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How Fast Do Languages Change? (Linguistics)
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Mick Harper
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The Story of an Ancient Language (Part Two)

Not much happened to the Tik-Tok people during the twentieth century. They were pretty much left to their own devices though ‘Brazilians’, as they learned to call them, showed up from time to time, and in increasing numbers, providing them with some of the more basic trappings of civilisation. Mainly T-shirts but also a small ‘mission’ whose medium of instruction was Portuguese. Attendance was not enthusiastic since the books on offer weren’t very interesting and listening to the radio wasn’t much more rewarding. It all seemed to be a bit of a faff and besides those that did tended to go off to ‘Brazil’ and rarely came back which seemed to TikTokians a fate worse than death.

But all this changed rather abruptly in 2000 AD when various ‘Brazilians’ turned up and started cutting down the Tik-Tok rain forest. Something, they all agreed, had to be done.
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Hatty
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Mick Harper wrote:
I don't think there can be twenty-six letters in the Portuguese Latin alphabet, can someone check?

There were 23 letters until 2009

Up until recently, there were only 23 letters in the Portuguese alphabet (not including diacritics). The other 3 letters of the English alphabet were viewed as ‘foreign’ in Portuguese, but they were still used for certain ‘imported’ words such as ‘whiskey’ (they sometimes spell this more phonetically using their own alphabet: ‘uísque’). Since the 1990 orthographic agreement between Brazil and Portugal went into effect though (which was in January 2009), the ‘w’, ‘k’, and ‘y’ are now officially included.
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Mick Harper
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The Story of an Ancient Language (Part Three)

The TikTokians soon discovered they were not alone. Other Brazilians turned up and told them they were dead set against their rain forest being cut down. Actually, they said, everyone in Brazil was against it, the government was against it, the whole world was against it. So what’s the problem, they asked. It’s complicated, they were told. Basically it came down to whether the TikTokians could get anyone to care about them enough to do anything about them. In short they had to become ‘important’. The first thing obviously was to get TikTokian recognised as an important language and a bunch of them sat down and composed a TikTokian/ Portuguese dictionary. Better make that a TikTokian/ English dictionary, they were advised.
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Mick Harper
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The Story of an Ancient Language (Part Four)

But either way, a TikTokian literature was required. So they started writing one. It was a bit difficult because the TikTokian way of life did not lend itself to the various genres available but one thing that did seem to go down well – especially with non-TikTokians – was what the TikTokians believed about how they got there and why they called curare xtotl and stuff about jaguar gods. Anything really and the more exotic the better. Now one thing non-literate people always do is sit around chatting and making up stories -- there wasn’t a lot else to do -- and the TikTokians were no exception. Especially stuff to scare the kids, that was always hilarious, but the important stuff was pretty weird too. Now that they were Roman Catholic and knew the truth, it was important the world know just how far they'd come in so short a time.
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Ishmael


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Great stuff. As usual!
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Mick Harper
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The Story of an Ancient Language (Part Five)

Soon, alongside the bulldozers, came academics. Literary Amerindian languages are not something you see every day of the week. In fact there was talk of setting up a Department of TikTokian Studies in Manaos. Whereupon came electrifying news. Some very old TikTokian writing had been discovered in Rio de Janeiro! It was in a very poor state, and nobody could tell quite how old it was, but some of it was clearly pages from a dictionary. However, it was a strange sort of TikTokian -- many of the words were subtly different from Modern Tiktokian. Here at last was evidence of how languages evolve naturally over time when unaffected by outside forces. Old TikTokian, it was clear, would have to be one of the subjects taught at Manaos.
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Mick Harper
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The Story of an Ancient Language (Part Six)

But there were the usual nay-sayers from other more established departments. It couldn’t be that old they said, and anyway it might only be that different conventions had been used to write down TikTokian in the Latin alphabet. Nonsense, said the TikTokian scholars, these were doubtless relatively late copies of earlier manuscripts -- you don't start compiling dictionaries unless there is already a corpus of literature. A search for the earlier ones must be launched forthwith. Some did turn up but for various reasons their final authentication proved elusive.

The question was finally resolved when petroglyphs in Old TikTokian were discovered. They couldn’t be dated and the frankly sexual and scatological nature of the inscriptions was a disappointment but at least it showed the ancient TikTokians were widely literate. An amazing people indeed and popular opinion forced the bulldozers to go elsewhere. Rather to the regret it has to be said of many TikTokians.

ends
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Hatty
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Someone on Twitter is 'reeling' after having read

Of the approximately 3000 languages spoken in the world today, only 78 have a written literature.

and he's then informed there are in fact 7,097 languages 'currently known'. (It's not clear whether this figure includes dialects). The Economist came up with a more rounded figure of 7,000 and adding that a third of them have 'fewer than 1,000 speakers'.

Apart from the variation in the number of spoken languages, what's striking is the lack of interest/reaction to the relatively small percentage of written languages.
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Wile E. Coyote


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This is similar to a strong section in MWRF, which I have just reread. Having reread... I think the bit on natural, spoken, written languages would have worked better as an interlude midway through between the chapters on manuscripts, that way the reader can then use his/her new found knowledge.
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Hatty
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A history group I'm following on Facebook has a wonderful post on Real Bulgarian History extolling "Simeon the Great, Emperor and Autocrat of all Bulgarians and Romans" which states that

Simeon returned to Bulgaria in 888 and along with his teacher and mentor St. Naum of Preslav he started translating books from Greek to Old Bulgarian (Old Church Slavonic).

Simeon continued his father’s policy of supporting the development of Slavic culture and literacy. Under his rule the Cyrillic alphabet was invented in the Preslav literary school.

Simeon called himself 'Tsar' which the writer says is another way of saying Caesar. If the history is to be believed Bulgaria was the most powerful state in Eastern Europe at this time and Bulgaria's Golden Age of Culture.

Simeon is the Father of Old Slavonic or somesuch. According to the facebook post "The Cyrillic alphbet was created during his reign and it replaced the previous Glagolitic alphabet." Turns out no-one knows anything about Glagolitic which characterised this self-styled First Bulgarian Golden Age and the earliest ['only surviving'] example of it is in a 1348 manuscript. Five hundred years later.

Chernorizets Hrabar is (as far as is known) the author of only one literary work, "On the Letters" (Church Slavonic: О писмєньхъ, O pismenĭhŭ, Bulgarian: За буквите), one of the most admired and popular works of literature written in Old Church Slavonic. The work was supposedly written some time after the Preslav Ecclesiastical People's Council in 893 [citation needed] but before 921, and is the only known medieval literary work to quote the exact year of the invention of the Glagolitic alphabet (855).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernorizets_Hrabar
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Mick Harper
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This is similar to a strong section in MWRF, which I have just reread. Having reread... I think the bit on natural, spoken, written languages would have worked better as an interlude midway through between the chapters on manuscripts, that way the reader can then use his/her new found knowledge.

Yes, the whole thing is mildly nightmarish because it was written in haste to cash in on de Hamel's squib. Hatty's fault mainly. I reread it too recently and could scarcely keep up with the author's unhinged creativity. When he is older and more intellectually settled I expect he will re-write it -- taking your suggestion on board.
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Mick Harper
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Old Church Slavonic turns up in MWRF too. Obviously all these 'births of literary languages' is a critical question and the 'births' of literary English, Welsh and Irish are major planks in the MWRF thesis. But we still haven't managed to solve the Gothic Problem. The Swedes claim that Wulfila's Bible -- the earliest Gothic text -- is fourth century and has been carbon dated to the fourth century. If this is true we might as well all pack up and go home.

With the far right 'Gothic' Party due to storm to power this weekend in the Swedish elections, we may be called upon to man the barricades. I will let you know which barricades later.
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