Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

The LINGUIST List is dedicated to providing information on language and language analysis, and to providing the discipline of linguistics with the infrastructure necessary to function in the digital world. LINGUIST is a free resource, run by linguistics students and faculty, and supported primarily by your donations. Please support LINGUIST List during the 2016 Fund Drive.

Ask-A-Linguist Message Details

Subject: Effect of seperation of people group on a common spoken languge
Question: I wanted to know if it would, at all, fit into a possible scenario, that two groups of people could be separated completely for a few hundred years and still understand each other. I'm not looking for a definite yes or no, but I would like to know if it is plausible if they spent a much longer time together before separation.
Reply: For length of time, I would say "it depends". Obviously, the longer time the group is apart the more they will drift away from each other. If the two groups are in very different environments or come into contact with different cultures, then the differences will be further exaggerated. I'm not sure what you mean by "time together". If you mean neighboring dialects, then we already know there is some linguistic distance built in. If you mean two groups from the same dialect/language, then I don't believe their social history matters. That is, I would expect similar results whether the split happened in a group of Italian speakers living in the same village for thousands of years or a group of immigrants in New York who adopted a language like English only a few generations ago and now speak with a class "New York" accent.
Reply From: Elizabeth J Pyatt      click here to access email
Date: 03-Oct-2012
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Effect of seperation of people group on a common spoken languge    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (04-Oct-2012)
  2. Re: Effect of seperation of people group on a common spoken languge    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (15-Oct-2012)

Back to Most Recent Questions