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Your father taught you to talk: More storytelling about prehistoric humans

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Oui, Quebec. Et je me souviens.

Good thing for some researchers that their ancient subjects never wrote anything down.

From “Mother Tongue Comes from Your Prehistoric Father” (ScienceDaily, Sep. 17, 2011), we learn:

Language change among our prehistoric ancestors came about via the arrival of immigrant men — rather than women — into new settlements, according to new research.

From Scandinavian Vikings who ferried kidnapped British women to Iceland — to African, Indian and Polynesian tribes, a pattern has emerged which appears to show that the arrival of men to particular geographic locations — through either agricultural dispersal or the arrival of military forces — can have a significant impact on what language is spoken there.

Sure.

Added Forster: “Whether in European, Indian, Chinese or other languages, the expression ‘mother tongue’ and its concept is firmly embedded in popular imagination — perhaps this is the reason why for so many years the role of fathers, or more likely, specific groups of successful males, in determining prehistoric language switches has not been recognised by geneticists.”

Another reason is because it’s not really there, or not exactly, anyway.

A key concept in language is critical mass. If a large enough number of people speak a language, most people in the group can get their needs met without switching to another language. Then they do not tend to switch to it. So their language persists.

Quebec, a province of Canada, is a case in point. When the French lost the Seven Years War to the English (1763), they signed over populous French-speaking Quebec. Quebec remained French-speaking because, no matter how many Anglos settled there, Quebecois could get all their needs met without drifting to English. Quebec is French-speaking today.

But a tribe whose language is known to 600 speakers will eventually need to adopt a majority language in order to get conventional modern goods and services. And the ancestral language will die out.

It is not a question of father or mother, but of population dynamics. Which parent speaks the language in which desired goods and services are provided? In conquests, it is usually the father. But when single men marry into established clans that speak the language of a large region, it is usually the mother.

The farther we stay from Darwinism and similar nonsense the better. This is not a place for fanciful tales because we can see the language struggle happening around us, worldwide.

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One Reply to “Your father taught you to talk: More storytelling about prehistoric humans

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    I’m Canadian.
    one big need is identity or pride.
    India switched at the top to English because The English dominated and were therefore the prestiges identity. to speak English was to rise in the world for India.
    Not because they couldn’t get along just speaking their own languages.

    French Canadians refused to speak English as a matter of pride and indeed did not move up in Quebec and were dominated by a minority Canadian population in Montreal and so on.

    In america Mexicans strive to make spanish equal to English because of identity/pride. nothing to do with goods and services.

    All sorts of identies in American cities keep their accents and some words just because they don’t want to assimilate.
    In fact accent is just a part of the language issue dominance issue.

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