International Year of Languages

I’m in the middle of analysing data, so I can’t talk long. Just wanted to mention that 2008 has been designated the International Year of Languages by the UN General Assembly.

If I were to talk about this, I hope I would say something like what This Humanist says.

I’ll also take this opportunity to explicitly list all of the linguistics-related blogs I now know of (let me know if I’m missing any):

Part of me is tempted to point out that linguistics is not immune to anti-science creationist foolishness. Another part of me is delighted that language origins are interesting enough that even pre-scientific and anti-scientific thinkers want in on the action.

And another part of me want to use this link-heavy excuse for a lazy post to point you to more reliable sources of information on how languages actually change and diversify. It’s a fascinating process, in many ways analogous to species change (and in many ways not analogous). I wonder if demonstrating the observed, documented “speciation” of languages as a result of cumulative “micro-evolutionary” steps would help some of the more honestly-deluded creationists accept the parallel phenomena in biological evolution?

Oh, well.

Here’s one last link for today – food for thought for those of us who are tempted to react viscerally instead of rationally when we encounter language change in our own community.

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3 Responses to “International Year of Languages”

  1. joel Says:

    “I wonder if demonstrating the observed, documented “speciation” of languages as a result of cumulative “micro-evolutionary” steps would help some of the more honestly-deluded creationists accept the parallel phenomena in biological evolution?”I have wondered the same thing. Not being a linguist, I haven’t done anything to research the parallels.I’m also on the lookout for other analogous evolutionary processes that might demonstrate the mechanism of evolution to open-minded doubters. I think many of my creationist friends would be convinced if they read good books on the subject, and they might take the time to do that if they heard a clear, concise explanation.

  2. Timothy Mills Says:

    Yes. Language is a good analogy, as I said, because there are relatively well-documented sequences of change between mutually unintelligible languages.For me, it is a useful analogy for how “macro-evolution” (to use the creationists’ terminology) is just the sum of a bunch of “micro-evolutionary” steps.Next time I’m in a discussion with a creationist (it doesn’t happen often), I’ll try the analogy out and see how it works. If you have the opportunity to try it, let me know.My suspicion is that, unless I’m talking to an unusually open-minded creationist, the response will be something like “That’s not an appropriate analogy.” (cf Dawkins’ discussion of good and bad “poetic science” in Unweaving the Rainbow) I don’t know if my limited knowledge of biology is up to defending the analogy against trenchant skepticism.

  3. Don Says:

    FYI, I posted a link to this entry on a list of blogs that mention IYL 2008. Among other things, trying to get a picture of the range of interest in IYL.

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