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R: Re: Degrees of volition in active languages (was Re:Chevraqis: a sketch)

From:Mangiat <mangiat@...>
Date:Monday, August 14, 2000, 11:17
Teoh wrote:

> [snip] > > > My theory is that widespread acceptance of a language usually causes
it to
> > > "degrade" or "simplify", losing a lot of old constructs in the
> > > But I've yet to come up with a plausible explanation for languages > > > becoming *more* complex as they evolve. > > > > Not really. If all languages simplified, that would beg the question:
> > complicated would the original ancestor language have to be?" After at > > least 100k years of language, the ancestor would have to be virtually > > infinitely complex to allow the kinds of complexity that we see in
> > languages. > > No, I didn't say that all languages simplified! :-) As you said, that > wouldn't make any sense at all, since ancestor languages would have to be > unimaginably complex. However, from my limited observations, > simplification often happens during the period where the language gains > widespread acceptance. And I mean, *widespread*... as in koine Greek, > English, etc.. I can see why this happens -- when a language becomes > somewhat a lingua franca, people learning the language may not necessarily > be interested in its intricate details -- they just want to know enough to > communicate. Hence, there's a tendency to simplify. > > What I meant to say was, I know that sometimes languages do gain > complexity, but I haven't quite figured out why it would.
Take a look at the essay 'Structural Variability of Indo-European Morphology' at the Indoeuropean Database (
> > Moreover, in languages with extremely long written records, like
> > you can actually *see* the language cycling through predominantly
> > then isolating and then agglutinating, where the complexity of the
> > shifts from syntax to morphology and back again. > > Any interesting theories on why this happens? Perhaps ppl might find that > useful in developing descendant conlangs... >
The URL I gave you explains it very well. Luca
> T >