Origin of Language = Epic Evolution/Atheist FAIL!

TWD39
Theist
Posts: 300
Joined: 2012-07-02
User is offlineOffline
Origin of Language = Epic Evolution/Atheist FAIL!

Here is something I find quite puzzling.  If God did not create us, and we evolve from other creatures,  how did our languages come into existance?   The world is full of many rich cultures complete with an unique linguistic form of language following an agreed set of rules.  So who created the rules, the sounds, and how did this person or evolutionary ancestor get others to understand and agree with the rules?   THis is obviously a huge leap from the primitive grunts and noises that other animal species make.  Yes, primates can communicate on a basic level.  But they can't verbalize into words, or express complete sentences conveying abstract ideas. 

How would you convey to a fellow creature a metaphorical or philosophical question when there is no foundation for language?  You can point to objects and make a noise, but that only gets you so far in language.  The same problem exists for creating a written language.

 

Even if evolutionary linguists can come up with a plausible explanation, there remains one big problem.   Why don't we all speak the same language? 

 

Another issue is you don't see any transitional forms with anything resembling our complex voice box anatomy.  Why did we evolve to have this feature?  What was the enviromental factors that separated our genetic line from other animals and created the need for a voice box?  I would be more convinced if someone found a fossil that contained at least a primitive form of a voice box.

 

Sure, there are a number of theories, but they are pretty weak sauce with zero supporting evidence. 

 

OTOH, the Bible perfectly explains how language and culture came into being.  Man began with an universal language after the Flood with Noah.  Then after the man started building the tower of Babel, God confused the languages which scattered people all over the earth.  This also explains why we find global myth stories with many details striking similiar to the Bible's account.  They infused their own language and culture into the original story.

Yep, I'll take the truth of the Bible over fallible man's theories anytime.

 

 


Vastet
atheistBloggerHigh Level ModeratorSuperfan
Vastet's picture
Posts: 10143
Joined: 2006-12-25
User is offlineOffline
TWD39 wrote:Vastet wrote:No,

TWD39 wrote:

Vastet wrote:
No, but you did again prove you fail at comprehending English.

 

Guess that means you are a liar for the cause as well.  He claimed I ran away from the hard questions.  I didn't.  I believe an apology is quite warranted.

Go back to grade school, your communication skills are horrible. You fail.
And you have run from the hard questions, liar. Dozens of them. Probably hundreds now. I just don't feel like counting the number of times you've failed. You certainly have yet to succeed.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


danatemporary
danatemporary's picture
Posts: 1377
Joined: 2011-01-12
User is offlineOffline
Off Off - Topic . . . .

  Okay  Off  Off Topic 

Vastet wrote:
TWD39 wrote:

Vastet wrote:
No, but you did again prove you fail at comprehending English.

 

Guess that means you are a liar for the cause as well.  He claimed I ran away from the hard questions.  I didn't.  I believe an apology is quite warranted.

Go back to grade school, your communication skills are horrible. You fail. And you have run from the hard questions, liar. Dozens of them. Probably hundreds now. I just don't feel like counting the number of times you've failed. You certainly have yet to succeed.

 

 

harleysportster wrote:

TWD39 wrote:

 I get zero recognition for NOT running away

Also . . .

TWD39 wrote:
  Welcome to the fantasy world of atheists where atheists are always 100% correct on ANY topic and they ALWAYS win the argument! 

  What do you want ? Some kind of medal ? However, if you wish to stay on board and continue acting like a little bitch. Go right ahead and keep making a fool of yourself.

 

beyondsaving wrote:
We are all aware that many theists are very nice people and some very intelligent people are theists for some inexplicable reason- many (probably most) of the great people on this site were once theists of one brand or another.

  Despite the facts given, you claim to have given the board compelling knowledge to the contrary ? Not to bug you  TWD39 but I am not sure what you mean by "run away from", did you mean you addressed the hard questions or did you mean had not left the board ?  I honestly am asking 'cause a few days back,  you said,  "I get zero recognition for NOT running away".  That can have several different meanings, as to what you mean by that. Especially in light of some of this; you outright claim you have addressed the hard questions, no ? Now you are sure ? This is the story and youre sticking with it ?

 

 

 


Atheistextremist
atheistSilver Member
Atheistextremist's picture
Posts: 5066
Joined: 2009-09-17
User is offlineOffline
Right back at you, TWD.

 

TWD39 wrote:

Any discussion with your kind is a lesson in frustration.

 

Look, we all respect your right to your delusion but couldn't you just go be a christian somewhere else? 

Here, for instance http://www.godhatesfags.com/

I think you'll be right at home...

 

 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


TWD39
Theist
Posts: 300
Joined: 2012-07-02
User is offlineOffline
Atheistextremist

Atheistextremist wrote:

 

TWD39 wrote:

Any discussion with your kind is a lesson in frustration.

 

Look, we all respect your right to your delusion but couldn't you just go be a christian somewhere else? 

Here, for instance http://www.godhatesfags.com/

I think you'll be right at home...

 

 

You have no proof that my beliefs are a delusion. 

I wouldn't fit in with Westboro because I follow the example of Christ by showing compassion and respect for others. 

I think you rather fit their mold given the fact that all you people spew out is vile negativity.   You only exist here to mock Christians and everything pure about my faith.  You have no interest in having a fair respectful discussion. 

 

Have you read Proverbs 18 yet?  Here I'll help ya out:

An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends
    and against all sound judgment starts quarrels.

Fools find no pleasure in understanding
    but delight in airing their own opinions.

When wickedness comes, so does contempt,
    and with shame comes reproach.

The words of the mouth are deep waters,
    but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.

It is not good to be partial to the wicked
    and so deprive the innocent of justice.

The lips of fools bring them strife,
    and their mouths invite a beating.

The mouths of fools are their undoing,
    and their lips are a snare to their very lives.

 

Yes, that would be describing you.

 


danatemporary
danatemporary's picture
Posts: 1377
Joined: 2011-01-12
User is offlineOffline
.. it ties into what you wrote: (SERENDIPITOUSLY)

  Twd39  I checked out the website that was suggested in the link to you. And in two of their .pdf files they had references-to passages I could not find in the New Testament, because the number of verses were off (I double checked it at least twice with each pdf file from the website). Thought I may have broke my machine. Computer The reference they did have right was the following: Lev.  You will eat, but you will not be satisfied.27 “‘If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, 28 then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. With a piece of pure dumb-luck it SERENDIPITOUSLY  ties into what you wrote in response (I hope AE can appreciate that, that is I hope).

 

 

 FLOWERS for you (See: Image) 


blacklight915
blacklight915's picture
Posts: 544
Joined: 2011-12-23
User is offlineOffline
TWD39 wrote:I wouldn't fit

TWD39 wrote:

I wouldn't fit in with Westboro because I follow the example of Christ by showing compassion and respect for others.

LOL, do you actually believe that?  You regularly make assertions about how bad atheists are. Would you like me to provide some examples?

However, I do think you are much better than the Westboro Baptist Church.

 

TWD39 wrote:

You only exist here to mock Christians and everything pure about my faith.

And it seems most Christians exist only to tell me I'm evil and deserve hell.

YOU, TWD39, are far more pure and moral than the God you worship. For starters, I bet you've never killed or tortured even a single human being. Furthermore, I don't think you would let someone suffer in horrible agony if you had the power to stop it. Do correct me if either of these statements is incorrect, however.

 


Anonymouse
atheist
Posts: 1687
Joined: 2008-05-04
User is offlineOffline
TWD39 wrote: I follow the

TWD39 wrote:
I follow the example of Christ by showing compassion and respect for others. 

Very next sentence :

TWD39 wrote:
I think you rather fit their mold given the fact that all you people spew out is vile negativity.   You only exist here to mock Christians and everything pure about my faith.  You have no interest in having a fair respectful discussion. 

I think I'm going to like this guy.

 

TWD39 wrote:
Have you read Proverbs 18 yet? 
 

Yeah. Have you ?

 

Proverbs 18 wrote:
An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends
    and against all sound judgment starts quarrels.

Fools find no pleasure in understanding
    but delight in airing their own opinions.

When wickedness comes, so does contempt,
    and with shame comes reproach.

 

It's always about someone else, isn't it ? 

 


 


Vastet
atheistBloggerHigh Level ModeratorSuperfan
Vastet's picture
Posts: 10143
Joined: 2006-12-25
User is offlineOffline
TWD39 wrote:I follow the

TWD39 wrote:
I follow the example of Christ by showing compassion and respect for others. 

LIAR

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


danatemporary
danatemporary's picture
Posts: 1377
Joined: 2011-01-12
User is offlineOffline
There's always font size :)

 

 

 

    Although the internet is missing all the subtle cues we take for granted in verbal communication (ex. the inflection in your voice). There is always font size to fall back on :¬

 

 

 


jcgadfly
SuperfanBronze Member
Posts: 6789
Joined: 2006-07-18
User is offlineOffline
I do find it ironic that in

I do find it ironic that in his continued lying for Jesus he was able to take time out to accuse me of "lying for the cause" because he took the time out to poorly and incorrectly answer one user.

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin


TWD39
Theist
Posts: 300
Joined: 2012-07-02
User is offlineOffline
Vastet wrote:TWD39 wrote:I

Vastet wrote:
TWD39 wrote:
I follow the example of Christ by showing compassion and respect for others. 
LIAR

 

You don't know me personally to blast such a charge.  If you are gauging me based on my posts then you really are delusional.  A freaking internet message board is not real life.  IDIOT


TWD39
Theist
Posts: 300
Joined: 2012-07-02
User is offlineOffline
jcgadfly wrote:I do find it

jcgadfly wrote:

I do find it ironic that in his continued lying for Jesus he was able to take time out to accuse me of "lying for the cause" because he took the time out to poorly and incorrectly answer one user.

 

Translation:  I need a hug.


jcgadfly
SuperfanBronze Member
Posts: 6789
Joined: 2006-07-18
User is offlineOffline
TWD39 wrote:jcgadfly wrote:I

TWD39 wrote:

jcgadfly wrote:

I do find it ironic that in his continued lying for Jesus he was able to take time out to accuse me of "lying for the cause" because he took the time out to poorly and incorrectly answer one user.

 

Translation:  I need a hug.

Not from you - you claim to follow the example of your Jesus. That means I could expect a knife in the back.  After all, by your own admission, the commandments don't apply to you..

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin


TWD39
Theist
Posts: 300
Joined: 2012-07-02
User is offlineOffline
jcgadfly wrote:TWD39

jcgadfly wrote:

TWD39 wrote:

jcgadfly wrote:

I do find it ironic that in his continued lying for Jesus he was able to take time out to accuse me of "lying for the cause" because he took the time out to poorly and incorrectly answer one user.

 

Translation:  I need a hug.

Not from you - you claim to follow the example of your Jesus. That means I could expect a knife in the back.  After all, by your own admission, the commandments don't apply to you..

 

Show me where I ever advocated violence and said that the Bible's laws do not apply to me.  Reference the post # or admit that you are a bold faced liar. 


Vastet
atheistBloggerHigh Level ModeratorSuperfan
Vastet's picture
Posts: 10143
Joined: 2006-12-25
User is offlineOffline
TWD39 wrote:Vastet

TWD39 wrote:

Vastet wrote:
TWD39 wrote:
I follow the example of Christ by showing compassion and respect for others. 
LIAR

 

You don't know me personally to blast such a charge.  If you are gauging me based on my posts then you really are delusional.  A freaking internet message board is not real life.  IDIOT

LIAR

"Epic Evolution/Atheist FAIL!" < Condescending, false.

"with atheist's narrow minded perspective on the Bible" < Generalisation, condescension, falsehood, insulting.

"But that's par for course with atheists." < Generalisation, condescension, falsehood, insulting

I don't need or want to know you, but I still know you're a liar and the proof of it is right here. Moron.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


Vastet
atheistBloggerHigh Level ModeratorSuperfan
Vastet's picture
Posts: 10143
Joined: 2006-12-25
User is offlineOffline
"If you are gauging me based

"If you are gauging me based on my posts then you really are delusional.  A freaking internet message board is not real life."

Story time.

*Many years from now, TWD dies of natural causes. To his delight, the first thing he sees are the pearly gates. The gatekeeper reviews his life, but there's a problem. TWD was a real asshole and disobeyed the commands of his lord to turn the other cheek and present christianity as loving. As a result, hundreds of people who lurked the forum decided christianity wasn't for them, since it is obviously not very loving. TWD literally cost hundreds of people their souls.
His response to the accusation is to cry, 'but it's only the internet!'
God is unimpressed and sends TWD to hell with all the people he condemned there by being an asshat*

~The end~

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


Anonymouse
atheist
Posts: 1687
Joined: 2008-05-04
User is offlineOffline
On the very first page of

On the very first page of this thread, at least 6 people point out the problems with your arguments, but you manage to ignore all of them.

And it's not like your OP was that difficult to debunk. You could have done it yourself in just a few seconds : http://www.ucl.ac.uk/voicebox/timeline/

So you're here just to make friends then ?  


TWD39
Theist
Posts: 300
Joined: 2012-07-02
User is offlineOffline
Anonymouse wrote:On the very

Anonymouse wrote:

On the very first page of this thread, at least 6 people point out the problems with your arguments, but you manage to ignore all of them.

And it's not like your OP was that difficult to debunk. You could have done it yourself in just a few seconds : http://www.ucl.ac.uk/voicebox/timeline/

So you're here just to make friends then ?  

 

Not one of those arguments including your link can tell me in detail exactly how language with rules and syntax was first formed.  Every example was based on having a previous foundation for language.  You have no solid proof or evidence. Just more cocky attitude. 

 

Now, you atheists have wasted a  large amount of time on my thread with over 400 replies.  The real question is, why do you bother?


Vastet
atheistBloggerHigh Level ModeratorSuperfan
Vastet's picture
Posts: 10143
Joined: 2006-12-25
User is offlineOffline
TWD39 wrote:Not one of those

TWD39 wrote:
Not one of those arguments including your link can tell me in detail exactly how language with rules and syntax was first formed.

So? Time travel isn't possible genius, best anyone can do is theorise.

Yourself included, as you have yet to present any evidence that language was magically created one day by an invisible omnipresence.

Nor have you demonstrated that evolution is incapable of driving the development of language.

When comparing workable theories to magic, occam's razor eliminates magic every time.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


jcgadfly
SuperfanBronze Member
Posts: 6789
Joined: 2006-07-18
User is offlineOffline
TWD39 wrote:jcgadfly

TWD39 wrote:

jcgadfly wrote:

TWD39 wrote:

jcgadfly wrote:

I do find it ironic that in his continued lying for Jesus he was able to take time out to accuse me of "lying for the cause" because he took the time out to poorly and incorrectly answer one user.

 

Translation:  I need a hug.

Not from you - you claim to follow the example of your Jesus. That means I could expect a knife in the back.  After all, by your own admission, the commandments don't apply to you..

 

Show me where I ever advocated violence and said that the Bible's laws do not apply to me.  Reference the post # or admit that you are a bold faced liar. 

1. I never said you advocated violence. I said your Jesus did (Luke 19:27). You built a straw man.

2. Post #463 "As for your references to the OT, again you show your ignorance on Biblical matters.  Those laws are Mosaic laws, designed as part of God's overall plan to rescue all humanity from the bondage of sin through  Christ.   Christ gave us a new Convenant.   Those laws no longer apply as a result.   You don't see Christians out there sacrificing lambs either. "

3. Eat me.

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin


jcgadfly
SuperfanBronze Member
Posts: 6789
Joined: 2006-07-18
User is offlineOffline
TWD39 wrote:Anonymouse

TWD39 wrote:

Anonymouse wrote:

On the very first page of this thread, at least 6 people point out the problems with your arguments, but you manage to ignore all of them.

And it's not like your OP was that difficult to debunk. You could have done it yourself in just a few seconds : http://www.ucl.ac.uk/voicebox/timeline/

So you're here just to make friends then ?  

 

Not one of those arguments including your link can tell me in detail exactly how language with rules and syntax was first formed.  Every example was based on having a previous foundation for language.  You have no solid proof or evidence. Just more cocky attitude. 

 

Now, you atheists have wasted a  large amount of time on my thread with over 400 replies.  The real question is, why do you bother?

Aren't those goalposts you're moving heavy?

 

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin


Beyond Saving
Silver Member
Beyond Saving's picture
Posts: 4169
Joined: 2007-10-12
User is onlineOnline
 TWD39 wrote:I follow the

 

TWD39 wrote:
I follow the example of Christ by showing compassion and respect for others. 

 

TWD39 wrote:
 

You don't know me personally to blast such a charge.  If you are gauging me based on my posts then you really are delusional.  A freaking internet message board is not real life.  IDIOT

I wouldn't call calling someone an idiot showing compassion, respect or following the supposed example of Jesus. Wasn't Jesus all about turning the other cheek and loving his enemies? Of course, with all of the contradictory suggestions in the bible of god being angry, cruel and mean I can understand how you would be confused. 


danatemporary
danatemporary's picture
Posts: 1377
Joined: 2011-01-12
User is offlineOffline
the Tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity

 Re :: .. the Tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity !!

TWD39 wrote:

Anonymouse wrote:

On the very first page of this thread, at least 6 people point out the problems with your arguments, but you manage to ignore all of them.

And it's not like your OP was that difficult to debunk. You could have done it yourself in just a few seconds : http://www.ucl.ac.uk/voicebox/timeline/

So you're here just to make friends then ?  

 

  You have no solid proof or evidence. Just more cocky attitude. 

 

Now, you atheists have wasted a  large amount of time on my thread with over 400 replies.  The real question is, why do you bother?

  Twd39, You ask for the impossible and then get in a mood if it is not produced before you, TWD. Look, before this begins to deteriorate,  As a courtesy, I would suggest you directly contact Linguist Peter Thomas , for it is he or one of his graduate students you should be speaking  with, (this is the one you should be speaking with). That is if you want to know an answer, and it is understanding you are lacking.  If you have about 71/2 hours of uninterupted time, he is the man who will sit you down an answer your question(s). It's a life long project and he is way up in age now so he or better get with one of his graduate students who you need to consult. (Read the following and you see why) This is a 'theorectical' question, of 'could' ? And in your case I should remind you and everyone that conflicting data in research is common place.

In Search of the First Language  PBS Channel Airdate: Mar  18, 1997

ANNOUNCER: On PBS'  NOVA, for a stranger in a foreign land, language can be an imposing barrier. But there are surprising similarities among the languages of the world, for certain. Could it be that at one time long ago, we all spoke the same language?

ANNOUNCER: A Controversial and yet tantalizingly new clues are challenging scientists "In Search of the First Language."

*PETER THOMAS: There are more than five thousand languages spoken across the face of the earth. Could all these languages ever be traced back to a common starting point? Was there a time when the people of the world spoke one tongue? This notion is vividly brought to life in the Old Testament story of Babel. It hearkens back to a primeval time when the people of the earth were all of one language and of one speech. According to biblical legend, the people of Babylon started to build a tower reaching up to heaven. Their ambition so offended God that he shattered the unity of their language, creating a confusion of incomprehensible tongues. Forever after, the tower was called Babel, from the Hebrew word "balbail," meaning "to confuse." This legend has inspired countless works of art, differing interpretations of that cataclysmic event. Like many myths, perhaps, there is a germ of truth in the Babel story. Did a mother tongue ever exist? Can we find it? Clues can be found by studying the world's great language families, such as Indo-European, the family that includes English.

MERRITT RUHLEN: The branches of this tree can represent different language families. The leaves on the branches, if we had leaves today, would represent different languages. And by tracing these branches back, one can arrive at larger branches, such as Indo-European, and by tracing the Indo-European branch back, one arrives at even larger branches. Eventually, we believe that you arrive at the main trunk of this tree into which all of the language or from which all of the language families have derived.

PETER THOMAS: There are some obvious connections among languages. Take Arabic and Hebrew, for example. Listen to how people count in each language. That was Arabic. Here's the Hebrew. Some numbers sound almost identical. But with other languages, it's not always so easy to spot the connections. Radio Sunrise serves an ethnically-diverse West London community, including Punjabi speakers living in the midst of an English suburb. What could these two languages—Punjabi and English—have in common? In fact, English and Punjabi, as well as other languages of northern India, like Hindi and Gujarati, are related, something discovered by chance two hundred years ago by a multilingual English lawyer, Sir William Jones.

COLIN RENFREW: He was a judge who went out to India in 1783, but he studied languages, Oriental languages, before he went, and when he got to India, he became very interested and learnt Sanskrit, which is the language of ancient India, which was first written about 500 AD. And then he realized, he made this great discovery, that Sanskrit resembles in some way, has relationships with Greek and Latin and other languages, and he gave a very famous discourse in which he said that these were sprung from some common source.

PETER THOMAS: Certain similarities are striking. Take the numbers again, for example. Here are two, three, seven, and ten in English, Latin, Greek and Sanskrit. (See Illus. in Image):
MUST CLICK LINK as part of the article  . . 

 LINK [img=http://img218.imagevenue.com/loc893/th_02974_Proud_one_on_Language__122_893lo.JPG]
But linguists are interested in discovering regular patterns, not isolated resemblances. So here, "t" in English often appears as "d" in the other languages,


By finding patterns like these, different languages can be grouped together as members of a language family.

DON RINGE, JR.: The question is, how can you tell that the languages you're looking at reflect a single original language, and therefore, form a family? The only way you can do that is by finding systematic similarities between these languages in every area of their grammar, similarities in their sounds, similarities in their inflections, similarities in the syntax of the language, and so forth. And the similarities have to be very precise, and they have to be interlocking for the assertion that these languages form a family, to be believable. You take a look at an English word like "tooth" and see that in Hindi, it's "dant," and by itself that doesn't mean very much, but you take a look at English "ten" and it shows up in Hindi as "das," and you see the same pattern emerging. You've got an initial "t" in English and an initial "d" in Hindi. When you find that the word "two," the numeral in English, shows up in Hindi as "doe," and you've got, once again, an initial "t" in English and an initial "d" in Hindi, you begin to think that perhaps this is not an accident.

PETER THOMAS: Using this comparative method, linguists have been able to establish the connections among a group of languages which stretch from Iceland to India. This group of about one hundred languages is called the Indo-European Family of Languages. Each of these languages can be traced to one of ten individual branches, represented here by distinct colors. The lines which do not extend all the way are the languages which have gone extinct. The subgroups, or daughter families, that survive today, are Balto-Slavic, Germanic, Celtic, Italic. Also, Albanian, Hellenic, Armenian, and finally, Indo-Iranian. By looking closely at the Germanic family, we can see how it has evolved over time into different languages, until we reach the ones we recognize today, such as Swedish, Danish, English, and Dutch. By studying all the languages in this wide-ranging group, linguists have been able to reconstruct a hypothetical ancestral tongue called Proto-Indo-European, believed to have been spoken five to six thousand years ago.

JAMES MATISOFF: What historical linguists do, the task they set themselves, is to look at the current state of the language, try and find other languages that are related to it, that descend from the same ancestor, and by this act of comparison, try and trace back through time, what earlier stages of the language might have been like, what the words used to mean, how the words used to be pronounced, how words used to be put together in sentences. And this is a very fascinating endeavor, because languages can change in very unpredictable ways, and what linguists love to do is to look beneath the surface diversity and find the ultimate proto-unity that the languages had before they split off from each other.

PETER THOMAS: But recognizing this "ultimate proto-unity" is not easy. Take an example from English. Here is the Lord's Prayer as it would have sounded spoken in Old English, twelve hundred years ago. Now listen to Middle English, spoken eight hundred years ago. It's more intelligible, but still not familiar. Over the course of twelve hundred years, English has changed so dramatically that Old English sounds to us like a foreign language. But, English is relatively easy for linguists to study because of its long written history. This phenomenon is true for many of the Indo-European languages, making this the most studied and well-researched language family in the world. The one hundred languages that comprise the Indo-European family are spoken by half the world's people. Another important language family is Sino-Tibetan, spoken by one-quarter of the world's population. Linguists estimate this family includes about two hundred fifty to three hundred languages. Apart from Chinese, Tibetan, and Burmese, the majority of languages in this family were not written down until this century. At the University of California, Berkeley, James Matisoff and his students have spent the last eight years figuring out which languages belong to this family by mapping out the details of their relationships. Their goal is to produce the definitive historical thesaurus of the Sino-Tibetan language family.

JAMES MATISOFF: This is one of the great language families of the world, over a billion speakers, and it's very much understudied, compared to other languages families, like Indo-European or Semitic or Bantu, so it's long overdue that this family receive the attention it deserves from the linguistic world in general. And it's called a thesaurus because the organizational principle is by semantic field, not just by alphabetical order. So, the first field we're dealing with is body parts. We've been working on them for several years. After that, we'll do animal names, kinship terms, verbs of motion, other areas of the vocabulary by their meaning, not just by their sound. How do we collect this data? Well, first of all, we use published sources, dictionaries, as many dictionaries as we can get our hands on, on one or another language in the family. And we go through them to extract the body part terms. So, somebody has to go through manually and check all the words which have to do with parts of the body, and then we input them into the computer and get them ready for etymological analysis. And then comes the really hard part, and the interesting part, and that is to sort out these forms according to how they're related to each other.

PETER THOMAS: As they discover common roots in a wide range of languages, patterns of sound and meaning start to emerge.
JAMES MATISOFF: OK. Why don't we call up the words for "eye" from the database?
J.B. LOWE: All right. That's pretty straightforward.

JAMES MATISOFF: OK. You see, we have hundreds and hundreds of forms meaning "eye" in the various Sino-Tibetan languages. And now's the time to try and analyze them, do something with them. We notice lots of these words have the shape "mik" or something similar, sometimes "smik" or "myak," so one of the next steps is to put them all in one place and examine them together. So, why don't we call up all—all of the words which have the shape "mik"? All right. And we see we have several screens full of words with that shape. So, this is good evidence that we're dealing here with a genuine root in the proto-language, because the great variety of the languages and the fact that they're not spoken in geographically contiguous areas means that we have to reject borrowing as a possibility. And we notice that a lot of these forms are not just monosyllables. They have two or three syllables. And we notice they have meanings which involve "eye" but which mean more than "eye," like eyelid, eyelash, eyebrow, eye crud that gets stuck in the corners of the eye at night, to be jealous, as we say in English, to be "green-eyed," except there's another metaphor in Tibet or Burma. So, we feel responsible for giving an explanation, an etymology, for every single syllable of every word, if we can. And if we can't do it, then we mark it with a symbol which means we can't do it yet, but we'll get back to it sometime.

PETER THOMAS: By finding the same root in different groups of languages, Matisoff begins to identify patterns of relationships among the Sino-Tibetan family. Occasionally, there's a language that doesn't quite fit. For example, the language of Thailand. There are hundreds of Thai words that are identical to Chinese. Thai has often been classified in the Sino-Tibetan family, but by comparing roots, Matisoff demonstrated more compelling similarities between Thai and the neighboring family called Austronesian. For example, "eye" in Thai is "taa," not "mik." Likewise, the root for "eye" in Austronesian is "mata." Perhaps the similarities that Thai shares with Chinese are due to borrowing, not descent from a common ancestor. This distinction is critical.

JAMES MATISOFF: The further back in time you go, it becomes very difficult to distinguish between inheritance from a common ancestor and borrowing from another group, especially in a family where there are few historical records and where the written histories don't go back very far. Also, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish descent from a common ancestor or borrowing from sheer chance, accident, and any two languages taken at random in the world will show a certain percentage of apparent similarities, even in basic vocabulary. That's because there's only a limited number of sounds in human languages, and there are certain built-in constraints on the form of human language, which makes accidental resemblance quite possible, and frequent, in fact.

PETER THOMAS: So, understanding why words are similar is essential to determining relationships among families. Although the exact number of language families has yet to be determined, most linguists recognize at least two hundred. Some of the principal ones in addition to Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan, and Austronesian are Afro-Asiatic, Altaic, Dravidian, and Australian aboriginal. One area of the world where the language picture is particularly complex is the Americas. With so many native languages facing extinction, linguists have been more involved with recording these languages than classifying them. Here, along the ancient shores of Flathead Lake in northwestern Montana, Salish speakers from the Flathead Indian reservation are trying to prevent their language from disappearing. These are some of the last fluent speakers of Salish, a language known to have been spoken in this region for thousands of years.

GERMAINE WHITE: Salish is one of the languages that's targeted not to survive, and that's frightening to me, because we carry our culture, we carry our tradition, we carry our history, the very history of who we are, through our language, and that's what it is we're doing here at language camp, we're trying to put our language in context, in cultural context, to create a new generation of fluent Salish speakers.

PETER THOMAS: Today, on the Flathead reservation, there are approximately sixty-three hundred tribal members, yet fewer than one hundred are fluent Salish speakers. Unfortunately, of the remaining speakers, the vast majority are elders. Historically, Salishan was one of the most extensive language families of the Northwest. Linguists believe there were no fewer than twenty-three distinct languages in the family. By the eighteenth century, at least one hundred thousand speakers spread over twenty-two million acres, from southern British Columbia to western Montana. Then, Salish speakers had their first encounter with whites, a friendly meeting with Lewis and Clark in 1805. Gradually, Native American communities came under the influence of the settlers and missionaries that soon followed. The Jesuits were the first "black robes" to live among the Salish. Initially, they were welcomed. Adults went to church and children went to their boarding schools. But tensions mounted as priests demanded that the Salish children speak English, forbidding them to use their native tongue. It took only a hundred years for a language which had thrived for millennia to be on the verge of extinction. Today, support for the tribe's effort to renew the language and preserve its cultural traditions is growing among the members. On a mountainside deep in the forest, Chauncey Beaverhead harvests cedar bark in the same careful way his grandfather and great-grandfather did a hundred years ago. Back at the campground, parents look on as their children painstakingly try to master the handicrafts that were once essential survival skills for their ancestors. But as the children concentrate on making their baskets, surrounded by sounds of English and Salish, another very important project is taking place. The tribe has invited linguist Sarah Thomason to work with them on a written record of their language and customs.

SARAH THOMASON: When I first started working on Salishan languages, reading about them, my main interest was historical. I'm a historical linguist. I wanted to find out about the borrowing situation in this part of the country and neighboring parts of Canada. But when I started working with the tribal members, with elders on the reservation, I found that what they wanted and needed was somebody who could help them with their preservation efforts. All right. [Salish], and that means?

SALISH ELDER: It's getting daylight. Early, early daylight.

SARAH THOMASON: Could you say it once more, please?

PETER THOMAS: Without a fairly complete written record, the death of the last native Salish speaker would mean the permanent loss of the language. Thomason has been working with this group of elders to create a Salish/English dictionary, as well as to preserve descriptions of traditional life for future generations.

SARAH THOMASON: They get themselves decked out?

SALISH ELDER: Mmm-hmm. Yes.

SARAH THOMASON: Like for the war dances?

SALISH ELDER: Right. Decked.

SARAH THOMASON: OK. So, let's go over it and see how many mistakes I've made, so you can correct me so I don't get it wrong. [Salish] They finished the canvas dance. [Salish] It's getting light.

PETER THOMAS: Nearly half of the tribal languages known to be part of the Salishan family are already extinct. Salish has thus far been spared. The loss of so many languages is an obstacle to understanding the full richness of the linguistic history of the Americas. Of the sixteen hundred languages once spoken here, only a third exist today. It's estimated that these languages, both living and extinct, might include as many as two hundred language families, but despite this scant amount of evidence, there is no lack of determination to draw a complete picture of the languages of the Americas. At Stanford University, one linguist who has been intrigued with the language puzzle of the Americas for many years is Joseph Greenberg.

JOSEPH GREENBERG: What keeps me going is a curiosity about the whole thing, and I'm attracted, as a matter of fact, to areas of the world in which classification has not yet been accomplished to people's satisfaction. There are always new etymologies to be discovered, and in doing that, it's very much like detective work.

PETER THOMAS: Many years ago, Greenberg received worldwide acclaim when he applied his detective skills to classifying the thousand languages of Africa. Although the African languages had been recorded for centuries, very little systematic study had been undertaken.

JOSEPH GREENBERG: In Africa, it was obvious that there were, first of all, a very large number of languages, a great many unresolved questions, and it seemed to me that the sensible thing was to actually look at all of the languages. I usually had preliminary notebooks in which I took those elements of a language, which, on the whole, we know are the most stable over time. These are things like the personal pronouns, particularly first and second person, names for the parts of the human body, and words for important objects in nature that are part of everyday life, like fire, water, house, and so on. I would look at a very large number of languages in regard to these matters, and I did find that they fell into quite obvious groupings.

PETER THOMAS: Linguists had already postulated three language families, Afro-Asiatic, Niger-Congo, and Khosan. Greenberg's analysis revealed a fourth, Nilo-Saharan, which had been considered part of Niger-Congo. This new family suggested a fundamental connection between languages that appeared extremely different. For some, the reclassification provided important insights about African migrations.

MERRITT RUHLEN: Linguistic classifications tell you about history. Each language family represents one historical event. Once you have an overall classification, then you can make certain historical inferences from that classification. This is exactly what Greenberg did in Africa, where he showed that the very widespread Bantu group in southern Africa was most closely related to languages that weren't Bantu but which were almost Bantu, semi-Bantu, found in Nigeria. And from this classification, he hypothesized that the Bantu family had spread from the area of eastern Nigeria throughout all of what is now southern Africa. So, this historical inference was made once he understood what the proper classification was of these languages.

PETER THOMAS: Encouraged by his new picture of the relationships among the language families of Africa, Greenberg spent the next thirty years trying to solve the complicated language puzzle presented by the Americas.

JOSEPH GREENBERG: Nobody had premised more than anything other than the very large number of groups. There were no widespread groupings. So, I began to take the common words, write them down, so on, and look at them. And eventually, I put them into notebooks, and the notebooks are like the ones I have here, in which you have the names of languages down one side, and down the other. One can get eighty languages in a notebook like this. And across, I have various words in English for which we find translations in the American Indian languages. So, for example, on this page, after having finished putting the numerals in, I have the pronouns, so I have "I" and "thou," the second person singular pronoun. But, the notebook is actually fairly extensive and contains hundreds of words in a very large number of languages.

PETER THOMAS: Taking a word like "blood," Greenberg wrote down its translation in language after language. When he discovered a clump of similar words in different languages, he tried to confirm the link by looking at other words in those languages. The results led Greenberg to a radical reinterpretation of the language families of the Americas. Instead of hundreds, he posited only three families: Eskimo-Aleut, Na-Dene, and the most notable, Amerind, a new super-family which drew in languages spoken from the Hudson Bay to Tierra del Fuego. Greenberg's new classification and his methodology met with strong scientific criticism.

JAMES MATISOFF: Eyeballing data is prescientific, or nonscientific. There are so many ways you can be led astray, because very often, words look as if they have some connection, and they have no historical connection whatsoever. It's just chance. And, on the contrary, words which you never—might never have thought have any connection, do, in fact, come from the same root. So, even in languages which we know well, like our own native language, our judgments, unless we just look something up, are liable to be absolutely wrong, our judgments on whether things are related or not. How much the more so when we're dealing with languages we have no academic or personal knowledge of, and which have been badly recorded, for the most part, and when we're trying to reestablish relationships which go back untold thousands of years. The potential for error is enormous unless you have some methodological constraints to guide you every step of the way.

PETER THOMAS: But sometimes, regardless of approach, historical linguistics is faced with an unsolvable puzzle. There is one language in Europe which has baffled scholars for centuries. Sarak looks like a typical French village, but its graveyard holds a linguistic secret. Inscribed alongside the French is the mysterious language of the Basque people. The language is called Euskara, and it has resisted any classification so far. It is called a language isolate, an orphan among languages with no known relatives. The land of the Basques straddles the borders of France and Spain. No amount of analysis has been able to link Euskara to French, Spanish, or to any European language, nor, in fact, to a language anywhere in the world. How could this linguistic isolation come about? Perhaps it was the fierce independence of the Basque people, their resistance to outside invaders and their strong history of oral tradition. But, whatever the reason, the Basque language has withstood centuries of influence. Scientists have wondered whether a biological comparison between the Basques and their Indo-European-speaking neighbors would reflect that isolation as well.

LUIGI CAVALLI-SFORZA: What we ordinarily do in biology is, really, bilateral comparisons, but we do them all, all the possible ones.

PETER THOMAS: Geneticist Cavalli-Sforza of Stanford University was a pioneer in the search for notable biological indicators.

LUIGI CAVALLI-SFORZA: They must realize that there is a degree of relationship, and that it's very important to take that into account. Otherwise, you cannot do anything.

PETER THOMAS: Cavalli-Sforza was interested in exploring historical relationships among different populations by examining their genes, rather than their languages. Would his research team find the Basques as unique as the linguists found them? If the Basques are as isolated as their language suggests, this isolation might also show up in their genetic makeup, blood groups, DNA patterns, and so on. New techniques now make it possible to carry out much more detailed analyses of individuals and populations using just a few living cells, in this case, cells from a hair follicle. The DNA pattern not only distinguishes the Basques from their neighbors, it suggests they must have been among the earliest people to settle in Europe.

LUIGI CAVALLI-SFORZA: Basques were recognized as genetically different a long time ago. Basques are so different that they must have been proto-Europeans. Basques were probably the descendants of cultures that have made all those beautiful painted rock paintings in the southwest of France and in the north of Spain.

PETER THOMAS: These cave paintings, many of them located in Basque country, were painted fifteen thousand years ago. Since the genetic data suggests the Basques have been a distinct group for thousands of years, isolated from other peoples, it may have been their ancestors who painted these caves during the last Ice Age. Although this conclusion is speculative, Cavalli-Sforza is trying to use these techniques to solve other linguistic puzzles, including Greenberg's controversial classification of Native American languages. DNA samples from may different tribes in North and South America were collected and analyzed in Cavalli-Sforza's lab at Stanford. He believes his results provide a strong confirmation of Greenberg's groupings.

LUIGI CAVALLI-SFORZA: When we took all the data from American natives, they clearly fell into three classes, and they correspond exactly to the linguistic families that have been postulated by Greenberg. Not only that, but the family which is most heterogeneous of all genetically is the one that is linguistically more heterogeneous of all.

JAMES MATISOFF: Even if it's true—Let's accept, for the sake of argument for a while, that the New World was settled by exactly three waves of immigrants, the Amerinds and the Na-Dene and the Eskimo-Aleuts. Let's even assume that's true. What is there to show that they were linguistically uniform when they migrated, or that they didn't change their language dozens of times, if the language wasn't creolized, that they didn't abandon their language and adopt a new one? We can see that people can change a language within a generation. It happens all over the world. Suppose some future linguist ten thousand years from now was looking at the DNA from United States fossils. He would be very confused indeed, because he would find all kinds of racial genetic strains which wouldn't tell him anything about the fundamental linguistic unity of the country, that we all speak English now.

PETER THOMAS: One good example of language change occurring in less than a generation can be seen in Philadelphia. Here, a team of linguists has carried out fieldwork over the last twenty years to see at what rate English words change, and why.

WILLIAM LABOV: When I first came into this field, I was interested in finding out how language was changing, as it was used in everyday life, and these tapes that you see here are part of the archives of this room going back to 1963 when I did a little study in Martha's Vineyard. Because I noticed on that island that people were saying "sight" and "fight" and "right" going back to what seemed like a seventeenth-, eighteenth-century pronunciation. Philadelphia we chose as a community where almost all the vowels were changing, and I came here to try to find out, if I could, why language was changing. The nineteenth-century theories about it would argue that it was either the people at the bottom of the heap who were changing it because of laziness and ignorance, or the people at the top, because they had such prestige. But we'd found out that the opposite was true, that the sound changes were in the hands of the people who were the most important local people. Ann Bower is one of the field workers who began this study with me in the 1970s. Celeste Sweeney is one of her most important contacts, the center of a social network here in south Philadelphia. In every neighborhood, you need to know the people who are the central figures so that you can understand how society works and who influences who.

PETER THOMAS: Ann Bower and Celeste Sweeney have become close friends over the years. They talk with each other in a relaxed and informal way.

ANN BOWER: Your mom made abolind. How did she do that? How did she make that?

CELESTE SWEENEY: Well, then, when she would make sauce, gravy—We call it gravy, you call it sauce. And she would put gravy on top and then the sausages. And then, like some people, they used to eat it on a big board.

WILLIAM LABOV: In the last fifty years, there have been massive changes in American English.

CELESTE SWEENEY: Believe me, we ate properly.

WILLIAM LABOV: In the history of English, the vowels have always been the ones that move, and the consonants have stayed put. And over the course of time, small changes add up into great changes.

ANN BOWER: Your dad wasn't working during the Depression, though?
CELESTE SWEENEY: No, not at all. He worked for a guy in a shoe store. My father used to make shoes. He was a shoemaker. He made all—the whole shoe. And it got so bad that they were paying him in postage stamps.
ANN BOWER: Son of a gun.

WILLIAM LABOV: We're taking the word "bad" to "bed," the word "out" to "a-out," to "a-out." You notice that "go" moves to "gao" to "gao." You notice that "two" goes from "two" to "teo." In the meantime, "sight" and "fight" are becoming "sa-ight" and "fa-ight" or "soight" and "foight." There are other changes that are just beginning to appear, where "a" as in "maid" and "pain" becomes "maid" and "pain," so that "snake" and "sneak" then sound the same. So, we have a rotation of the whole vowel system which is happening in different ways in different cities in the United States, and in England, too.

PETER THOMAS: By measuring changes in Celeste's speech patterns for over a decade and comparing her results to those of other Philadelphians, Labov has been able observe language change in action. But, how important are these apparently small changes in pronunciation to the overall history of languages?

WILLIAM LABOV: Whatever the forces that are producing this change, they must be very powerful, because they really do interfere with understanding. Our current research is dealing with cross-dialectical comprehension, and we've taken three cities, Chicago, Birmingham, and Philadelphia, which are becoming more and more different. And we find, indeed, that people do not understand the sounds in the dialects of other cities, and even within the city, the older people don't understand the younger people when it comes to using those sounds. So, that's the process which several hundred or several thousand years ago led to the gradual differentiation of languages and the loss of intelligibility. I'm not saying it's going to happen in the United States, because there are other factors at work there, too. But, we can trace that day-to-day change which ultimately leads to two different languages.

PETER THOMAS: If English shows significant change within a single decade, the implications for linguists who are trying to study a language believed to have been spoken fifteen thousand years ago are enormous. Yet, an effort is underway to do exactly that. One of the leaders of a controversial group of linguists who believe in the Nostratic theory is Vitaly Shevoroshkin. This theory claims to identify an ancient superfamily of languages from which many of today's language families have descended. It wasn't until the 1960s in Russia that the Nostratic theory was approached with modern linguistic techniques by Vladislav Illytch Svitch. He believed he could work back in time from several reconstructed languages six thousand years old to find a more remote common ancestor, a language he called Proto-Nostratic. Today, Vitaly Shevoroshkin, an original member of this Russian group, is convinced of the importance of his mentor's work.

VITALY SHEVOROSHKIN: He could see and find in the chaos exactly things which fit, and that is the most important thing in linguistics, because there are so many data. And, he managed to establish precise sound correspondences between these Nostratic words in different languages and make other things like reconstruct grammar and semantics and lexics and so on. So, it was something which was done in a very precise way, and that's why it is so great, I think.

PETER THOMAS: The search for an ancestor language begins with modern-day words. Comparing "water" in English, Russian, and other related languages suggests a common ancestor. Six thousand years ago, "water" was probably "wod." The Russian group goes farther. They start with several of these reconstructed languages. For example, comparing six thousand-year-old words for "water," the Russians argue for the ancestral word "wete," which they believe belonged to a language spoken about ten to fifteen thousand years ago.

COLIN RENFREW: If there really were a Nostratic language family which would embrace a whole series, include Indo-European, it would include the Semitic languages, in fact the larger Afro-Asiatic family including the languages of North Africa, it would include the Altaic languages and so on, it would be a vast area which would be populated by people speaking languages descended from Proto-Nostratic. If one follows the divergence hypothesis that one can trace them back through time to a common origin, it would mean that somewhere, there would be an area where Proto-Nostratic was spoken at a particular time, perhaps ten thousand years ago, or a little more.

PETER THOMAS: Another Russian Nostraticist working today is Aharon Dolgopolsky. Here, in the midst of one of the oddest collections of dictionaries and grammars in the world, he is trying to recreate a complete grammar, syntax, and vocabulary for the Proto-Nostratic language. He starts with words he believes are more resistent to change over time.

AHARON DOLGOPOLSKY: Linguists know that what is called the kernel vocabulary is usually stable. For instance, the word for "water," as you know, in English, is just the same as in German and as in Russian. So, we know that in which meanings we can expect to find a word which has been preserved for thousands of years. Well, it includes body parts, the words for water, and to eat, to be, man, et cetera.

PETER THOMAS: Using this method, Dolgopolsky argues, he has reconstructed over a thousand Proto-Nostratic words. They vividly evoke for him the rhythm of the life lived fifteen thousand years ago.

AHARON DOLGOPOLSKY: Through the telescope of the vocabulary, we can discern a hunter who is—is following, "dersa" [Proto-Nostratic], the tracks, "gorki," "guti," "mirio" [Proto-Nostratic], of a beast, "kuru" [Proto-Nostratic], is casting a spell, "kuru," "shugia," and is trying to hit, "tapa" [Proto-Nostratic], the target and is afraid of missing, "mena" [Proto-Nostratic] it. Among the animals he hunts, "hakra" or "harka" [Proto-Nostratic], there are different kinds of antelopes, "oro," "gula," "guru" [Proto-Nostratic], et cetera. He knows a lot about the anatomy of animals: "meat," "hamesta cilia" [Proto-Nostratic], "marrow," "eimla" [Proto-Nostratic], "spleen," "lepa bayga." Some words are connected with spiritual culture, such as the meaning "to make magic, to use magical forces:" "arba" [Proto-Nostratic].

PETER THOMAS: This picture that Dolgopolsky paints of the Proto-Nostratic world is controversial and not widely accepted. In fact, most linguists argue that any attempt to come up with a language spoken fifteen thousand years ago is pure speculation. At the University of Pennsylvania, Professor Donald Ringe takes issue with the Nostratic approach.

DON RINGE, JR.: As far as I can tell, the observed rate of basic vocabulary loss in languages imposes a limit of about ten or twelve thousand years. That would be about as far back as we can reconstruct proto-languages using scientific methods, and it should come as no surprise that all the generally-recognized language families—Indo-European, Algonquian, Afro-Asiatic, Uralic, that sort of thing—began to diverge and diversify within that window of the past ten thousand years.

PETER THOMAS: For Ringe, the problem is this. As an ancient language gets passed on from generation to generation, the population shifts. People move away, mix with others, or divide into different groups. Changes in the language accumulate. New sounds and new words appear, until after ten thousand years, there is no way to be sure that any of the original words are left. But, Nostraticists argue that there are core words, like pronouns, which resist change, and it's these specific words they look for in each language family. For Ringe, even if particular words are alike in a variety of language families today, the similarity is not proof that they have survived from some ancestral language.

DON RINGE, JR.: When you have most of the original words lost and only a few remaining, you really can't tell the difference between resemblances which are real and reflect a common source from which the languages derive, and the resemblances that are simply kicked up by change, static, statistical noise, so to speak. There is a real limit, as we go back in time, on how much we can reconstruct.

PETER THOMAS: Most linguists set a limit on language reconstruction of ten thousand years. However, fossil evidence suggests our modern human ancestry can be traced back one hundred thousand years. Could this fossil record shed any light on when language originally evolved?

CHRIS STRINGER: One of the fundamental questions at the moment in anthropology is how far back do we have to go in time to find a common ancestor for the shared pattern of humans that we find all over the world? Well, here we've got a reconstruction of a skull and jaw from a specimen found in Ethiopia in 1967 at a site called Omokibish. This specimen is probably over a hundred thousand years old, and my work, and that of colleagues, has shown that this is an anatomically modern specimen, and there's quite a bit of evidence now that points to Africa or perhaps the Middle East as the place which has the earliest occurrence of modern people. Modern human language must have been in existence by forty thousand years ago, because we have evidence of complex human behavior by that time in early modern people. For example, in Europe, the Cro-Magnons had clearly complex social systems, symbolic behavior, art, many of the things which we associate with modern humans and hunter-gatherers all over the world. And so, I feel that by that time, there must have been full language of a modern human type. But, to go back further, it becomes more difficult to track the existence of such a complex language. I would guess that such a thing was, at least in the early stages of development in these populations, a hundred thousand years ago in Africa.

PETER THOMAS: But fossil evidence gives us no help in solving the puzzle of what kind of language our earliest ancestors spoke. Still, some linguists believe it is possible to trace human language back in time even further than the Nostraticists. By looking for connections among all the language families of the world, they try to reconstruct a mother tongue, possibly spoken from forty to a hundred thousand years ago.

MERRITT RUHLEN: Now, using traditional methods of comparative linguistics, linguists have been able to show that there are many language families around the world. If one simply compares these language families among themselves, in other words, look at the words which have been identified by scholars in those individual families as characteristic of those families, one runs across the exact same word in family after family after family. Two of the most famous have become "tik," meaning "one" or "finger," and "pal," meaning "two." You find these two roots in family after family after family, and I think that there is no way to explain why you find these roots as well as many others, except to hypothesize that they all derive from one common source.

PETER THOMAS: Another example Ruhlen offers is the word "maliqa." Appearing in English as "milk," the word form shows up around the word with meanings which are associated with milk, or suckle, or breast, or throat. For Ruhlen and a few other linguists, this is compelling evidence that deep in the mists of time, there was one word for something like "to suckle, " which has survived in each of the world's language families. But, to his critics, a few isolated examples do not make a convincing case.

AHARON DOLGOPOLSKY: It's quite possible there are some very—well, very impressing examples, but impressing examples is one thing, but serious reconstruction, in order to make it, we must first reconstruct all kinds of languages. This is one thing. That's why I think that it is probably feasible, but just today, it is probably too early.

DON RINGE, JR.: It seems overwhelmingly likely to me that all human languages derive from some common source. I think most linguists would agree with that. I think we would all be shocked if anyone ever came up with hard evidence that all human languages don't derive from some common source. But, unfortunately, that's not the issue. The issue is whether we can offer objective proof that all human languages derive from a common source, or whether we have to be content to believe it.

JAMES MATISOFF: Even if we accept, for the sake of argument, the Nostratic theory, and say that the time depth is fifteen thousand years, fifteen thousand is not forty thousand, and it's not two hundred thousand. You just cannot go back. There were glaciations in between there, too, by the way, and all kinds of catastrophes on the global scale between two hundred thousand years ago and now. How could anything have been left of that presumed original linguistic unity, even if it did exist? Still, it's nice to think about. It's very nice to think about the days before Babel, when everybody spoke exactly the same way. But, it's a dream. It's a belief. It's not scientifically testable, one way or the other.

PETER THOMAS: Gazing upon these silently evocative images from the past, it's only natural to want to know more about these artists and their message. It's easy to imagine that a people who could visually symbolize their world could also speak a complex language. New clues to the past continually emerge as we compare the world's languages and trace their relationships back in time. Language is the mirror of our humanity, and only by studying its many reflections will we ever fully know ourselves., he asks ? (close quote)  Listen to PETER THOMAS, lady. See how far back he can take you.
 


 The Good Book :: Book of James (and not a mass of neurosis)

   Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; .. the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God  13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.

  Page font did Ed. (sorry for the Edit)

 

 

Thumbnail --

 

 


Beyond Saving
Silver Member
Beyond Saving's picture
Posts: 4169
Joined: 2007-10-12
User is onlineOnline
TWD39 wrote:Now, you

TWD39 wrote:

Now, you atheists have wasted a  large amount of time on my thread with over 400 replies.  The real question is, why do you bother?

Cause it is amusing. Don't worry, none of us have any illusions that our arguments will make you more intelligent, less ignorant or more rational. It is obvious that your ignorance is willful, but there are always the lurkers out there that can learn. And I have to say, that I have learned quite a bit about linguistics and archaeology over the course of this thread. That is the great thing about this site is there are so many people with all sorts of random knowledge they can add to any given topic. Someone who goes through the effort to explore the links posted can learn a lot here. I enjoy learning, it is obvious that you do not. 


Anonymouse
atheist
Posts: 1687
Joined: 2008-05-04
User is offlineOffline
TWD39 wrote:Not one of those

TWD39 wrote:
Not one of those arguments including your link can tell me in detail exactly how language with rules and syntax was first formed.
  

So read a book : http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11995

Again, none of this is so very hard to find by yourself. 

TWD39 wrote:
The real question is, why do you bother?

At this point it's pure kindness.


TWD39
Theist
Posts: 300
Joined: 2012-07-02
User is offlineOffline
Anonymouse wrote:TWD39

Anonymouse wrote:

TWD39 wrote:
Not one of those arguments including your link can tell me in detail exactly how language with rules and syntax was first formed.
  

So read a book : http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11995

Again, none of this is so very hard to find by yourself. 

TWD39 wrote:
The real question is, why do you bother?

At this point it's pure kindness.

 

Kindness huh?  You mean like mocking my faith, general dishonesty, disgusting comments of hate and anger towards God, ignoring my points, burying me in a massive mound of replies then berating me because I don't respond immediately to every one,  and being 100% negative in every reply?    Yeah, you can keep your kindness.


jcgadfly
SuperfanBronze Member
Posts: 6789
Joined: 2006-07-18
User is offlineOffline
TWD39 wrote:Anonymouse

TWD39 wrote:

Anonymouse wrote:

TWD39 wrote:
Not one of those arguments including your link can tell me in detail exactly how language with rules and syntax was first formed.
  

So read a book : http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11995

Again, none of this is so very hard to find by yourself. 

TWD39 wrote:
The real question is, why do you bother?

At this point it's pure kindness.

 

Kindness huh?  You mean like mocking my faith, general dishonesty, disgusting comments of hate and anger towards God, ignoring my points, burying me in a massive mound of replies then berating me because I don't respond immediately to every one,  and being 100% negative in every reply?    Yeah, you can keep your kindness.

Nope - all of that (including mocking your faith) is you. You are doing so much more to mock your faith than I ever could.

I have never berated you for not replying immediately - only for not replying with anything of substance to serious arguments against your position. If you didn't want people to reply to you why post an attack piece on a public forum?

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin


TWD39
Theist
Posts: 300
Joined: 2012-07-02
User is offlineOffline
jcgadfly wrote:TWD39

jcgadfly wrote:

TWD39 wrote:

Anonymouse wrote:

TWD39 wrote:
Not one of those arguments including your link can tell me in detail exactly how language with rules and syntax was first formed.
  

So read a book : http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11995

Again, none of this is so very hard to find by yourself. 

TWD39 wrote:
The real question is, why do you bother?

At this point it's pure kindness.

 

Kindness huh?  You mean like mocking my faith, general dishonesty, disgusting comments of hate and anger towards God, ignoring my points, burying me in a massive mound of replies then berating me because I don't respond immediately to every one,  and being 100% negative in every reply?    Yeah, you can keep your kindness.

 

Nope - all of that (including mocking your faith) is you. You are doing so much more to mock your faith than I ever could.

I have never berated you for not replying immediately - only for not replying with anything of substance to serious arguments against your position. If you didn't want people to reply to you why post an attack piece on a public forum?

 

 

Do you even think before you post?   All of it, really?   I am the only one here defending the faith against at least a dozen hard headed atheists.  The VAST majority of replies has not been from me.  So you already scored a big fat lie on that one buddy.   How was I negative in my OPs?  I merely presented my opinion and ideas on how language originated.  And I certainly don't make disgusting comments of hate about God.  That would be you.

 

You most certainly did berate, most recently boasting that I would run away from post #487.  I took time out of my busy schedule to reply to that post.  Then you invalidate it by claiming I make weak assertions.  Pathetic misdirection.  I responded and you lied.  

 


TWD39
Theist
Posts: 300
Joined: 2012-07-02
User is offlineOffline
Beyond Saving wrote:TWD39

Beyond Saving wrote:

TWD39 wrote:

Now, you atheists have wasted a  large amount of time on my thread with over 400 replies.  The real question is, why do you bother?

Cause it is amusing. Don't worry, none of us have any illusions that our arguments will make you more intelligent, less ignorant or more rational. It is obvious that your ignorance is willful, but there are always the lurkers out there that can learn. And I have to say, that I have learned quite a bit about linguistics and archaeology over the course of this thread. That is the great thing about this site is there are so many people with all sorts of random knowledge they can add to any given topic. Someone who goes through the effort to explore the links posted can learn a lot here. I enjoy learning, it is obvious that you do not. 

 

So if you are hear to mock me, why should I ever expect my arguments or any Christian to get a fair shake here?   I enjoy learning too, but not from people who are liars with an extremely biased agenda.  You skeptics once claimed that the Hittities never existed until archaeology proved you wrong.  Of course, now atheists revise history to say that skeptics never doubted such a thing.  I wonder what else your brand of intelligence is wrong about.


danatemporary
danatemporary's picture
Posts: 1377
Joined: 2011-01-12
User is offlineOffline
Distorter !!

Quote:
You mean like mocking my faith, general dishonesty, disgusting comments of hate and anger towards God, ignoring my points, burying me in a massive mound of replies then berating me because I don't respond immediately to every one

  Distorter, much?

  In all due respect, If you are not comfortable with the level of Open candidness found on atheist board (different than you are accustomed to), I'm afraid with the little knowledge you have of the place, you will have to struggle through. Now before you get ever more defensive. Look, At what time did anyone ever say anything at to be immediate ??? The Distorter remark is about berating you for what again ?!?  Repeatedly, No one at anytime ever expected nor demanded this all had to be done right away. Repeat it again, you have all the time in the world. Interesting, You did a every Jean like thing, just now; after a couple of days pass, I'll let you know what that was (but remind me). Wasn't this supposed to be about the representation of information and such ? If you require an apology, I will be happy to give you one, even to the extent where it requires cravenly embarrassing myself, if this threatens to blow the whole thread apart. I'll be happy to provide one. In all honesty, My PC is unstable right now so I will have to leave it at that, for now.

 

 


harleysportster
atheist
harleysportster's picture
Posts: 3185
Joined: 2010-10-17
User is offlineOffline
TWD39 wrote:So if you are

TWD39 wrote:

So if you are hear to mock me, why should I ever expect my arguments or any Christian to get a fair shake here?   I enjoy learning too, but not from people who are liars with an extremely biased agenda.  You skeptics once claimed that the Hittities never existed until archaeology proved you wrong.  Of course, now atheists revise history to say that skeptics never doubted such a thing.  I wonder what else your brand of intelligence is wrong about.

Revisionist history ? Where at ? Who claimed that the Hittites never existed ? I forgot which Egyptian Pharoahs had an almost two generational war with them, but I clearly remember reading about it. I don't recall anyone ever making such a claim. Could be wrong about that one though.

I am not as well versed on Ancient History as some.

I haven't told a lie since I have been on here. I see no reason to.

I don't have an agenda.

I will gladly admit that god exists if such a substantiative body of evidence ever proves me wrong.

But at this time, I simply see no reason to believe in god based upon the faith claims that have been presented to me thus far.

Nothing in my childhood faith nor in any of my searchings ever yielded a personal experience nor an educational experience that inclined me to believe in god, once I stopped believing.

I have no reason to believe in homeopathy for instance. If someone can prove to me that homeopathy works, I'll change my mind.

I am not saying that you believe in homeopathy either. I am drawing that analogy to demonstrate that I have no lying agenda. I simply want to find the truth. My search for the truth lead me away from religion and into Atheism.

If the existence of god were to be proven or at least enough doubt were to be established within my mind that a god existed, then I would be more than happy to admit that I am wrong.

I don't see any lying agendas at work here.

“It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
― Giordano Bruno


blacklight915
blacklight915's picture
Posts: 544
Joined: 2011-12-23
User is offlineOffline
 TWD39, Dana took the time

 TWD39, Dana took the time to tell you how you could get excellent answers to your questions. She even posted a massive transcript for all of us to read and learn from.

The least you could do is acknowledge her effort...


TWD39
Theist
Posts: 300
Joined: 2012-07-02
User is offlineOffline
harleysportster wrote:TWD39

harleysportster wrote:

TWD39 wrote:

So if you are hear to mock me, why should I ever expect my arguments or any Christian to get a fair shake here?   I enjoy learning too, but not from people who are liars with an extremely biased agenda.  You skeptics once claimed that the Hittities never existed until archaeology proved you wrong.  Of course, now atheists revise history to say that skeptics never doubted such a thing.  I wonder what else your brand of intelligence is wrong about.

Revisionist history ? Where at ? Who claimed that the Hittites never existed ? I forgot which Egyptian Pharoahs had an almost two generational war with them, but I clearly remember reading about it. I don't recall anyone ever making such a claim. Could be wrong about that one though.

I am not as well versed on Ancient History as some.

I haven't told a lie since I have been on here. I see no reason to.

I don't have an agenda.

I will gladly admit that god exists if such a substantiative body of evidence ever proves me wrong.

But at this time, I simply see no reason to believe in god based upon the faith claims that have been presented to me thus far.

Nothing in my childhood faith nor in any of my searchings ever yielded a personal experience nor an educational experience that inclined me to believe in god, once I stopped believing.

I have no reason to believe in homeopathy for instance. If someone can prove to me that homeopathy works, I'll change my mind.

I am not saying that you believe in homeopathy either. I am drawing that analogy to demonstrate that I have no lying agenda. I simply want to find the truth. My search for the truth lead me away from religion and into Atheism.

If the existence of god were to be proven or at least enough doubt were to be established within my mind that a god existed, then I would be more than happy to admit that I am wrong.

I don't see any lying agendas at work here.

 

 

So when I presented my miracle story of a man healed from a massive stroke, what was your first reaction?  The response I saw was mad strambling to find anything, even a remote claim that this phenemon is completely normal.   Apparently it was amazing enough for an experienced neurologist located in Ft. Worth TX to give a video testimony of the healing.   

Consider this story:

http://www.christianpost.com/news/how-hookers-for-jesus-founder-turned-away-from-sex-trade-to-serving-god-82605/

Do you really believe that this woman suddenly found tremendous peace and healing from her own mind?  She now helps other women get out of the sex trade.  In an atheist world, there is no hope, and she would continue feeling worthless and used. 

Have you pondered the issue of morality?  In a true godless world, there is no good and evil.  We simply are.  We live, breathe and die.  It doesn't make a bit of difference if you are Mother Teresa or Hitler.   Attaching morality to human life would be the same as saying it is evil for an animal to attack and kill since we are only animals.  Was the chimp that ripped off a woman's face being evil?  No, it simply was.

It's a fact of life no different than leaves falling from the tree.  Of course, this probably doesn't agree with you because deep inside, you know there is right and wrong than separates us from the animal kingdom. 

 

 

 

 


Vastet
atheistBloggerHigh Level ModeratorSuperfan
Vastet's picture
Posts: 10143
Joined: 2006-12-25
User is offlineOffline
In the last 18 odd hours,

In the last 18 odd hours, TDW has made a huge number of assertions, but has failled to prove ANY of them, continuing his trend as a
Fucking Liar.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


Vastet
atheistBloggerHigh Level ModeratorSuperfan
Vastet's picture
Posts: 10143
Joined: 2006-12-25
User is offlineOffline
Dana, that was an awesome

Dana, that was an awesome read. As the atheists here aren't intellectually bankrupt cowards like this particular theist, it was certainly worth posting.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


TWD39
Theist
Posts: 300
Joined: 2012-07-02
User is offlineOffline
Vastet wrote:In the last 18

Vastet wrote:
In the last 18 odd hours, TDW has made a huge number of assertions, but has failled to prove ANY of them, continuing his trend as a Fucking Liar.

 

Translation:  I have broken record syndrome.   Maybe bigger fonts will make me appear superior. haha


TWD39
Theist
Posts: 300
Joined: 2012-07-02
User is offlineOffline
danatemporary wrote: Re ::

danatemporary wrote:

 Re :: .. the Tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity !!

TWD39 wrote:

Anonymouse wrote:

On the very first page of this thread, at least 6 people point out the problems with your arguments, but you manage to ignore all of them.

And it's not like your OP was that difficult to debunk. You could have done it yourself in just a few seconds : http://www.ucl.ac.uk/voicebox/timeline/

So you're here just to make friends then ?  

 

  You have no solid proof or evidence. Just more cocky attitude. 

 

Now, you atheists have wasted a  large amount of time on my thread with over 400 replies.  The real question is, why do you bother?

  Twd39, You ask for the impossible and then get in a mood if it is not produced before you, TWD. Look, before this begins to deteriorate,  As a courtesy, I would suggest you directly contact Linguist Peter Thomas , for it is he or one of his graduate students you should be speaking  with, (this is the one you should be speaking with). That is if you want to know an answer, and it is understanding you are lacking.  If you have about 71/2 hours of uninterupted time, he is the man who will sit you down an answer your question(s). It's a life long project and he is way up in age now so he or better get with one of his graduate students who you need to consult. (Read the following and you see why) This is a 'theorectical' question, of 'could' ? And in your case I should remind you and everyone that conflicting data in research is common place.

In Search of the First Language  PBS Channel Airdate: Mar  18, 1997

ANNOUNCER: On PBS'  NOVA, for a stranger in a foreign land, language can be an imposing barrier. But there are surprising similarities among the languages of the world, for certain. Could it be that at one time long ago, we all spoke the same language?

ANNOUNCER: A Controversial and yet tantalizingly new clues are challenging scientists "In Search of the First Language."

*PETER THOMAS: There are more than five thousand languages spoken across the face of the earth. Could all these languages ever be traced back to a common starting point? Was there a time when the people of the world spoke one tongue? This notion is vividly brought to life in the Old Testament story of Babel. It hearkens back to a primeval time when the people of the earth were all of one language and of one speech. According to biblical legend, the people of Babylon started to build a tower reaching up to heaven. Their ambition so offended God that he shattered the unity of their language, creating a confusion of incomprehensible tongues. Forever after, the tower was called Babel, from the Hebrew word "balbail," meaning "to confuse." This legend has inspired countless works of art, differing interpretations of that cataclysmic event. Like many myths, perhaps, there is a germ of truth in the Babel story. Did a mother tongue ever exist? Can we find it? Clues can be found by studying the world's great language families, such as Indo-European, the family that includes English.

MERRITT RUHLEN: The branches of this tree can represent different language families. The leaves on the branches, if we had leaves today, would represent different languages. And by tracing these branches back, one can arrive at larger branches, such as Indo-European, and by tracing the Indo-European branch back, one arrives at even larger branches. Eventually, we believe that you arrive at the main trunk of this tree into which all of the language or from which all of the language families have derived.

PETER THOMAS: There are some obvious connections among languages. Take Arabic and Hebrew, for example. Listen to how people count in each language. That was Arabic. Here's the Hebrew. Some numbers sound almost identical. But with other languages, it's not always so easy to spot the connections. Radio Sunrise serves an ethnically-diverse West London community, including Punjabi speakers living in the midst of an English suburb. What could these two languages—Punjabi and English—have in common? In fact, English and Punjabi, as well as other languages of northern India, like Hindi and Gujarati, are related, something discovered by chance two hundred years ago by a multilingual English lawyer, Sir William Jones.

COLIN RENFREW: He was a judge who went out to India in 1783, but he studied languages, Oriental languages, before he went, and when he got to India, he became very interested and learnt Sanskrit, which is the language of ancient India, which was first written about 500 AD. And then he realized, he made this great discovery, that Sanskrit resembles in some way, has relationships with Greek and Latin and other languages, and he gave a very famous discourse in which he said that these were sprung from some common source.

PETER THOMAS: Certain similarities are striking. Take the numbers again, for example. Here are two, three, seven, and ten in English, Latin, Greek and Sanskrit. (See Illus. in Image):
MUST CLICK LINK as part of the article  . . 

 LINK [img=http://img218.imagevenue.com/loc893/th_02974_Proud_one_on_Language__122_893lo.JPG]
But linguists are interested in discovering regular patterns, not isolated resemblances. So here, "t" in English often appears as "d" in the other languages,


By finding patterns like these, different languages can be grouped together as members of a language family.

DON RINGE, JR.: The question is, how can you tell that the languages you're looking at reflect a single original language, and therefore, form a family? The only way you can do that is by finding systematic similarities between these languages in every area of their grammar, similarities in their sounds, similarities in their inflections, similarities in the syntax of the language, and so forth. And the similarities have to be very precise, and they have to be interlocking for the assertion that these languages form a family, to be believable. You take a look at an English word like "tooth" and see that in Hindi, it's "dant," and by itself that doesn't mean very much, but you take a look at English "ten" and it shows up in Hindi as "das," and you see the same pattern emerging. You've got an initial "t" in English and an initial "d" in Hindi. When you find that the word "two," the numeral in English, shows up in Hindi as "doe," and you've got, once again, an initial "t" in English and an initial "d" in Hindi, you begin to think that perhaps this is not an accident.

PETER THOMAS: Using this comparative method, linguists have been able to establish the connections among a group of languages which stretch from Iceland to India. This group of about one hundred languages is called the Indo-European Family of Languages. Each of these languages can be traced to one of ten individual branches, represented here by distinct colors. The lines which do not extend all the way are the languages which have gone extinct. The subgroups, or daughter families, that survive today, are Balto-Slavic, Germanic, Celtic, Italic. Also, Albanian, Hellenic, Armenian, and finally, Indo-Iranian. By looking closely at the Germanic family, we can see how it has evolved over time into different languages, until we reach the ones we recognize today, such as Swedish, Danish, English, and Dutch. By studying all the languages in this wide-ranging group, linguists have been able to reconstruct a hypothetical ancestral tongue called Proto-Indo-European, believed to have been spoken five to six thousand years ago.

JAMES MATISOFF: What historical linguists do, the task they set themselves, is to look at the current state of the language, try and find other languages that are related to it, that descend from the same ancestor, and by this act of comparison, try and trace back through time, what earlier stages of the language might have been like, what the words used to mean, how the words used to be pronounced, how words used to be put together in sentences. And this is a very fascinating endeavor, because languages can change in very unpredictable ways, and what linguists love to do is to look beneath the surface diversity and find the ultimate proto-unity that the languages had before they split off from each other.

PETER THOMAS: But recognizing this "ultimate proto-unity" is not easy. Take an example from English. Here is the Lord's Prayer as it would have sounded spoken in Old English, twelve hundred years ago. Now listen to Middle English, spoken eight hundred years ago. It's more intelligible, but still not familiar. Over the course of twelve hundred years, English has changed so dramatically that Old English sounds to us like a foreign language. But, English is relatively easy for linguists to study because of its long written history. This phenomenon is true for many of the Indo-European languages, making this the most studied and well-researched language family in the world. The one hundred languages that comprise the Indo-European family are spoken by half the world's people. Another important language family is Sino-Tibetan, spoken by one-quarter of the world's population. Linguists estimate this family includes about two hundred fifty to three hundred languages. Apart from Chinese, Tibetan, and Burmese, the majority of languages in this family were not written down until this century. At the University of California, Berkeley, James Matisoff and his students have spent the last eight years figuring out which languages belong to this family by mapping out the details of their relationships. Their goal is to produce the definitive historical thesaurus of the Sino-Tibetan language family.

JAMES MATISOFF: This is one of the great language families of the world, over a billion speakers, and it's very much understudied, compared to other languages families, like Indo-European or Semitic or Bantu, so it's long overdue that this family receive the attention it deserves from the linguistic world in general. And it's called a thesaurus because the organizational principle is by semantic field, not just by alphabetical order. So, the first field we're dealing with is body parts. We've been working on them for several years. After that, we'll do animal names, kinship terms, verbs of motion, other areas of the vocabulary by their meaning, not just by their sound. How do we collect this data? Well, first of all, we use published sources, dictionaries, as many dictionaries as we can get our hands on, on one or another language in the family. And we go through them to extract the body part terms. So, somebody has to go through manually and check all the words which have to do with parts of the body, and then we input them into the computer and get them ready for etymological analysis. And then comes the really hard part, and the interesting part, and that is to sort out these forms according to how they're related to each other.

PETER THOMAS: As they discover common roots in a wide range of languages, patterns of sound and meaning start to emerge.
JAMES MATISOFF: OK. Why don't we call up the words for "eye" from the database?
J.B. LOWE: All right. That's pretty straightforward.

JAMES MATISOFF: OK. You see, we have hundreds and hundreds of forms meaning "eye" in the various Sino-Tibetan languages. And now's the time to try and analyze them, do something with them. We notice lots of these words have the shape "mik" or something similar, sometimes "smik" or "myak," so one of the next steps is to put them all in one place and examine them together. So, why don't we call up all—all of the words which have the shape "mik"? All right. And we see we have several screens full of words with that shape. So, this is good evidence that we're dealing here with a genuine root in the proto-language, because the great variety of the languages and the fact that they're not spoken in geographically contiguous areas means that we have to reject borrowing as a possibility. And we notice that a lot of these forms are not just monosyllables. They have two or three syllables. And we notice they have meanings which involve "eye" but which mean more than "eye," like eyelid, eyelash, eyebrow, eye crud that gets stuck in the corners of the eye at night, to be jealous, as we say in English, to be "green-eyed," except there's another metaphor in Tibet or Burma. So, we feel responsible for giving an explanation, an etymology, for every single syllable of every word, if we can. And if we can't do it, then we mark it with a symbol which means we can't do it yet, but we'll get back to it sometime.

PETER THOMAS: By finding the same root in different groups of languages, Matisoff begins to identify patterns of relationships among the Sino-Tibetan family. Occasionally, there's a language that doesn't quite fit. For example, the language of Thailand. There are hundreds of Thai words that are identical to Chinese. Thai has often been classified in the Sino-Tibetan family, but by comparing roots, Matisoff demonstrated more compelling similarities between Thai and the neighboring family called Austronesian. For example, "eye" in Thai is "taa," not "mik." Likewise, the root for "eye" in Austronesian is "mata." Perhaps the similarities that Thai shares with Chinese are due to borrowing, not descent from a common ancestor. This distinction is critical.

JAMES MATISOFF: The further back in time you go, it becomes very difficult to distinguish between inheritance from a common ancestor and borrowing from another group, especially in a family where there are few historical records and where the written histories don't go back very far. Also, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish descent from a common ancestor or borrowing from sheer chance, accident, and any two languages taken at random in the world will show a certain percentage of apparent similarities, even in basic vocabulary. That's because there's only a limited number of sounds in human languages, and there are certain built-in constraints on the form of human language, which makes accidental resemblance quite possible, and frequent, in fact.

PETER THOMAS: So, understanding why words are similar is essential to determining relationships among families. Although the exact number of language families has yet to be determined, most linguists recognize at least two hundred. Some of the principal ones in addition to Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan, and Austronesian are Afro-Asiatic, Altaic, Dravidian, and Australian aboriginal. One area of the world where the language picture is particularly complex is the Americas. With so many native languages facing extinction, linguists have been more involved with recording these languages than classifying them. Here, along the ancient shores of Flathead Lake in northwestern Montana, Salish speakers from the Flathead Indian reservation are trying to prevent their language from disappearing. These are some of the last fluent speakers of Salish, a language known to have been spoken in this region for thousands of years.

GERMAINE WHITE: Salish is one of the languages that's targeted not to survive, and that's frightening to me, because we carry our culture, we carry our tradition, we carry our history, the very history of who we are, through our language, and that's what it is we're doing here at language camp, we're trying to put our language in context, in cultural context, to create a new generation of fluent Salish speakers.

PETER THOMAS: Today, on the Flathead reservation, there are approximately sixty-three hundred tribal members, yet fewer than one hundred are fluent Salish speakers. Unfortunately, of the remaining speakers, the vast majority are elders. Historically, Salishan was one of the most extensive language families of the Northwest. Linguists believe there were no fewer than twenty-three distinct languages in the family. By the eighteenth century, at least one hundred thousand speakers spread over twenty-two million acres, from southern British Columbia to western Montana. Then, Salish speakers had their first encounter with whites, a friendly meeting with Lewis and Clark in 1805. Gradually, Native American communities came under the influence of the settlers and missionaries that soon followed. The Jesuits were the first "black robes" to live among the Salish. Initially, they were welcomed. Adults went to church and children went to their boarding schools. But tensions mounted as priests demanded that the Salish children speak English, forbidding them to use their native tongue. It took only a hundred years for a language which had thrived for millennia to be on the verge of extinction. Today, support for the tribe's effort to renew the language and preserve its cultural traditions is growing among the members. On a mountainside deep in the forest, Chauncey Beaverhead harvests cedar bark in the same careful way his grandfather and great-grandfather did a hundred years ago. Back at the campground, parents look on as their children painstakingly try to master the handicrafts that were once essential survival skills for their ancestors. But as the children concentrate on making their baskets, surrounded by sounds of English and Salish, another very important project is taking place. The tribe has invited linguist Sarah Thomason to work with them on a written record of their language and customs.

SARAH THOMASON: When I first started working on Salishan languages, reading about them, my main interest was historical. I'm a historical linguist. I wanted to find out about the borrowing situation in this part of the country and neighboring parts of Canada. But when I started working with the tribal members, with elders on the reservation, I found that what they wanted and needed was somebody who could help them with their preservation efforts. All right. [Salish], and that means?

SALISH ELDER: It's getting daylight. Early, early daylight.

SARAH THOMASON: Could you say it once more, please?

PETER THOMAS: Without a fairly complete written record, the death of the last native Salish speaker would mean the permanent loss of the language. Thomason has been working with this group of elders to create a Salish/English dictionary, as well as to preserve descriptions of traditional life for future generations.

SARAH THOMASON: They get themselves decked out?

SALISH ELDER: Mmm-hmm. Yes.

SARAH THOMASON: Like for the war dances?

SALISH ELDER: Right. Decked.

SARAH THOMASON: OK. So, let's go over it and see how many mistakes I've made, so you can correct me so I don't get it wrong. [Salish] They finished the canvas dance. [Salish] It's getting light.

PETER THOMAS: Nearly half of the tribal languages known to be part of the Salishan family are already extinct. Salish has thus far been spared. The loss of so many languages is an obstacle to understanding the full richness of the linguistic history of the Americas. Of the sixteen hundred languages once spoken here, only a third exist today. It's estimated that these languages, both living and extinct, might include as many as two hundred language families, but despite this scant amount of evidence, there is no lack of determination to draw a complete picture of the languages of the Americas. At Stanford University, one linguist who has been intrigued with the language puzzle of the Americas for many years is Joseph Greenberg.

JOSEPH GREENBERG: What keeps me going is a curiosity about the whole thing, and I'm attracted, as a matter of fact, to areas of the world in which classification has not yet been accomplished to people's satisfaction. There are always new etymologies to be discovered, and in doing that, it's very much like detective work.

PETER THOMAS: Many years ago, Greenberg received worldwide acclaim when he applied his detective skills to classifying the thousand languages of Africa. Although the African languages had been recorded for centuries, very little systematic study had been undertaken.

JOSEPH GREENBERG: In Africa, it was obvious that there were, first of all, a very large number of languages, a great many unresolved questions, and it seemed to me that the sensible thing was to actually look at all of the languages. I usually had preliminary notebooks in which I took those elements of a language, which, on the whole, we know are the most stable over time. These are things like the personal pronouns, particularly first and second person, names for the parts of the human body, and words for important objects in nature that are part of everyday life, like fire, water, house, and so on. I would look at a very large number of languages in regard to these matters, and I did find that they fell into quite obvious groupings.

PETER THOMAS: Linguists had already postulated three language families, Afro-Asiatic, Niger-Congo, and Khosan. Greenberg's analysis revealed a fourth, Nilo-Saharan, which had been considered part of Niger-Congo. This new family suggested a fundamental connection between languages that appeared extremely different. For some, the reclassification provided important insights about African migrations.

MERRITT RUHLEN: Linguistic classifications tell you about history. Each language family represents one historical event. Once you have an overall classification, then you can make certain historical inferences from that classification. This is exactly what Greenberg did in Africa, where he showed that the very widespread Bantu group in southern Africa was most closely related to languages that weren't Bantu but which were almost Bantu, semi-Bantu, found in Nigeria. And from this classification, he hypothesized that the Bantu family had spread from the area of eastern Nigeria throughout all of what is now southern Africa. So, this historical inference was made once he understood what the proper classification was of these languages.

PETER THOMAS: Encouraged by his new picture of the relationships among the language families of Africa, Greenberg spent the next thirty years trying to solve the complicated language puzzle presented by the Americas.

JOSEPH GREENBERG: Nobody had premised more than anything other than the very large number of groups. There were no widespread groupings. So, I began to take the common words, write them down, so on, and look at them. And eventually, I put them into notebooks, and the notebooks are like the ones I have here, in which you have the names of languages down one side, and down the other. One can get eighty languages in a notebook like this. And across, I have various words in English for which we find translations in the American Indian languages. So, for example, on this page, after having finished putting the numerals in, I have the pronouns, so I have "I" and "thou," the second person singular pronoun. But, the notebook is actually fairly extensive and contains hundreds of words in a very large number of languages.

PETER THOMAS: Taking a word like "blood," Greenberg wrote down its translation in language after language. When he discovered a clump of similar words in different languages, he tried to confirm the link by looking at other words in those languages. The results led Greenberg to a radical reinterpretation of the language families of the Americas. Instead of hundreds, he posited only three families: Eskimo-Aleut, Na-Dene, and the most notable, Amerind, a new super-family which drew in languages spoken from the Hudson Bay to Tierra del Fuego. Greenberg's new classification and his methodology met with strong scientific criticism.

JAMES MATISOFF: Eyeballing data is prescientific, or nonscientific. There are so many ways you can be led astray, because very often, words look as if they have some connection, and they have no historical connection whatsoever. It's just chance. And, on the contrary, words which you never—might never have thought have any connection, do, in fact, come from the same root. So, even in languages which we know well, like our own native language, our judgments, unless we just look something up, are liable to be absolutely wrong, our judgments on whether things are related or not. How much the more so when we're dealing with languages we have no academic or personal knowledge of, and which have been badly recorded, for the most part, and when we're trying to reestablish relationships which go back untold thousands of years. The potential for error is enormous unless you have some methodological constraints to guide you every step of the way.

PETER THOMAS: But sometimes, regardless of approach, historical linguistics is faced with an unsolvable puzzle. There is one language in Europe which has baffled scholars for centuries. Sarak looks like a typical French village, but its graveyard holds a linguistic secret. Inscribed alongside the French is the mysterious language of the Basque people. The language is called Euskara, and it has resisted any classification so far. It is called a language isolate, an orphan among languages with no known relatives. The land of the Basques straddles the borders of France and Spain. No amount of analysis has been able to link Euskara to French, Spanish, or to any European language, nor, in fact, to a language anywhere in the world. How could this linguistic isolation come about? Perhaps it was the fierce independence of the Basque people, their resistance to outside invaders and their strong history of oral tradition. But, whatever the reason, the Basque language has withstood centuries of influence. Scientists have wondered whether a biological comparison between the Basques and their Indo-European-speaking neighbors would reflect that isolation as well.

LUIGI CAVALLI-SFORZA: What we ordinarily do in biology is, really, bilateral comparisons, but we do them all, all the possible ones.

PETER THOMAS: Geneticist Cavalli-Sforza of Stanford University was a pioneer in the search for notable biological indicators.

LUIGI CAVALLI-SFORZA: They must realize that there is a degree of relationship, and that it's very important to take that into account. Otherwise, you cannot do anything.

PETER THOMAS: Cavalli-Sforza was interested in exploring historical relationships among different populations by examining their genes, rather than their languages. Would his research team find the Basques as unique as the linguists found them? If the Basques are as isolated as their language suggests, this isolation might also show up in their genetic makeup, blood groups, DNA patterns, and so on. New techniques now make it possible to carry out much more detailed analyses of individuals and populations using just a few living cells, in this case, cells from a hair follicle. The DNA pattern not only distinguishes the Basques from their neighbors, it suggests they must have been among the earliest people to settle in Europe.

LUIGI CAVALLI-SFORZA: Basques were recognized as genetically different a long time ago. Basques are so different that they must have been proto-Europeans. Basques were probably the descendants of cultures that have made all those beautiful painted rock paintings in the southwest of France and in the north of Spain.

PETER THOMAS: These cave paintings, many of them located in Basque country, were painted fifteen thousand years ago. Since the genetic data suggests the Basques have been a distinct group for thousands of years, isolated from other peoples, it may have been their ancestors who painted these caves during the last Ice Age. Although this conclusion is speculative, Cavalli-Sforza is trying to use these techniques to solve other linguistic puzzles, including Greenberg's controversial classification of Native American languages. DNA samples from may different tribes in North and South America were collected and analyzed in Cavalli-Sforza's lab at Stanford. He believes his results provide a strong confirmation of Greenberg's groupings.

LUIGI CAVALLI-SFORZA: When we took all the data from American natives, they clearly fell into three classes, and they correspond exactly to the linguistic families that have been postulated by Greenberg. Not only that, but the family which is most heterogeneous of all genetically is the one that is linguistically more heterogeneous of all.

JAMES MATISOFF: Even if it's true—Let's accept, for the sake of argument for a while, that the New World was settled by exactly three waves of immigrants, the Amerinds and the Na-Dene and the Eskimo-Aleuts. Let's even assume that's true. What is there to show that they were linguistically uniform when they migrated, or that they didn't change their language dozens of times, if the language wasn't creolized, that they didn't abandon their language and adopt a new one? We can see that people can change a language within a generation. It happens all over the world. Suppose some future linguist ten thousand years from now was looking at the DNA from United States fossils. He would be very confused indeed, because he would find all kinds of racial genetic strains which wouldn't tell him anything about the fundamental linguistic unity of the country, that we all speak English now.

PETER THOMAS: One good example of language change occurring in less than a generation can be seen in Philadelphia. Here, a team of linguists has carried out fieldwork over the last twenty years to see at what rate English words change, and why.

WILLIAM LABOV: When I first came into this field, I was interested in finding out how language was changing, as it was used in everyday life, and these tapes that you see here are part of the archives of this room going back to 1963 when I did a little study in Martha's Vineyard. Because I noticed on that island that people were saying "sight" and "fight" and "right" going back to what seemed like a seventeenth-, eighteenth-century pronunciation. Philadelphia we chose as a community where almost all the vowels were changing, and I came here to try to find out, if I could, why language was changing. The nineteenth-century theories about it would argue that it was either the people at the bottom of the heap who were changing it because of laziness and ignorance, or the people at the top, because they had such prestige. But we'd found out that the opposite was true, that the sound changes were in the hands of the people who were the most important local people. Ann Bower is one of the field workers who began this study with me in the 1970s. Celeste Sweeney is one of her most important contacts, the center of a social network here in south Philadelphia. In every neighborhood, you need to know the people who are the central figures so that you can understand how society works and who influences who.

PETER THOMAS: Ann Bower and Celeste Sweeney have become close friends over the years. They talk with each other in a relaxed and informal way.

ANN BOWER: Your mom made abolind. How did she do that? How did she make that?

CELESTE SWEENEY: Well, then, when she would make sauce, gravy—We call it gravy, you call it sauce. And she would put gravy on top and then the sausages. And then, like some people, they used to eat it on a big board.

WILLIAM LABOV: In the last fifty years, there have been massive changes in American English.

CELESTE SWEENEY: Believe me, we ate properly.

WILLIAM LABOV: In the history of English, the vowels have always been the ones that move, and the consonants have stayed put. And over the course of time, small changes add up into great changes.

ANN BOWER: Your dad wasn't working during the Depression, though?
CELESTE SWEENEY: No, not at all. He worked for a guy in a shoe store. My father used to make shoes. He was a shoemaker. He made all—the whole shoe. And it got so bad that they were paying him in postage stamps.
ANN BOWER: Son of a gun.

WILLIAM LABOV: We're taking the word "bad" to "bed," the word "out" to "a-out," to "a-out." You notice that "go" moves to "gao" to "gao." You notice that "two" goes from "two" to "teo." In the meantime, "sight" and "fight" are becoming "sa-ight" and "fa-ight" or "soight" and "foight." There are other changes that are just beginning to appear, where "a" as in "maid" and "pain" becomes "maid" and "pain," so that "snake" and "sneak" then sound the same. So, we have a rotation of the whole vowel system which is happening in different ways in different cities in the United States, and in England, too.

PETER THOMAS: By measuring changes in Celeste's speech patterns for over a decade and comparing her results to those of other Philadelphians, Labov has been able observe language change in action. But, how important are these apparently small changes in pronunciation to the overall history of languages?

WILLIAM LABOV: Whatever the forces that are producing this change, they must be very powerful, because they really do interfere with understanding. Our current research is dealing with cross-dialectical comprehension, and we've taken three cities, Chicago, Birmingham, and Philadelphia, which are becoming more and more different. And we find, indeed, that people do not understand the sounds in the dialects of other cities, and even within the city, the older people don't understand the younger people when it comes to using those sounds. So, that's the process which several hundred or several thousand years ago led to the gradual differentiation of languages and the loss of intelligibility. I'm not saying it's going to happen in the United States, because there are other factors at work there, too. But, we can trace that day-to-day change which ultimately leads to two different languages.

PETER THOMAS: If English shows significant change within a single decade, the implications for linguists who are trying to study a language believed to have been spoken fifteen thousand years ago are enormous. Yet, an effort is underway to do exactly that. One of the leaders of a controversial group of linguists who believe in the Nostratic theory is Vitaly Shevoroshkin. This theory claims to identify an ancient superfamily of languages from which many of today's language families have descended. It wasn't until the 1960s in Russia that the Nostratic theory was approached with modern linguistic techniques by Vladislav Illytch Svitch. He believed he could work back in time from several reconstructed languages six thousand years old to find a more remote common ancestor, a language he called Proto-Nostratic. Today, Vitaly Shevoroshkin, an original member of this Russian group, is convinced of the importance of his mentor's work.

VITALY SHEVOROSHKIN: He could see and find in the chaos exactly things which fit, and that is the most important thing in linguistics, because there are so many data. And, he managed to establish precise sound correspondences between these Nostratic words in different languages and make other things like reconstruct grammar and semantics and lexics and so on. So, it was something which was done in a very precise way, and that's why it is so great, I think.

PETER THOMAS: The search for an ancestor language begins with modern-day words. Comparing "water" in English, Russian, and other related languages suggests a common ancestor. Six thousand years ago, "water" was probably "wod." The Russian group goes farther. They start with several of these reconstructed languages. For example, comparing six thousand-year-old words for "water," the Russians argue for the ancestral word "wete," which they believe belonged to a language spoken about ten to fifteen thousand years ago.

COLIN RENFREW: If there really were a Nostratic language family which would embrace a whole series, include Indo-European, it would include the Semitic languages, in fact the larger Afro-Asiatic family including the languages of North Africa, it would include the Altaic languages and so on, it would be a vast area which would be populated by people speaking languages descended from Proto-Nostratic. If one follows the divergence hypothesis that one can trace them back through time to a common origin, it would mean that somewhere, there would be an area where Proto-Nostratic was spoken at a particular time, perhaps ten thousand years ago, or a little more.

PETER THOMAS: Another Russian Nostraticist working today is Aharon Dolgopolsky. Here, in the midst of one of the oddest collections of dictionaries and grammars in the world, he is trying to recreate a complete grammar, syntax, and vocabulary for the Proto-Nostratic language. He starts with words he believes are more resistent to change over time.

AHARON DOLGOPOLSKY: Linguists know that what is called the kernel vocabulary is usually stable. For instance, the word for "water," as you know, in English, is just the same as in German and as in Russian. So, we know that in which meanings we can expect to find a word which has been preserved for thousands of years. Well, it includes body parts, the words for water, and to eat, to be, man, et cetera.

PETER THOMAS: Using this method, Dolgopolsky argues, he has reconstructed over a thousand Proto-Nostratic words. They vividly evoke for him the rhythm of the life lived fifteen thousand years ago.

AHARON DOLGOPOLSKY: Through the telescope of the vocabulary, we can discern a hunter who is—is following, "dersa" [Proto-Nostratic], the tracks, "gorki," "guti," "mirio" [Proto-Nostratic], of a beast, "kuru" [Proto-Nostratic], is casting a spell, "kuru," "shugia," and is trying to hit, "tapa" [Proto-Nostratic], the target and is afraid of missing, "mena" [Proto-Nostratic] it. Among the animals he hunts, "hakra" or "harka" [Proto-Nostratic], there are different kinds of antelopes, "oro," "gula," "guru" [Proto-Nostratic], et cetera. He knows a lot about the anatomy of animals: "meat," "hamesta cilia" [Proto-Nostratic], "marrow," "eimla" [Proto-Nostratic], "spleen," "lepa bayga." Some words are connected with spiritual culture, such as the meaning "to make magic, to use magical forces:" "arba" [Proto-Nostratic].

PETER THOMAS: This picture that Dolgopolsky paints of the Proto-Nostratic world is controversial and not widely accepted. In fact, most linguists argue that any attempt to come up with a language spoken fifteen thousand years ago is pure speculation. At the University of Pennsylvania, Professor Donald Ringe takes issue with the Nostratic approach.

DON RINGE, JR.: As far as I can tell, the observed rate of basic vocabulary loss in languages imposes a limit of about ten or twelve thousand years. That would be about as far back as we can reconstruct proto-languages using scientific methods, and it should come as no surprise that all the generally-recognized language families—Indo-European, Algonquian, Afro-Asiatic, Uralic, that sort of thing—began to diverge and diversify within that window of the past ten thousand years.

PETER THOMAS: For Ringe, the problem is this. As an ancient language gets passed on from generation to generation, the population shifts. People move away, mix with others, or divide into different groups. Changes in the language accumulate. New sounds and new words appear, until after ten thousand years, there is no way to be sure that any of the original words are left. But, Nostraticists argue that there are core words, like pronouns, which resist change, and it's these specific words they look for in each language family. For Ringe, even if particular words are alike in a variety of language families today, the similarity is not proof that they have survived from some ancestral language.

DON RINGE, JR.: When you have most of the original words lost and only a few remaining, you really can't tell the difference between resemblances which are real and reflect a common source from which the languages derive, and the resemblances that are simply kicked up by change, static, statistical noise, so to speak. There is a real limit, as we go back in time, on how much we can reconstruct.

PETER THOMAS: Most linguists set a limit on language reconstruction of ten thousand years. However, fossil evidence suggests our modern human ancestry can be traced back one hundred thousand years. Could this fossil record shed any light on when language originally evolved?

CHRIS STRINGER: One of the fundamental questions at the moment in anthropology is how far back do we have to go in time to find a common ancestor for the shared pattern of humans that we find all over the world? Well, here we've got a reconstruction of a skull and jaw from a specimen found in Ethiopia in 1967 at a site called Omokibish. This specimen is probably over a hundred thousand years old, and my work, and that of colleagues, has shown that this is an anatomically modern specimen, and there's quite a bit of evidence now that points to Africa or perhaps the Middle East as the place which has the earliest occurrence of modern people. Modern human language must have been in existence by forty thousand years ago, because we have evidence of complex human behavior by that time in early modern people. For example, in Europe, the Cro-Magnons had clearly complex social systems, symbolic behavior, art, many of the things which we associate with modern humans and hunter-gatherers all over the world. And so, I feel that by that time, there must have been full language of a modern human type. But, to go back further, it becomes more difficult to track the existence of such a complex language. I would guess that such a thing was, at least in the early stages of development in these populations, a hundred thousand years ago in Africa.

PETER THOMAS: But fossil evidence gives us no help in solving the puzzle of what kind of language our earliest ancestors spoke. Still, some linguists believe it is possible to trace human language back in time even further than the Nostraticists. By looking for connections among all the language families of the world, they try to reconstruct a mother tongue, possibly spoken from forty to a hundred thousand years ago.

MERRITT RUHLEN: Now, using traditional methods of comparative linguistics, linguists have been able to show that there are many language families around the world. If one simply compares these language families among themselves, in other words, look at the words which have been identified by scholars in those individual families as characteristic of those families, one runs across the exact same word in family after family after family. Two of the most famous have become "tik," meaning "one" or "finger," and "pal," meaning "two." You find these two roots in family after family after family, and I think that there is no way to explain why you find these roots as well as many others, except to hypothesize that they all derive from one common source.

PETER THOMAS: Another example Ruhlen offers is the word "maliqa." Appearing in English as "milk," the word form shows up around the word with meanings which are associated with milk, or suckle, or breast, or throat. For Ruhlen and a few other linguists, this is compelling evidence that deep in the mists of time, there was one word for something like "to suckle, " which has survived in each of the world's language families. But, to his critics, a few isolated examples do not make a convincing case.

AHARON DOLGOPOLSKY: It's quite possible there are some very—well, very impressing examples, but impressing examples is one thing, but serious reconstruction, in order to make it, we must first reconstruct all kinds of languages. This is one thing. That's why I think that it is probably feasible, but just today, it is probably too early.

DON RINGE, JR.: It seems overwhelmingly likely to me that all human languages derive from some common source. I think most linguists would agree with that. I think we would all be shocked if anyone ever came up with hard evidence that all human languages don't derive from some common source. But, unfortunately, that's not the issue. The issue is whether we can offer objective proof that all human languages derive from a common source, or whether we have to be content to believe it.

JAMES MATISOFF: Even if we accept, for the sake of argument, the Nostratic theory, and say that the time depth is fifteen thousand years, fifteen thousand is not forty thousand, and it's not two hundred thousand. You just cannot go back. There were glaciations in between there, too, by the way, and all kinds of catastrophes on the global scale between two hundred thousand years ago and now. How could anything have been left of that presumed original linguistic unity, even if it did exist? Still, it's nice to think about. It's very nice to think about the days before Babel, when everybody spoke exactly the same way. But, it's a dream. It's a belief. It's not scientifically testable, one way or the other.

PETER THOMAS: Gazing upon these silently evocative images from the past, it's only natural to want to know more about these artists and their message. It's easy to imagine that a people who could visually symbolize their world could also speak a complex language. New clues to the past continually emerge as we compare the world's languages and trace their relationships back in time. Language is the mirror of our humanity, and only by studying its many reflections will we ever fully know ourselves., he asks ? (close quote)  Listen to PETER THOMAS, lady. See how far back he can take you.
 


 The Good Book :: Book of James (and not a mass of neurosis)

   Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; .. the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God  13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.

  Page font did Ed. (sorry for the Edit)

 

 

Thumbnail --

 

 

 

Interesting read, but it really doesn't answer my questions.  They go in detail explaining how the individual branches of languages traced back to the tree or common origin.  I want to know how the tree was created.  How did the first language come into existence when there is no foundation or examples to draw from?  It had to start somewhere.  It is still all theory anyways, no proven facts.


Vastet
atheistBloggerHigh Level ModeratorSuperfan
Vastet's picture
Posts: 10143
Joined: 2006-12-25
User is offlineOffline
TWD39 wrote:Vastet wrote:In

TWD39 wrote:

Vastet wrote:
In the last 18 odd hours, TDW has made a huge number of assertions, but has failled to prove ANY of them, continuing his trend as a Fucking Liar.

 

Translation:  I have broken record syndrome.   Maybe bigger fonts will make me appear superior. haha

Translation: I'm A Fucking Liar

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


TWD39
Theist
Posts: 300
Joined: 2012-07-02
User is offlineOffline
Beyond Saving wrote: TWD39

Beyond Saving wrote:

 

TWD39 wrote:
I follow the example of Christ by showing compassion and respect for others. 

 

TWD39 wrote:
 

You don't know me personally to blast such a charge.  If you are gauging me based on my posts then you really are delusional.  A freaking internet message board is not real life.  IDIOT

I wouldn't call calling someone an idiot showing compassion, respect or following the supposed example of Jesus. Wasn't Jesus all about turning the other cheek and loving his enemies? Of course, with all of the contradictory suggestions in the bible of god being angry, cruel and mean I can understand how you would be confused. 

 

I'm not calling anyone an idiot in person.  I don't know this person or you.  I only know his words on the screen which truly are idiotic and disgusting.  I would be lying to say otherwise.  Jesus didn't roll over when it came to describe the nature of hypocritical and evil people:

 

Matthew 23:17

 

There is such a thing as "righteous anger".  Now if I used name calling out of anger and hatred in my heart towards you then it would be sinful.  But no matter how ugly you all have been to me, I harbor no personal ill will to individuals on this forum.  Who knows, you may be swell people in person who just use the internet to vent internal angers about God.  I would give you a cheeseburger if you were hungry on the street.  Unless you urinated on me.  Then I would walk away.

 


jcgadfly
SuperfanBronze Member
Posts: 6789
Joined: 2006-07-18
User is offlineOffline
TWD39 wrote:jcgadfly

TWD39 wrote:

jcgadfly wrote:

TWD39 wrote:

Anonymouse wrote:

TWD39 wrote:
Not one of those arguments including your link can tell me in detail exactly how language with rules and syntax was first formed.
  

So read a book : http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11995

Again, none of this is so very hard to find by yourself. 

TWD39 wrote:
The real question is, why do you bother?

At this point it's pure kindness.

 

Kindness huh?  You mean like mocking my faith, general dishonesty, disgusting comments of hate and anger towards God, ignoring my points, burying me in a massive mound of replies then berating me because I don't respond immediately to every one,  and being 100% negative in every reply?    Yeah, you can keep your kindness.

 

Nope - all of that (including mocking your faith) is you. You are doing so much more to mock your faith than I ever could.

I have never berated you for not replying immediately - only for not replying with anything of substance to serious arguments against your position. If you didn't want people to reply to you why post an attack piece on a public forum?

 

 

Do you even think before you post?   All of it, really?   I am the only one here defending the faith against at least a dozen hard headed atheists.  The VAST majority of replies has not been from me.  So you already scored a big fat lie on that one buddy.   How was I negative in my OPs?  I merely presented my opinion and ideas on how language originated.  And I certainly don't make disgusting comments of hate about God.  That would be you.

 

You most certainly did berate, most recently boasting that I would run away from post #487.  I took time out of my busy schedule to reply to that post.  Then you invalidate it by claiming I make weak assertions.  Pathetic misdirection.  I responded and you lied.  

 

And now the "poor persecuted victim" card gets played. Newsflash - you deserve everything your provoking has gotten you.

And you somehow manage to wade through all the posts of substance just to get to little ol' me. proving my point yet again. Answering one doesn't make all of that go away. Especially when you weren't able to support your arguments there as you've been demanding that we do. On the few posts you did take on you said that what was presented simply "wasn't good enough for you" and provided no evidence for your view. It's not a misdirection if you post and say nothing (as you are so fond of claiming I do).

With the sex worker story - here's another possibility for you. Did you think that she might have realized that the sex trade was no longer profitable for her? And that Christians, who just love hearing lurid sex stories (no matter how much they claim they don't) would flock to hear those stories as long as she claimed to be "returning to the fold"?

Not saying that she isn't a Christian, mind. Just bringing up a possibility.

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin


TWD39
Theist
Posts: 300
Joined: 2012-07-02
User is offlineOffline
 jcgadfly wrote:you somehow

 

jcgadfly wrote:

you somehow manage to wade through all the posts of substance just to get to little ol' me.

 

 

Ya know, that's a good point.  Why do I bother with someone like you?  Facepalmed!  You're officially on my ignore list.


jcgadfly
SuperfanBronze Member
Posts: 6789
Joined: 2006-07-18
User is offlineOffline
TWD39 wrote: jcgadfly

TWD39 wrote:

 

jcgadfly wrote:

you somehow manage to wade through all the posts of substance just to get to little ol' me.

 

 

Ya know, that's a good point.  Why do I bother with someone like you?  Facepalmed!  You're officially on my ignore list.

To play your game - Translation: I'm a worthless coward who can't defend his faith against softballs like Gadfly has been throwing.

 

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin


harleysportster
atheist
harleysportster's picture
Posts: 3185
Joined: 2010-10-17
User is offlineOffline
TWD39 wrote:  So when I

TWD39 wrote:

 

 

So when I presented my miracle story of a man healed from a massive stroke, what was your first reaction?  The response I saw was mad strambling to find anything, even a remote claim that this phenemon is completely normal.   Apparently it was amazing enough for an experienced neurologist located in Ft. Worth TX to give a video testimony of the healing.   

There wasn't any "mad strambling" there were refutations of an argument.

Understand, that any position be it politics, philosophy, religion or science gets a claim made, the claim is countered, the counter argument is countered, so forth and so on.

That's the nature of debating.

All the cards get put on the table to see what is falsifiable, what holds weight, where value is determined.

There is not just one argument, a mad scramble and then the end. Not if an actual dialogue is going to take place.

TWD39 wrote:

Consider this story:

http://www.christianpost.com/news/how-hookers-for-jesus-founder-turned-away-from-sex-trade-to-serving-god-82605/

Do you really believe that this woman suddenly found tremendous peace and healing from her own mind?  She now helps other women get out of the sex trade.  In an atheist world, there is no hope, and she would continue feeling worthless and used. 

Your making a presupposition as to what an atheist "world" would look like and using an appeal to emotion argument to pull at such an appeal.

Do you have any sort of evidence that if an atheist "world" were to be constructed that there would be no hope ?

I have plenty of evidence to show the role of women in theocracies. Shal we start with Iran and work our way through the list ? Or shall we go in alphabetical order about theist "worlds" Belfast, Beirut, Bombay, and that is just in the b's, to quote Hitchens.

TWD39 wrote:

Have you pondered the issue of morality? 

Hundreds if not thousands of times within a day. Before making any decision where the potential for harm can come into play

TWD39 wrote:

In a true godless world, there is no good and evil.  We simply are.  We live, breathe and die.  It doesn't make a bit of difference if you are Mother Teresa or Hitler.   Attaching morality to human life would be the same as saying it is evil for an animal to attack and kill since we are only animals.  Was the chimp that ripped off a woman's face being evil?  No, it simply was.

It's a fact of life no different than leaves falling from the tree.  Of course, this probably doesn't agree with you because deep inside, you know there is right and wrong than separates us from the animal kingdom. 

 

This is another sweeping generalization in an attempt to paint a picture of some sort of dystopian world that does not exist and is not conclusively proven would exist if a "godless world" existed.

What about the fact that the top countries that are known for being the most humane, the most compassionate, are the most secular ones with the highest rate of atheists and agnostics.

We are something of an anomaly to our Western counterparts in the United States.

Evidence seems to lack contrary to the speculation.

Where do all the people of this world who don't ascribe to your belief system get their morality from ? Human nature ? Evolution ? Where ?

I fail to see where god provides a sufficient role as an arbitrator of morality. Nor do I see belief in god actively playing a role in the rights and wrongs that people seem to choose in everyday existence.

 

“It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
― Giordano Bruno


Jabberwocky
atheist
Posts: 264
Joined: 2012-04-21
User is offlineOffline
TWD39 wrote:Interesting

TWD39 wrote:

Interesting read, but it really doesn't answer my questions.  They go in detail explaining how the individual branches of languages traced back to the tree or common origin. 

Ok, perhaps. However, you made an assertion that one language became many all in one felt swoop, when god intentionally confused humanity. You did not respond to my assertion I made (I believe I did anyhow, I remember thinking it), that if god meant to confuse us, why create Spanish and Portuguese (in adjacent countries no less)? Why is Ukrainian seemingly a roughly 75/25 mix of Russian and Polish? That is a bad job of confusion.

A detailed explanation of how languages change and evolve has been presented before you. You even concede it's interesting. That may be the most credit you've given to date in this thread.

TWD39 wrote:

I want to know how the tree was created. 

How did the first language come into existence when there is no foundation or examples to draw from?  It had to start somewhere. 

We have told you, that since it was never documented by anybody, it is most probably impossible for us to pinpoint exactly how it occurred. However, we can probably have a good idea, and many hypotheses have been presented to you in this thread.  All of them strikingly similar for the most part as well. You simply choose to ignore them, and promote your story out of the bible (which we do not hold as an authority on anything). As it was said above (and you damn near concede it as well, calling it interesting, but stopping short of calling it true, or sensible) languages have clearly slowly changed and evolved. That is a direct (and complete, IMO) refutation of your Tower of Babel language confusing story. But you still say that god gave us language (one language initially).  Incredible. 

TWD39 wrote:

It is still all theory anyways, no proven facts.

You need to stop saying that, as you are embarrassing yourself by doing so.  When it comes to science, a theory usually refers to a gigantic collection of proven facts, all pertaining to one topic. Is what Dana posted there not evidently true? Do these languages not share these commonalities? To disbelieve that transcript, (and another "Thanks Dana" from myself is in store here. Brilliant post!) and believe, literally, the Tower of Babel story, is a completely insane position to make.  It is an exercise in deliberate ignorance, and self delusion.  To take a look at how similar European languages are to each other, and to note that the closer one country is to another, the more likely it is that they speak a similar languages, but STILL believe that this was just orchestrated by a power in the sky in one felt swoop, is a level of delusion I could not achieve if I tried.  

Look simply at the dialects of English you can find. How many different dialects are there in England? Then you also have Scotland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, the USA. Each one of those has several dialects of its own I'm sure. My ancestral land of Poland, has a region (Silesia) where I seriously don't understand them much better than I would someone from the Czech Republic, or Slovakia.  Coincidentally, that region falls close to a border between all 3 countries, and their "dialect" is as its own language: more similar to each other's speech, than the rest of their own countries.  This is the evolution of language in action!! 

Theists - If your god is omnipotent, remember the following: He (or she) has the cure for cancer, but won't tell us what it is.


Beyond Saving
Silver Member
Beyond Saving's picture
Posts: 4169
Joined: 2007-10-12
User is onlineOnline
TWD39 wrote:So if you are

TWD39 wrote:

So if you are hear to mock me, why should I ever expect my arguments or any Christian to get a fair shake here?   I enjoy learning too, but not from people who are liars with an extremely biased agenda.  You skeptics once claimed that the Hittities never existed until archaeology proved you wrong.  Of course, now atheists revise history to say that skeptics never doubted such a thing.  I wonder what else your brand of intelligence is wrong about.

Because the way science works is you don't assume, you collect evidence and draw conclusions based on the evidence. Obviously, as time goes on and we do research, have digs etc. we find new evidence. As we find new evidence we can draw more substantial conclusions or sometimes discover our previous conclusions were incorrect. No doubt there are tons of things we do not know now that we will in the future. The great thing is that science changes as the evidence changes, whereas your religion relies on the absolute truth of a 2000 year old book even when the available evidence contradicts it. 

Your arguments will get a fair shake as soon as they have any evidence supporting them. You have yet to point out any evidence. 


Beyond Saving
Silver Member
Beyond Saving's picture
Posts: 4169
Joined: 2007-10-12
User is onlineOnline
TWD39 wrote:So when I

TWD39 wrote:

So when I presented my miracle story of a man healed from a massive stroke, what was your first reaction?  The response I saw was mad strambling to find anything, even a remote claim that this phenemon is completely normal.   Apparently it was amazing enough for an experienced neurologist located in Ft. Worth TX to give a video testimony of the healing.

Amazing. Did you read any of the medical journals anyone linked to on the subject?  

 

TWD39 wrote:

Consider this story:

http://www.christianpost.com/news/how-hookers-for-jesus-founder-turned-away-from-sex-trade-to-serving-god-82605/

Do you really believe that this woman suddenly found tremendous peace and healing from her own mind?  She now helps other women get out of the sex trade.  In an atheist world, there is no hope, and she would continue feeling worthless and used. 

Are you suggesting that atheists never change their lives? I have known atheists who have had drug problems and such and made a decision to escape their damaging lifestyle, without god. 

 

TWD39 wrote:

Have you pondered the issue of morality? 

Yep, morality is overrated used to try to force others to live the way you want them to.  

 

TWD39 wrote:

In a true godless world, there is no good and evil.  We simply are.  We live, breathe and die. 

True, people simply exist, some are nice, some are not.

 

TWD39 wrote:

It doesn't make a bit of difference if you are Mother Teresa or Hitler. 

Sure it does. If you are Mother Teresa you keep people impoverished and ill so they worship your god and all the Xtians rave about what a great person you are. If you are Hitler, you kill and torture people for power and a smaller sect of xtians rave about how great you are, while most decide that you must be an atheist and use your name to randomly smear people for decades (centuries?). Personally, I think both were scum. But it should be apparent on its face that how you interact with other people and how other people perceive you makes a huge difference in how they react to you.  

 

TWD39 wrote:

Attaching morality to human life would be the same as saying it is evil for an animal to attack and kill since we are only animals.  Was the chimp that ripped off a woman's face being evil?  No, it simply was.

Is a murderer necessarily "evil"? I don't think there is anything inherent in people that make some evil and some good. Even Hitler, the epitome of all evil, loved his puppies and his girlfriend. People commit what we consider "evil" acts for a variety of reasons. Sometimes out of desperation, sometimes due to mental disorders, psychological problems etc. Hopefully at some point we will have enough understanding that we can treat these types of problems and help those people fit in with society. In reality, most crimes are not committed by people who are all that different from you, they are committed by people in high stress, highly emotional situations who make poor choices because it seems like an easy solution to their perceived problems (hence why most murders are committed by people with close personal relationships to the victim not some random serial killer slicing people up for kicks and giggles.)

 

TWD39 wrote:

It's a fact of life no different than leaves falling from the tree.  Of course, this probably doesn't agree with you because deep inside, you know there is right and wrong than separates us from the animal kingdom. 

I don't know that, I find very little different between human and animal behavior other than our superior minds.  


Beyond Saving
Silver Member
Beyond Saving's picture
Posts: 4169
Joined: 2007-10-12
User is onlineOnline
TWD39 wrote: I'm not

TWD39 wrote:
 

I'm not calling anyone an idiot in person.  I don't know this person or you.  I only know his words on the screen which truly are idiotic and disgusting.  I would be lying to say otherwise. 

You clearly were not calling his words idiotic. You did not say "that is an idiotic thing to say". So it is ok to call a person an idiot if you can't see their face? You realize, there are real people on the other end of these computers?

 

 

TWD39 wrote:

There is such a thing as "righteous anger".  Now if I used name calling out of anger and hatred in my heart towards you then it would be sinful.  But no matter how ugly you all have been to me, I harbor no personal ill will to individuals on this forum.  Who knows, you may be swell people in person who just use the internet to vent internal angers about God.  I would give you a cheeseburger if you were hungry on the street.  Unless you urinated on me.  Then I would walk away.

 

Oh, as long as the anger is "righteous" I guess that is alright then.


danatemporary
danatemporary's picture
Posts: 1377
Joined: 2011-01-12
User is offlineOffline
Where is the necessary inclination , then ?

Quote:
There is such a thing as "righteous anger".  Now if I used name calling out of anger and hatred in my heart towards you then it would be sinful.  But no matter how ugly you all have been to me, I harbor no personal ill will to individuals on this forum.
 

   An anger issue is not the point. Although, these are the type of words you end up eating. There is some evidence from your rhetoric that you are being very difficult, and not showing the necessary inclination to address points. If you would stop talking about everything other than the subject, and show enough 'love' to get back to others, it wouldn't hurt. You might feel under siege but others will not see it that way. Frankly, You are being difficult. The reason everyone has bent over backwards to allow you time, is to access and get back to what we should be talking about to begin with. I want to know, [b]no other thread anything like this, none[b/]. If you have too much going on then people will be happy to give you any addition space time or whatever you, you get back to something worthwhile. If you keep making this about how you, yourself, and you are. Then your in trouble. I honestly dont know what to say.

 


jcgadfly
SuperfanBronze Member
Posts: 6789
Joined: 2006-07-18
User is offlineOffline
danatemporary

danatemporary wrote:

Quote:
There is such a thing as "righteous anger".  Now if I used name calling out of anger and hatred in my heart towards you then it would be sinful.  But no matter how ugly you all have been to me, I harbor no personal ill will to individuals on this forum.
 

   An anger issue is not the point. Although, these are the type of words you end up eating. There is some evidence from your rhetoric that you are being very difficult, and not showing the necessary inclination to address points. If you would stop talking about everything other than the subject, and show enough 'love' to get back to others, it wouldn't hurt. You might feel under siege but others will not see it that way. Frankly, You are being difficult. The reason everyone has bent over backwards to allow you time, is to access and get back to what we should be talking about to begin with. I want to know, [b]no other thread anything like this, none[b/]. If you have too much going on then people will be happy to give you any addition space time or whatever you, you get back to something worthwhile. If you keep making this about how you, yourself, and you are. Then your in trouble. I honestly dont know what to say.

 

As it is with so many others - he is his God.

 

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin


danatemporary
danatemporary's picture
Posts: 1377
Joined: 2011-01-12
User is offlineOffline
¬: That word keeps coming up again and again . .

TWD39 wrote:

It's a fact of life no different than leaves falling from the tree.  Of course, this probably doesn't agree with you because deep inside, you know there is right and wrong than separates us from the animal kingdom. 

beyondsaving wrote:
I don't know that, I find very little different between human and animal behavior other than our superior minds.
 

  That word again?  How does it  keep coming up again and again?  No, not the word 'superior'.