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Ask-A-Linguist Message Details
|Subject:||Age of a language|
|Question:||How is the age of a language, without any written evidence, determined?|
|Reply:||If by "age of a language" you mean how long the language has existed up till today, I'm afraid the concept is really meaningless. With some marginal special-case exceptions, every natural language descends from earlier forms of language that go back and back till before history began and long before that, so we have no basis for assigning a specific age to any of them. (In some cases earlier forms of a language have different names, for instance one might say that French goes back only to the early middle ages because what it came from before that is what we call Latin, and since that has a different name it must be a "different language". But whether a particular historical stage in the evolution of a language has a separate name or not is really an issue about the culture/politics of the people who were speaking it at that time; French isn't truly a newer language than German just because the language spoken 2000 years ago from which German has evolved had no distinctive name of its own.) It may be that I have misunderstood your question and you are really asking something a bit different, but I'm afraid in that case I have not grasped what that is. Geoffrey Sampson|
|Reply From:||Geoffrey Richard Sampson click here to access email|