LINGUIST List 14.3039

Fri Nov 7 2003

Disc: A "Gene" for Hyper-Polyglottism?

Editor for this issue: Sarah Murray <>


  1. Hayim Sheynin, RE: 14.2949, Disc: A "Gene" for Hyper-Polyglottism?

Message 1: RE: 14.2949, Disc: A "Gene" for Hyper-Polyglottism?

Date: Wed, 5 Nov 2003 15:54:52 -0500
From: Hayim Sheynin <>
Subject: RE: 14.2949, Disc: A "Gene" for Hyper-Polyglottism?

I do not know, if there is a "gene" for Hyper-Polyglottism. I myself
speak many languages, but it is not connected to any "gene". I just
studied languages from the age of seven and right now I am unable to
say how many languages I know. I also met a person who was able to say
a greeting of the same contents in 120 languages, but he did it with a
cheat sheet.

My own experience is a witness that I read and translate much easier
than speak. Moreover I have a kind of memory that fixates on
grammatical categories much easier than on lexemes or syntactic
structure. My native language is Russian, and of course I read all
Slavic language. I received a classical education, so I am at home in
Greek and Latin. My profession is Semitic philology, so naturally I
read all Semitic languages. I also read all Germanic and Romance
languages. I lived in Russia, so naturally I acquired some
knowledge of the various languages of Russian Federation and some
former Soviet republics.

I met many people who lived in particular places where many ethnic
groups lived together, and most of them were multilingual
(e.g. Carpathian mountains region, where most of people are fluent in
Hungarian, Slovak, Ukrainian + (for some) Yiddish). In Balkan
peninsula many people are fluent in Romanian, Turkish, Bulgarian,
Macedonian or Serbian. Many people in Central Asia speak Turkic,
Iranian and Arabic. In Azerbaidgan many speak Azeri, Turkish, Armenian
and Georgian, beside some languages of Daghestan.

However all this multilingualism depends on direct contacts of these
ethnic groups.

So my experience and experience of the people I met speaks against a
linguistic "gene". A language is acquired feature in all its
complexity and in all its models.

Dr. Hayim Y. Sheynin
Adjunct Professor of Jewish Literature
Head of Reference Services
Gratz College
7605 Old York Rd.
Melrose Park, PA 19444
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