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Learn the History of Linguistics and Its Development Into Modern Languages

Aug 16, 2008
Modern linguistics is a fairly young form of discipline as compared to history or philosophy. Linguistics' modern field dates only as far back as the 19th century. It is regarded, though, that Ancient India and Greece both played remarkable roles on the formation of grammatical traditions. The literary and rhetoric analysis of the workings of human languages also dates back to both these ancient civilizations. In 1786, a major discovery has been made as it has been observed that languages have evolved separately but their sounds still correspond to their modern meanings.
A concrete example of similarities in sound is that of the English word father. The Latin form of this word is pater while the Sanskrit format is pitar. Another example is the word- for in English is spoken and written as per in Latin and pari in Sanskrit. Based on these examples, it can be said that languages remain similar in some aspects.
Scholars who have made this amazing discovery have also pointed out that there are thousands of words with the same similarities. This only proves that languages, no matter how numerous they are, have a single ancestor.
Nineteenth century linguistics focused on studying the nature of this mother language which was believed to be spoken 6,000 years ago. Modern linguistics also points out the role of Proto-Indo-European language which has evolved into Modern English, Hindi, Russian and other contemporary languages. Historical linguistics remains an active field of study nowadays and linguists have managed to group languages into families and a parent language.
Language Structure Studied
The beginning of the 20th century signaled the shift of attention from mere language changes to structural changes as well. At this century, the study has become more systematic and governed by principles and rules. Grammar has become the focus of linguists' studies, also the sound structures and internal makeup of sentences and words.
By 1920s, Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure has come up with sophisticated methods of analyzing grammar--and so structural linguistics was finally born. The 1920s also proved to be the period of intensified language studies. With these studies, the theory that there was only a single language that parented all other languages has been intensified.
Noam Chomsky, a linguist in 1950s, has initiated the theory that the human brain has been programmed to certain grammatical properties thus there are limitations when it comes to the development of human languages. Numerous linguistic researches have been done to either prove or disprove this theory. There are various books and journals that focus on this controversial claim by Chomsky.
The Social Aspect of Languages
In the past half century, attention has been focused to the social and mental sides of a language. The sociolinguistics sub-field has been conceptualized mainly due to the social movements after the Second World War. Third World countries have been widely observed after the said war as these nations have staged liberations movements.
With these movements, it was questioned whether the language that these people then used would continue to be their major language; or shall it be a language that has evolved. This is also true with present-day Chicano Spanish and African-American slang.
Numerous scholars have studied the languages of such nations and are still on the process of pointing out the relevance of aspects such as gender and geography to the development of these countries' modern tongues. This only proves that linguistics would be a continuous study of language; and also of people and events that may have an effect on its evolution.
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