Estimated in 6,909 languages in world
-only 11 languages spoken by more than 100 million people
-153 languages spoken by at least 3 million
-remaining languages spoken by fewer than 3 million people
• Language:
• A system of communication through
speech, a collection of sounds that a
group of people understands to have
the same meaning
• Many languages have a literary
• A system of written
• Those that lack literary tradition
leave no records to document
distribution of language
• Many countries designate at least
one official language
• One used by government for laws,
signs, money and stamps
Language Definitions
• Proto-tongue
Language is a culture trait learned
from one generation to another
Speculated that nearly 2.5 million
years ago language developed in order
to organize human activity
All original speakers communicated in
the proto-tongue or original language
Once speakers migrated, language
divergence occurred
• Language divergence
When speakers of the same language
scatter and develop variations of that
original form of language
• Language shift
When speakers come into contact with
other languages, a blending of the two
or more languages can occur.
• Language replacement
Occurs when invaders replace the
language of those places they conquer
Can lead to language extinction
• When a language is no longer used
• Reverse Reconstruction
Process begins with the most recent
places of the languages existence and
moves backward through time
comparing words with geographic
places and groups of people using the
same or similar words
Language Definitions
• Dialect
• Regional variations within a
standard language
• Differences in pronunciation,
grammar, and vocabulary
• Language family
• Collection of individual languages
believed to be related in their
prehistorical origin
• Most widely spoken is IndoEuropean
• Example: Indo-European
• Language branch
• Collection of languages that
possesses a definite common origin
but has split into individual
• Example: Romance
• Language group
• Collection of several individual
languages that is part of a language
branch, shares a common origin in
the recent past, and has relatively
similar grammar and vocabulary
• Example: Spanish, French
Key Issue #1
Where are English-language speakers distributed
Origin of English
• English
• 1st language for 328 million people
• Spoken fluently by half-billion
• Official language in 57 countries
• Predominate language in 2 countries
• Australia
• United States
• 2 billion people (1/3rd) live in a
country where English is the official
• English Colonies
• Contemporary distribution of
English speakers around the world
exists because the people of England
migrated with their languages when
they established colonies in the past
four centuries
• Diffusion
• From England to North America
• Jamestown, VA 1607
• Plymouth, Mass 1620
• English assured as dominant
language after French-Indian war
• England conquered other colonies
in late 17th, 18th and 19th centuries
• Ireland
• Southeast Asia
• Africa
Origin of English in
• British Isles inhabited for thousands
of years but nothing is known of
early languages
• 1st known- the Celts arrived
• Arrived 2000 B.C.E.
• Around 450 C.E. tribes invaded from
mainland Europe invaded
• Celts pushed into Northern and
Western parts of England,
Scotland, and Wales
• German Invasion
• Invading Tribes
• Angles, Jutes, Saxons
• Shared a similar language
• Anglo-Saxons
• Modern English derived from
• At some time all Germans spoke
same language
• Predates recorded history
• Other invasions contributed to
• Vikings 9th century
Origin of English in
• Norman Invasion
• English is different from German
today thanks to the Normans
• Normans invaded in 1066 C.E.
• Spoke French
• Language in England for 300 yrs
• Mainly only Royals spoke
• England lost control of Normandy
in 1204 C.E.
• Conflict with French
• English dominate again
• Mix of English and French created
new hybrid
Dialects of English
• Dialect:
A regional variation of a language
distinguished by distinctive vocabulary,
spelling, and pronunciation
• Reflects distinctive features of the
environments in which groups live
• Distribution of dialects studied
through study of particular words
• Isogloss:
• A boundary that separates
regions in which different
language usages predominate
• Collected data
directly from
• Migration
When speakers of a language migrate
to other locations, various dialects of
that language might develop
• Example:
• English speakers migration to
North America
• English varies by regions within
individual countries
• In a language with multiple dialects,
one dialect may be recognized as the
standard language
Most acceptable for government,
business, education, and mass
• Ex. British Received Pronunciation
Dialects in England
• English originated with three
invading groups
• Angles, Jute, Saxons
• All basis of distant regional
regional dialects of Old English
Southeast- Kentish
Southwest- West Saxon
North- Northumbrian
Center- Mercian
• After French Invasion
• Five major dialects emerged
• Northern, East Midland, West
Midland, Southwestern and
Southeastern/ Kentish
• Standard language
• Dialect used by upper-class residents
emerged as standard for writing and
• Diffusion occurred thanks to
Printing press in 1476
• Grammar books and dictionaries
printed in “London” dialect
• Strong regional differences remain
• Three main dialect
• Northern
• Midland
• Southern
Differences Between
British and American English
• English language brought to North
America with Colonists in 17th
• Vocabulary
• Early Colonists spoke language
spoken in England
Later immigrants found English
already implanted here
• Made significant contributions to
American English
• Spelling
• Why is American English so
U.S. and England evolved
independently in 18th and 19th
Settlers encountered new experiences
• Physical features, animals,
• Ex. Elevator = lift in England
Diverged due to demand for
independent identity
Noah Webster
• Determined to develop a uniquely
American dialect of English
• Wanted to establish a national
• Ex. Honour= honor
• Pronunciation
Began with arrival of colonists
Changed more in England than U.S.
Americans didn’t speak proper English
Dialects in the
United States
• Different dialects originated because
of differences in dialects among
original settlers
• Settlement in the East
New England
• Established and inhabited by
colonist from England
• Mainly from SE England
• ½ came from SE England
• Diverse social-classes
Middle Atlantic
• Most diverse
• Penn- Quakers (North England)
• Scots/ Irish
• Germans
• Swedes
• English dialects in U.S. Southeast and
New England easily recognizable
Dialects in the
United States
• Pronunciation differences
• New England
• Drop the r
• South
• Make words into two syllables
• Middle Atlantic
• Diffused with western settlers
• Diffused much like housing
• Mobility of Americans has been a
major reason for the relatively
uniform language that exists
throughout much of the West
• Current dialect differences in the
• Major dialect differences continue to
exist within the U.S.
• Primarily on the East Coast
• Ex. Soda vs. Pop vs. Coke
Key Issue #2
Why is English Related to Other Languages
Language Hearths
• Traditional approaches in cultural geography have identified the source
areas of the world’s languages and the paths of diffusion of those languages
from their places of origins.
Indo- European Branches
• Language family
Collection of languages related
through a common ancestral language
that existed long before recorded
• Indo-European most common
• Language branch
Collection of languages related
through a common ancestral language
that existed several thousand years ago
• Indo-European family is divided into
eight branches
• Language group
A collection of languages within a
branch that share a common origin in
the relatively recent past and display
relatively few differences in grammar
and vocabulary
• Clustered in NW Europe and North
• Clustered in South Asia
Baltic languages
• Clustered in Eastern Europe
• Clustered in SW Europe and Latin
Other branches
• Albanian
• Armenian
• Greek
• Celtic
Germanic Branch
• Language groups
• West Germanic
• Language group in Germanic
• English is a part of this group
• English and German are structurally
similar and have many words in
• Further divided
• West Germanic
• High Germanic and Low
West Germanic
• West Germanic Branch
• High Germanic
• Found in high elevations in
• North Germanic Branch
• Includes languages spoken in
• Swedish
• Spoken in southern mountains
• Norwegian
• Basis for modern standard
German language
• Danish
• Icelandic
• All derived from Old Norse
• Low Germanic
• Includes:
• English
• Dutch
• Flemish
Indo-Iranian Branch
• Part of the Indo-European family
• Includes more than 100 million
• Branches include more than 100
individual languages
• Branch is divided into:
• Eastern group (Indic)
• Iranian
Indo-Iranian Branch
• Indic (Eastern Branch)
• Most widely used in
Iranian (Western Branch)
• Persian (Farsi)
• Spoken in Iran
• Pashto
• Spoken in Afghanistan and
western Pakistan
• Kurdish
• Spoken in Western Iran,
Northern Iraq, and Eastern
Written in Arabic alphabet
Spoken in
• Iran
• Southwestern Asia
• One of main elements of cultural
diversity among the 1 billion plus
residents in India is language
• Official language of India is Hindi
Proposed as official language
• Rejected, remains English
Only official way to write is using
script called Devanagari
• India recognizes 22 “Scheduled
15 are Indo-European
Baltic-Slavic Branch
• Slavic once a single language
• Differences developed in 7th century
A.D. when several groups migrated
from Asia into Eastern Europe
• Divided into:
• East
• West
• South
• Baltic
• East Slavic
• Most widely used of Slavic
• Russian
• One of 6 languages of U.N.
• Importance increased after rise
of Soviet Union to power
• S.U. forced people to speak
• After break-up other languages
• Ukrainian and Belarusian
• West Slavic
• South Slavic
• Polish (most widely spoken)
• Czech
• Slovak
Former Czechoslovakia tried to
balance Czech and Slovak languages
• Country contained 2X Czechs
• Switched languages at sporting
• Effective until split in 1993
Spoken in
• Bosnia and Herzegovina
• Croatia
• Montenegro
• Serbia
All once spoke Serbo-Croatian
• All once part of Yugoslavia
• Split= tensions
• Bosnians and Croats take
• Bosnian Muslims introduced
Arabic words into language
• Croats have replaced “Serbian
• May be very different in future
All Slavic languages similar and can be
understood….. For now.
Romance Branch
• Evolved from Latin spoken by
Romans 2,000 years ago
• Four most widely used:
• Spanish
• Portuguese
• French
• Italian
• Languages spoken mainly within
nation borders
• Mountains serves as barriers
• Strong intervening obstacles
• Also included Romanian
• Spoken in Romania and Moldova
• Separated from Western Europe by
Slavic speakers
• Distribution of Romance
Languages highlights difficulty in
trying to establish #s of distinct
languages in the world
• Several more Romance languages
• Ex. Catalan, Sardinian, Romansh
• Some have individual literary
Romance Branch
• Origin
• All derived from Latin
• Spread of Roman Empire = spread
of Latin
• Conquered languages often
suppressed or extinguished
• Empire so large = Latin varied
• Provinces spoke “Vulgar Latin”
• Vulgar means “the masses”
• Introduced by soldiers
• Diffusion
• Following collapse of Roman
Empire communication declined
• Some reverted to old language
• Led to new, distinct languages
Romance Branch
• Dialects
• Languages evolved over time
• Numerous dialects are spoken
within each province
• Creation of standard national
languages are relatively recent
• France
• Standard form = Francien
• From Ile-de-France region
• Became official in 16th cent.
• Dialect difference
• North- Langue d’oil
• South- Langue d’oc
• Often called Occitan
Romance Branch
• Spain
Contained many dialects during
Middle Ages
• Castilian spread throughout the
country as it unified
Spain reached approximate present
day boundaries in 15th century
• Castilian became official language
• Now called Spanish
• Regional dialects survived only in
secluded rural areas
• Both Spain and Portuguese have
achieved worldwide importance
because of colonization
• 90% of speakers live outside two
• Spanish is official language of 18
Latin American nations
• Portuguese is spoken in Brazil
• Differences
Two languages diffused thanks to
exploration in 15th century
• Treaty of Tordesillas 1493
Two languages differ from West
Hemisphere and East Hemisphere
• Forces in both hemispheres
“standardize” the languages
Distinguishing between
Dialect and Languages
• Difficulties arise in determining
whether two languages are distinct
or whether they are merely two
dialects of the same language
• Romance languages spoken in some
former colonies can be classified as
separate languages because they
differ substantially from the original
introduced by European colonizers.
• French Creole
• Papiamento (Creolized Spanish)
• Portuguese Creole
• A Creole or creolized language is
defined as a language that results
from the mixing of the colonizer’s
language with the indigenous
language of the people being
Origin and Diffusion
of Indo-European
Germanic, Romance, Balto-Slavic, and IndoIranian languages are all part of the same
Indo-European language family
Must be descended from a single common
ancestral language
Called Proto-Indo-European
• Can’t be proven
• Existed before writing
• 6000- 4500 B.C.E.
Internal Evidence
Physical attributes of words themselves in
various Indo-European languages
• Beech, oak, bear, deer, bee
• Probably lived in a cold climate
• Modern Indo-European languages
share word for “snow”
• No contact with oceans
Most agree that Proto-Indo-European
Disagree on when and where it originated and
how it diffused
Two theories
• Nomadic Warrior Thesis (Conquest)
• 1st speakers were Kurgan people
• Homeland near steppes near present
day Russia and Kazakhstan
• Earliest evidence 4300 B.C.E.
• Nomadic herders
• First to domesticate
• Migrated for grasslands
• Later developed weapons,
conquered South Asia
• Sedentary Farmer Thesis (Agrarian)
• 1st speakers lived 2000 yrs before
• Homeland in East Anatolia
• Diffused towards Mediterranean
• With agricultural practices not
military conquest
Origin and Diffusion
of Indo-European
• Map of Indo-European Migrations
• 4000- 1000 B.C.E.

Language - Loudoun County Public Schools