Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Variation, also a linguistic phenomenon.

Hi friends,

Throughout this wonderful class, we have, obviously, learned about and observed variation, notably at a biological level. However, as a student whose studies focus mainly on foreign language and literature, I can't help but draw parallels to linguistic variation as another source of human variation. Although this is not emphasized in our course, I think it deserves recognition as an important source of variation which greatly contributes to our identities.

I don't want to go into the linguistic terminology, but it has been noted that a culture's identity is connected to its lexicon, or vocabulary, demonstrating the importance of certain ideas, objects, or phenomenons.

In addition,regional dialects provide a huge source of linguistic variation. For example, in Spain there is castellano, or "Castillian Spanish", which entails the proper "Spain Spanish". However, there are also: galician, catalan, and basque, regional languages that are officially recognized by the country, not including the other unrecognized linguistic variations.

Further, although countries are often identified by speaking a certain language, there is a lot of evidence of multiple languages co-existing: Switzerland has four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansch. The country is also, coincidentally (but not actually coincidentally at all) bordered by German, French, and Italian speaking countries. Romansch is a regional dialect, which shares a lot of its linguistic properties with the Romance languages (Italian and French, for example). This shows how a language doesn't just stop existing because the country changes, but that there is continuity of that language throughout a region, although there is a difference between High German and Swiss German, and Parisian French and Swiss French. Kind of like biological variation, right? Weird.

Even more indicative of our linguistic variation, and demonstrating how one language is related to another, is the proto-indo-european language tree (below).

I guess in my own mind, the way I think of our human variation, at least in terms of ethnicity or physical variation, is by comparing it to this tree. Everything is related, and as a result of environmental factors language has evolved in a way not that differently from our biological entities.
At any rate, sorry for my linguistic rant and trying to parallel outside topics to our class subjects. But I think it's important to note a different (or maybe not so different) source of human variation. There are also biological relationships to linguistic development, but that's for another post. Until then, here's a pretty tree to look at that illustrates my rambling: Kthanksbye


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