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eglaser's picture

Lingual evolution

One interesting way to look at cultural evolution is at the evolution and divergence of languages. I do not think we have a class here at Bryn Mawr about the creation and interaction of languages. Not only is the evolution of any specific language incredably telling on the subject of cultural evolution, it also helps us understand the ideas of merging and divergence that is present in Whitman's Leaves of Grass.

We have the divergence of languages (English versus Swahili), the evolution of a language (American English versus Australian English) and the merging of languages (code switching and the adoption of words into a new language, as a more specific example, the use of the phrase schadenfreude to fill a hole in the English language). We can also look at the creation of languages (Shakespeare, or esperanto) as a speciation event.

An intresting book on this topic is Bill Bryson's "The Mother Tongue" which looks at the evolution of English specifically but also at the general evolution of languages.


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