of this fact. Sure, there are similarities, and a cursory review might call them dialects, but anyone living there will confirm that they are definitely two languages, not just dialects.
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Old 04-28-2015, 10:35 PM   #12
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What are the salient differences the people who decide these things use to define them as languages or dialects?
"A language is a dialect with an army and navy."
~ pioneering sociolinguist and Yiddish scholar Max Weinreich
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Old 04-29-2015, 08:16 AM   #13
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It is often said that modern Brazilian Portuguese is closer to the Spanish of Renaissance times than to modern continental Portuguese, due to the isolation of Brazil in the past.

So, after all that background, today the situation is that in South America the two languages have a virtual one-way mirror between them. An Argentine (for example) can be absolutely mystified when traveling in Brazil. He understands only a little of the spoken Portuguese he hears, although he can read it well enough.

On the other side, Brazilians have hardly any difficulty at all when traveling in the rest of the continent. And if they want to converse privately in Buenos Aires, all they have to do is affect a strong Rio accent.

I spent a number of years down there, and I always got a kick out of this fact.
Having lived in Portugal for 3 years, I can tell you this weird fact holds true on the continent as well. Once you learn Portuguese you pretty well know 90+% of Spanish. I don't think it has to do with Brazil's isolation from the continent, but the way the languages work (though I admit, I am no language expert).
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Old 04-30-2015, 07:39 AM   #14
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Our language colors our world view. Anyone who speaks more than one language will acknowledge that speakers of one see the world differently than others. And there are some things that can be said easily in one language but are essentially untranslatable into another.

To use the old, inaccurate stereotype, think about the many different words for snow used by the Inuit. Wouldn't it be cool to be able to communicate concepts like that, and wouldn't it be sad to lose it?
Perhaps. However, there is a common language that doesn't fit this description and, in fact, disputes each point. I don't see how a single vocal/written language wouldn't/couldn't be as universally understood as a visual one.

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“Photography is now the world’s only common language. Mathematics can be considered an international language, but not everybody’s a mathematician. Music is international, but not everybody can perform. We can all listen to music. Photography is the only language now that the entire world can speak. We speak it all the time.” -- David Alan Harvey
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