Have you ever wondered why the world has an incredible linguistic variety? A study by the Laboratoire Dynamique du Langage-CNRS in France and the University of New Mexico may provide insight into this phenomenon.
The study aims to analyze and look for similarities in 628 languages all over the world, based on every possible aspect, such as consonants, vowels, and environmental conditions in which the languages are spoken. The researchers found out that the concept of ‘acoustic adaptation’ is the main factor in creating the variety of languages.
What this means is that different species acoustically interact (i.e. vocalize) based on the specific environment they’re in. One example is how consonants seem to get distorted in forested areas. Scientists believe that the thick plant cover causes the distortion. As a result, the denizens of this type of environment must ‘acoustically adapt’ so they could communicate better.
Migration and integration further influence the mixing of various linguistic systems. Different species with their languages probably met with each other at some point in history and integrated with one another. With their different cultures, they have to adapt again. The result is a hybrid language, but it’s not necessarily the downfall of its roots. Prehistoric human ancestors may have experienced this, contributing to the massive language variety today.
Overall, this points to the uncanny ability of humanity to adapt. It doesn’t matter if a process or system is already established. If the situation calls for it, people change to work better within the new situation. Nobody can tell exactly why there are so many languages, but this study’s findings are as close to a right answer as we can get.
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