Mission Vista High School

Languages’ origins and modern relevance

Imagine a world where speech and communication didn’t exist. Daily life would probably be much, much more difficult. This is the value of language. Without it, no higher discussion or discovery would take place.

Fortunately, we live in a world where language is a thing. Language is more complex than we realize. There are about 7,000 languages in the world, although about 2,000 of them are spoken by less than 1,000 people.

Because language has been around for as long as people can remember, the details behind the creation of languages seem very foreign and, frankly, pretty interesting. Language is one of the most valuable tools to humanity, but most people take it for granted.

Languages and their predecessors are organized into three groups based on similarity and/or historical evidence of a common ancestor. Language Families are a collection of languages related to each other through a common ancestor before recorded history.

Language Branches are a group of languages connected through a common ancestor that existed several thousand years ago, with archaeological evidence.

Finally, Language Groups are languages that are related to each other and have a shared origin in the recent past.

So how do languages fall under the same language branch? Well, the story behind the beginnings of English highlights the process in which it most likely happened. Some of the first tribes on the English isles were the Jutes and Angles from Denmark, and the Celts (who already were on the island).

In 1066, a French king named William the Conqueror invaded England and took control. Each faction contributed to the vocabulary and grammar of the language. During the French occupation of England, French was the official language.

However, the common folk used the more familiar form of English, while nobles and leaders formed a new language. Because of this, straightforward words such as bread, man and water are Germanic, while complex words such as celestial and masculine have French roots.

The sheer excessiveness of languages affects people today through language barriers. To combat it, makeshift languages are made in order for communication to proceed between two parties without a common language.

The parties construct a pidgin language, a sort of franken-language, by combining certain elements of both languages into one. Pidgin languages are a testament to the unavoidable struggle provided by the assortment of languages.                      

With certain languages’ transitions into Lingua Francas — languages of international communication such as English and Mandarin — the language barrier is slowly crumbling, allowing for faster and more progressive globalization. Hopefully, this will allow the world to better cooperate in processes that improve infrastructure and bears peace.

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