LANGUAGE FAMILY. A group of languages which are assumed to have arisen from a single source: ENGLISH, FRENCH, GERMAN, GREEK, PERSIAN, RUSSIAN, SANSKRIT, and WELSH are all members of the INDO-EUROPEAN language family, and are considered to have descended from a common ancestor. Common ancestry is established by finding systematic correspondences between languages: English repeatedly has /f/ where Latin has /p/ in words with similar meaning, as in father/pater, fish/piscis, flow/pluo rain. It also often has /s/ where Greek has /h/, as in six/héx, seven/heptá, serpent/hérpein to creep. In addition, English and German compare adjectives in similar ways, as in rich, richer, richest: reich, reicher, reichste. These and other correspondences indicate that the languages are cognate (genetically related). Various related words can be compared in order to reconstruct sections of a hypothetical ancestor language. The process of comparison and reconstruction is traditionally known as comparative PHILOLOGY, more recently as comparative historical linguistics. This process formed the backbone of 19c language study, though in the 20c it has become one branch among many. A ‘family tree’ diagram (not unlike a genealogy) is commonly used to represent the relationships between the members of a linguistic family, in which an initial parent language ‘gives birth’ to a number of ‘daughters’, which in turn give birth to others. This can be useful, but is rarely an accurate representation of how languages develop, since it suggests clean cuts between ‘generations’ and between ‘sister’ languages, and implies that languages always become more divergent. In fact, languages generally change gradually, and there is often considerable intermixing among those which remain geographically adjacent. See LANGUAGE CHANGE, LINGUISTIC TYPOLOGY.
More From encyclopedia.com
Armenian Language , INDO-EUROPEAN LANGUAGES, The The language family, or family of families, of which English is a member, along with other European languages such as FR… International Language , international language, sometimes called universal language, a language intended to be used by people of different linguistic backgrounds to facilita… Formal Language , formal language 1. A language with explicit and precise rules for its syntax and semantics. Examples include programming languages and also logics su… Pashto , Pashto (Pushto) One of the two major languages of Afghanistan, the other being Persian. Pashto is spoken by about 12 million people in e Afghanistan… Slavic Languages , Slavic languages, also called Slavonic languages, a subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages. Because the Slavic group of languages seems t… Pidgin , PIDGIN A term used in both a general and a technical sense for a CONTACT LANGUAGE which draws on elements from two or more languages: pidgin Portugue…
About this article
Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article
You Might Also Like