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zompist bboard • View topic - How do you develop your language families?

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 17, 2010 1:29 pm 
Sanci
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While I've got all the linguistics under control (or at least I think so), I'm having trouble shaping the families into my conworld.

A few precise questions:

1) At which rate do new languages split off from their mother-language? To put a bit of context, it's a proto-language, not written, spoken by hunter-gatherers. That implies some other questions:

2) What size would the population speaking such a proto-language be? IIRC, Diamond's in Guns, Germs and Steel said that new-guinean tribes can have very different languages... but in the other hand he said their landscape didn't help. Could it be that some tribes of hunter-gatherers in the same region would speak a same language, maybe with tribalects? Actually my guess would be that it's how languages may began to separate: from tribes speaking the same language but not actively interacting with each other anymore.

3) I'm not sure how to handle neighboring families. Should I pay any attention to them even though they may eventually go off the picture without making any lasting thing, except for maybe one or two words in another language?

4) For that matter, how would you suggest I develop the linguistic history of a region? Starting with a few proto-languages, here and there with blank regions in-between and developping them, or populating the whole region with them and try to work out the dynamics between the different families? Obviously it depends on how much effort I'd be wanting to put in. And maybe I'm missing something overall.

5) Would it be helpful to read some books on Indo-European? I recently acquired a book by , ("from the steppes to the oceans"), which is about the expansion of the indo-europeans. Didn't begin reading yet but I will start soon. Any other similar books that could help me get a clearer idea on how to develop a (at least seemingly) naturalist linguistic history for my world's regions?

6) Any advice or report on how you did it yourself would be much appreciated. Of course, no need to mention Zompist's work... unless you think all my questions' answers are in there and I missed them.

If you think giving more accurate details on my current data (map, languages, what I want to do exactly, etc.) would help, I'd be pleased to do so.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 17, 2010 1:48 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 17, 2010 2:00 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 17, 2010 2:17 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 17, 2010 3:43 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 18, 2010 10:48 am 
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 4:06 am 
Sanci
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Thanks for the answers! I had to sort them out by question number to really get a big picture of what you were all saying. I also considered answering to everyone individually but that seemed counter-productive.

1) I expected that sort of complicated/not-so-sure answer. I figure topology will play an important role as well as cultural unity. The 500 years pattern seems a good basis.

2) I think I mis-asked. I meant how many people would speak a proto-language, not how many would make a tribe. For instance, I guess PIE was spoken by more than 50 people. Actually, Count Iblis' "I'd expect there to be lots of tribes speaking very similar languages" and Boskobènet's "Linguistic diversity would then depend on how much contact these tribes have." are what I was expecting.

The reason I ask is that, for example, NW North America had, to the extent of my knowledge, a very high linguistic diversity in a rather small region, compared to central North America where it seems the diversity was less in a bigger region. That may be due to the topology of NW NA which I'm not sure of to be honest.

So, based on what I read in Diamond's book and some other knowledge, mountains make for high diversity regions while plains for less diverse regions due to the relative isolation of tribes.

3) I totally forgot about stratums. I think they can add a lot of flavor to a family... Especially since the one I'll be focusing on in the next month is supposed to expand big time, eventually replacing or displacing other populations (and being replaced in some places).

The only issue is that it makes things even more complicated and intricate :P

4) I guess it also depends on the extent of the species. I have a few different species in my conworld, although 4 of them are from the same family; they don't live in the same areas (for now), so knowing their full extent at the (arbitrary) birth of language might point to some clues...

... which leads me to a question I believe is quite difficult and not to be resolved in the near future: how could it be explained that there's so different (and unrelated) language families? If we take the Out of Africa hypothesis, it would make sense that all languages are ultimately related or at least existed in some form in Africa. Else I guess it would suggest that language developped independently everywhere else.

(Though perhaps it's more gradual and wave-y: humanoids spread OoA, eventually language develops in a few places but not fully yet, then movements of population spread the development of language among all humans.)

Basically I have trouble finding a common ground between the fact of many unrelated (keyword) language families and a unique origin for a species. On the other hand, a multi-regional origin and a uniform development doesn't add up either.

That said I'm not very knowledgeable in that area, probably saying completely worthless stuff here.

6) Yeah, a regular proto-language is what I'm going for. Simple enough to create and interesting to then develop, as I don't plan on using it for anything else.

And yeah, I could use pretty maps and tables to cover up stuff still in the making :P


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 23, 2010 11:38 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 3:24 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 3:37 pm 
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