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Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



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Subject: Written Language as a Cultural Artefact
Question: In The History of Britain Revealed, M J Harper states ''There are good
reasons to believe that possession of a written language (and more
especially the development of artificial languages for purposes of
writing) is the key to understanding the whole of Ancient History.
Hebrew and Latin will in time be recognised alongside Old Norse,
Classical Greek, Sanskrit, Punic, Sumerian Cuneiform, Egyptian
hieroglyphs and other 'non-demotic' languages as being essentially
cultural artefacts adopted for a purpose, and not, as linguists insist,
merely the surviving record of what ordinary people spoke''.

To what extent would the panel members agree/disagree with this
statement?

Reply: Whenever you hear the expression "not ________...as linguists insist" there is a high
probability that the speaker has little idea of what linguists actually think.

Very few linguists believe that written languages is identical to spoken language,
particularly when there is a long history of written language in the culture. This is true
of modern English and it was true of Latin.

On the other hand, the written language is based on some stage of a spoken language,
particularly when a culture first begins to use writing as a tool, so there is data to be
gathered. Since written records are often the only data we have, linguists have to use
written records to track linguistic phenomena.

But linguists are never happier than when piles of graffitti, dialogue or other "trivial"
pieces of writing are found because they do tend to be closer to language of the
ordinary person.
Reply From: Elizabeth J Pyatt      click here to access email
 
Date: 26-Apr-2013
 
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Written Language as a Cultural Artefact    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (26-Apr-2013)
  2. Re: Written Language as a Cultural Artefact    James L Fidelholtz     (26-Apr-2013)
  3. Re: Written Language as a Cultural Artefact    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (27-Apr-2013)

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