Chapter 5
Estimated 7299 languages in the world
Only 10 are spoken by more than 100 million
people –English, Spanish, Portuguese,
Russian, German, Mandarin, Hindi, Bengali,
Arabic, Japanese
About 100 languages are spoken by more than
5 million
70 languages between 2 and 5 million
Language- a system of communication
through speech, a collection of sounds
that a group of people understands to
have the same meaning
Literary tradition- a system of written
• Most languages have, but many do not
Most countries designate an official
• The one used by the government for laws, reports,
and public objects, such as road signs, money, and
Language is an important part of culture
because it is the means through which
cultural values are transmitted
Origin and Diffusion of English
Location of English speakers serves as a
case study for understanding the
process by which any language is
distributed around the world
• A lang. originates in one place and diffuses to
other locations thru the migration of its
English is spoken by ½ billion people
(2nd highest total– Mandarin the highest)
Mandarin people clustered in China
English speakers are spread around the
world –official language in more than 50
countries and spoken by a large amount
of people in other countries as well
The contemporary distribution of English
speakers around the world exists
because of migration from England to
their colonies around the world during
the past 4 centuries
English is the official language of most of
its former colonies
English first diffused from England to North
America in the 17th century
Ireland was taken in the 17th century, South
Asia in the mid-18th, the South Pacific in late
18th early 19th, and southern Africa in the late
19th century
English became the official language even
though in many cases only the rulers and an
elite class of local residents could speak it
The US was responsible for the spread
of English to places such as the
Philippines in the early 20th century
Origin of English in England
Global distribution of English is a product
of migration since the 17th century
• Doesn’t explain how English became the
language of the British Isles
Around 450AD England was invaded by
three Germanic tribes
• Angles from southern Denmark, Jutes from
northern Denmark, and Saxons from
northwestern Germany
The toponym
England comes from
Angles’ Land
Other people later
invaded England and
added to basic
Ex. Vikings of Norway
in the 9th century
Even though English is a Germanic language,
it is quite different today
Mainly due to the Norman Invasion in 1066
Normans were from France, and made French
the official language of England for the next
300 years
Commoners still spoke mostly English
1204 Normandy was lost to France and started a
period of conflict b/w the 2
Because of the conflict people didn’t want to
speak French anymore
1362 Parliament issued the Statute of pleading
to change official court language back to
During the 300 year period of Norman
domination the Germanic language spoken by
commoners and the French spoken by the gov.
and clergy meshed into Modern English
Dialects of English
Dialect- a regional variation of a language
distinguished by distinctive vocabulary,
spelling, and pronunciation
Speakers of one dialect can usually understand
speakers of another
Geographers like to study dialects because they
reflect distinctive features of the environments in
which groups live
Because of its global scope, English has a
large number of dialects
Standard language- a dialect that is
well established and widely recognized
as the most acceptable form
• British Received Pronunciation (BRP)standard from of British speech found in
upper class London
• Standard language of British English
Differences Between British and
American English
Isolation is the major reason why
American English is so different from
British English
During the 18th and 19th century it was
difficult to travel back and forth between
America and England and technology to
transmit the human voice across the
ocean was not yet available
US English is different in 3 notable was:
vocabulary, spelling, and pronunciation
Vocabulary can be attributed to the new
objects and experiences of American
• Ex.
• Many names were taken from Native American
New invention were given different
names in different places
Elevators are called lifts in England
Spelling changed because of a strong
national feeling for an independent
• Webster set out to create an American
Differences in pronunciation can be
attributed to isolation
• People were not often able to speak directly
to one another– communication was thru
letters and newspapers not spoken word
A significant example is of difference is
the letters a and r
Fast, path, half
unaccented syllables
more clearly
ah sound as in father
Laud– British don’t
pronounce r’s unless
it becomes before a
Secret’ry, necess’ry
Dialects in the United States
Major diff. in US dialects originated
because of differences in dialects among
the original settlers
Original 13 colonies can be grouped into
three areas, New England, Middle
Atlantic, and Southeastern
2/3 of New England colonists were from
southeastern England
½ the Southeastern colonist were also
from SE England, but came from other
classes such as prisoners, indentured
servants, and political refugees
Mid-Atlantic colonists were much more
• Northern England, Scots, Irish, German,
Dutch, and Swedish
Current Dialect Differences in
the East
Most dialect differences in the US are
still on the East Coast
Dialects have been documented thru the
study of particular words
Isogloss- a word-usage boundary
2 important isoglosses
separate the eastern US into
3 major dialect regions
Northern, Midlands, and
Some words are common in
one region but rarely used in
the other two
Lang. differences tend to be
greater in rural areas
because farmers are more
isolated from people from
other regions
Ex. “pail” up North and “bucket” in
Midlands and South
Ex. “sneakers” vs. “tennis shoes”
Pronunciation Differences
Pronunciation differences are more familiar to
us than word differences
Ex. New England accent known for dropping
the “r” sound from words such as heart and
• Very similar to Southern England, the place of origin of
most colonists
New England and Southern accents sound odd
to most Americans because the standard
pronunciation throughout the American West
comes from the Mid-Atlantic states
Why is English Related to Other
Language family- a collection of languages
related thru a common ancestral language that
existed long before recorded history
English is part of the Indo-European family
Most widely spoken language family
More than 3 billion speak an Indo-European language
as their first language
Indo-European Branches
Language branch- a collection of
languages related thru a common
ancestral language that existed several
thousand years ago
Indo-European family is divided into 8
• 4 spoken by large #s of people –Indo-Iranian,
Romance, Germanic, and Balto-Slavic
Indo-Iranian languages are clustered in
South Asia, Romance in __________
and ____________, Germanic in
____________ and _____________,
and Balto-Slavic in _____________
The 4 less popular Indo-European
languages are Albanian, Armenian,
Greek, and Celtic
Germanic Branch of Indo
German and English are closely related
• Dates back 1500 years to Germanic invasions
of England
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
English belongs to the
West Germanic group
of the Germanic
branch of the IndoEuropean family
Other Germanic
languages include:
Dutch, Flemish,
Afrikaans, Swedish,
Danish, Norwegian,
and Icelandic
Indo-Iranian Branch of IndoEuropean
Most speakers of all Indo-European
More than 100 languages spoken by more
than 1 billion people
Subdivided into 2 groups
1. Indic (eastern)
2. Iranian (western)
Indic Group of Indo-Iranian
language Branch
Most widely used languages of India,
Pakistan, and Bangladesh
1/3 of Indians (mostly in Northern India)
speak Hindi
• Hindi is spoken many ways, but has only one
official way to write it
• Use a script called Devanagari
Language is one of the main elements
of cultural diversity in India
4 important lang. families are used
Indo-European in the north
Dravidian in the south
Sino-Tibetan in the northeast
Austro-Asiatic in the central and
eastern highlands
India’s constitution
recognizes 18 official
languages– 13 of
which are IndoEuropean including
Bengali and Urdu
Bengali is the most important language
in Bangladesh
Pakistan’s main lang. is called Urdu
• Spoken much like Hindi, but written with the
Arabic alphabet since most Pakistanis are
Balto-Slavic Branch of IndoEuropean
Slavic was once a single language
• Developed diff. after migration into eastern
Europe in the 7th century AD
Can now be divided into Baltic, East, West,
and South Slavic groups
East Slavic and Baltic Groups of the
Balto-Slavic Language Branch
Eastern languages are the most widely
• Esp. Russian
• Importance increased with the rise of the Soviet
• Soviets forced absorbed nations to learn Russian
to foster cultural unity
Ukrainian and Belarusan are also
West and South Slavic Groups of the
Balto-Slavic Language Branch
Most spoken West Slavic language is Polish,
followed by Czech and Slovak
Czech and Slovak are similar
• Speakers can understand each other
Czechoslovakia tried to use both to satisfy the 2 ethnic
groups when that country existed
The most important South Slavic language is
Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian
Really the same language, but each group calls it by
their own name for pride purposes
Romance Branch of IndoEuropean
Evolved from Latin spoken by Romans 2000
years ago
4 most widely used are Spanish, Portuguese,
French, and Italian
European regions where these languages are
spoken are pretty much the national
boundaries of Spain, Portugal, France, and
Countries separated by mountain ranges
Origin and diffusion of Romance
As Roman armies conquered and occupied the
provinces of its empire they brought Latin with
Native languages were suppressed or extinguished in
favor of Latin
The empire grew over a period of several hundred
years and Latin evolved during that time
Each province spoke the Latin of the conquering army
of the time and absorbed some words from the
existing language
The people in the Roman provinces learned
the spoken form of Latin known as Vulgar
• Vulgar refers to the masses
After the fall of Rome in the 5th century,
communication among the former provinces
Created greater regional differences in the Latin
By 8th century it had evolved into distinct languages
Romance Language Dialects
Dialect of French called Francien (Paris
region) became the standard from of
French in the 16th century
• Most local dialects disappeared
Most important surviving dialect
difference is b/w the North and South
North= langue d’oil
South= langue d’oc
The names of the dialects derive from different
ways the word yes was said
The standard from of Spanish is known as
Castilian, and has been so since the 15th
Spanish and Portuguese have worldwide
importance because of their colonial activities
90% of speakers live outside Europe
Spanish is the official language of 18 Latin
American Countries and Portuguese is spoken
in Brazil (just as many people as other 18)
Portuguese and Spanish of the Western
hemisphere is different than what is spoken in
The Spanish Royal Academy meets once a
week to clarify rules for spelling, vocabulary,
and pronunciation of the
Spanish language around the world
Official dictionary was published in 1992 and includes
hundreds of words w/ origins outside Spain
Brazil, Portugal, and several Portuguese
speaking countries in Africa met to standardize
the written language in 1994
The new standard more closely resembles Brazilian
Portuguese, which eliminates most of the accent
It is sometimes difficult to tell if two languages
are distinct or just diff. dialects
Creole or creolized language- a defined lang.
that results from the mixing of the colonizer’s
language with the indigenous language
Origin and Diffusion of IndoEuropean
All the languages of the Indo-European
family must have had a common
ancestral language– called Proto-IndoEuropean
• Can’t be proven because it would have
existed thousands of years before the
invention of writing
The evidence for a common beginning can be
seen in the fact that all Indo-European
languages have common roots for certain
words that describe things of the physical
Words like beech, oak, bear, deer, pheasant, and bee
Since all Indo-European languages have these
words linguists believe the words must
represent things experienced in early speakers
daily lives
Other words such as elephant, camel,
rice, and bamboo have different roots in
various Indo-European languages
• Therefore can’t be traced back to Proto-IndoEuropean
Individual languages have common roots
for winter and snow, but not for ocean
• Believed original speakers must have in a
cold climate, but without contact with oceans
Linguists and Anthropologists agree that
Proto-Indo-European existed, but they
disagree on the when and where it
originated and the process and routes by
which it diffused
• One theory suggests it spread by war and
conquest and another from peaceful sharing
of food
Gimbutas hypothesis
states that the first
speakers were the
Kurgan people from
the present day
border area of
Russia and
Archaeological evidence places the
Kurgans about 4300 BC
Kurgans were nomadic herders who
migrated in search of grasslands for their
horses and cattle
Used horses in warfare which enabled
them to conquer much of Europe and
South Asia b/w 3500 and 2500 BC
Archaeologist Colin
Renfrew argues that
the first Proto-IndoEuropean speakers
lived in eastern
Anatolia, part of
present day Turkey
about 2000 years
before the Kurgans
Renfrew believes they diffused from
Anatolia westward into Greece (origin of
the Greek Language branch), from
Greece to Italy, Sicily, Corsica, the Med.
Coast of France, Spain, and Portugal
(origin of Romance branch) later into
British Isles (Celtic branch), etc., etc.
Renfrew argues that Indo-European
diffused along with agricultural practices
rather than military conquest
Speakers became more numerous as
agricultural surpluses became possible
Classification of Languages
languages (English) are
spoken by 48% of pop.
Sino-Tibetan languages
(Mandarin) are spoken
by 26%
Afro-Asiatic, (Arabic) by
Austronesian, by 5%
mostly SE Asia
Dravidian, by 4%
Altaic, by 3 % mostly in
Niger-Congo, by 3%
mostly in Africa
Japanese, a separate
language family, by 2%
Remaining 3% of pop.
Speaks a language
belonging to one of 100
smaller families
Distribution of Language
Almost half the world speaks IndoEuropean languages
The next largest language family is
Sino-Tibetan Family
Encompasses languages spoken in
China and several smaller countries in
SE Asia
The languages of China belong to the
Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan family
Sinitic Branch
No single Chinese lang.
Most important is Mandarin (pu tong hua–
means common speech)
Spoken by ¾ of the Chinese
Mandarin is the most used language in the world
Many Chinese in the southern and eastern part
of the country speak a different language such
as Wu, Min, Yue (Cantonese), Jinyu, Xiang,
Hakka, and Gan
The gov. is trying to impose Mandarin
countrywide to foster unity
Although all the languages are pronounced
differently there is only one written form
The structure of Chinese is much different than
structure of Indo-European
Chinese is based on 420 one-syllable words
Chinese languages use each sound to denote
more than one thing
Ex. “shi” can mean lion,
corpse, house, poetry,
ten, swear, or die
depending on the
context and tone of the
Two-syllable words can
be created by combing
two one-syllable words
Language is written with
a collection of thousands
of characters
Some represent sounds
like English letters, but
most are ideograms
Characters that
represent ideas or
Very difficult to write
even for Chinese
16% of Chinese over
age 16 are unable to
read or write more than a
few characters
Other East and Southeast Asian
Language Families
Japanese and Korean both form distinctive
language families
Developed because of relative isolation from
other countries
Japan is an Island and Korea is a Peninsula
Japanese is written in part with Chinese
ideograms, but it also uses two systems of
phonetic symbols used in place of ideograms
or along side them
Korean is not written with ideograms but
in a system known as “hankul”
• Each letter represents a sound
• Even still half of the vocabulary derives from
Chinese Words
Afro-Asiatic Language Family
Includes Hebrew and Arabic and other
languages spoken primarily in northern
Africa and southwestern Asia
4th largest language family
Has great World significance because
the Holy books of Islam, Judaism, and
Christianity were written in these
Arabic is the major language of this
family and is the official lang. of more
than 2 dozen countries
African Language Families
More than 1000 distinct languages and
several thousand dialects have been
Most lack a written tradition and only 8
are spoken by more than 10 million
Niger-Congo Language Family
Includes Swahili, the official language of
Only the first language of abut 800,000 people
Important because it is the second language to about
30 million
Created by mixture of African groups and Arab traders
One of few African languages that has extensive
Austronesian Language Family
Spoken by 6% of World’s people mostly
in Indonesia, but also the language of
Madagascar which is 1900 miles from
• Evidence of migration from Indonesia to
Madagascar by boat about 2000 years ago
Nigeria: Conflict Among
Speakers of Different
Nigeria is most populous country in
493 distinct languages are spoken in
Nigeria, but only 3 are in widespread use
• There has been a lot of conflict among people
of different language groups
Why do People Preserve Local
The distribution of a language is a measure of
the fate of an ethnic group
English has diffused around the world from the
small island nation of England because of it’s
colonial dominance and the cultural dominance
of the US
On the other hand, Icelandic spoken on
another small European island has not diffused
Preserving Language Diversity
There are thousand of extinct
languages on Earth
• A language once used by people in daily activity
but is now no longer used
Ethnologue considers 516 languages as
nearly extinct, because only a few older
people still speak them and they are not
teaching them to the young
Hebrew: Reviving Extinct
Hebrew was once extinct, but it has
been revived
Most of the Old Testament was written in
Hebrew, but it diminished in importance
in the 4th century BC and was only used
in Jewish religious services
Israel became an independent country in
1948 and Hebrew became one of the 2
official languages w/ Arabic
Hebrew was chosen to symbolically unify
the Jews who had dispersed all over the
world and spoke many different
Thousands of words had to created to
name inventions not known during
biblical times
Most of the work was done by Eliezer
Ben-Yehuda who is created with
inventing more than 4000 Hebrew words
Celtic: Preserving Endangered
Celtic was the major language of the British
Isles before the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes
At one time Celtic languages were spoken in
much of Germany, France, and northern Italy
as well
Today they only survive in remote parts of
Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Brittany
You can read more in your text pages 169-170
Multilingual States
Problems can occur at the boundary b/w
2 languages
The boundary between Romance and
Germanic branches of Indo-European
run through Belgium and Switzerland
Walloons (Southern Belgians) speak
French, whereas Flemings (Northern
Belgians) speak Flemish a dialect of
Language boundary divides the nation
into 2 regions
Political end economic differences
causes many problems
Historically, Walloons
dominated the economy
and politics and French
was the official language
The country was divided
into two independent
regions to try to placate
Each elects an assembly
to handle local concerns
As you drive from one
region to the other the
language of road signs
changes to correspond
with the territory
The capital city,
Brussels, is in Flanders
but is officially bilingual
and signs are in both
Switzerland has had a
much easier time with
multiple languages
Key is a decentralized
gov., in which local
authorities hold most of
the power, and decisions
are often made by voters
4 major languages
German (65%), French
(18%), Italian (10%) and
Romansh (1%)
Isolated Languages
Isolated language- a language unrelated to
any other and therefore not attached to any
language family
arise thru lack of interaction w/ other languages
Ex. Basque
Spoken by 600,000 in the Pyrenees Mountains of
Spain and France
• Only language in Europe that survives from before IndoEuropean speakers arrival
Global Dominance of English
English has increasingly become the language
of international communication
Lingua franca- a language of international
Usually used to facilitate trade
Pidgin language- a form of speech that
adopts a simplified grammar and limited
vocabulary of a lingua franca, used for
communications among speakers of 2 different
Other modern lingua francas include
Swahili in East Africa, and Russian in the
former Soviet Union
Many countries that gained
independence in the 20th century
adopted English as one of its official
languages even though the majority of
people could not speak it
90% of European students learn English
as a second language
More than 500 million people speak
English as a second language
Japan has even considered adding
English as a second official language
Expansion Diffusion of English
The current growth of the use of English is an
example of expansion diffusion, the spread of
a trait thru a snowballing effect of an idea
Has happened in 2 ways
English is changing thru diffusion of new
vocab, spelling and pronunciation
English words are fusing with other
Diffusion to Other Languages
English words have been increasingly
integrated into other languages
Franglais- the widespread use of
English in the French language
• They don’t like it but “le weekend” is easier
than “fin du semaine”
Spanglish- the diffusion of English into
the Spanish language
• Spanish speakers don’t mind as much
• Like franglais, spanglish involves modifying
English words to conform to Spanish
preferences and pronunciations
It is a richer integration of English with
Spanish than just the mere borrowing of
Denglish- the diffusion of English words
into German