Number of languages, was Re: Multicode
|From:||Doug Dee <amateurlinguist@...>|
|Date:||Saturday, May 8, 2004, 1:18|
In a message dated 5/7/2004 10:10:42 AM Eastern Daylight Time, andjo@FREE.FR
>This gave me the skeleton of a conculturing idea: In some holy, or otherwise
>unquestionably authoritative, text it is stated that, say, 300 languages are
>spoken in the world.
>Centuries later, the bearers of the culture in question have developed aglobal
>reach, and run into a thousand or more speech varieties that they'd normally
>consider separate languages, but, because the authority of that text, theycan't
>accept the implication, and instead lump more and more different 'dialects'as
>the same 'language' the farther away the speakers live, all the way to the
>antipodes, where completely unrelated languages are considered "the same" to
>squeeze under that limit of 300. Each time some trader or missionary runsinto a
>new language, he must classify it as a dialect of one of the 300 acceptedlanguages.
I recall reading somewhere that in Medieval Europe there was a traditional
belief (derived from the Bible) that there were 72 languages in the world, and
that as more languages were discovered, scholars for a time tried to shoe-horn
them into no more than 72.
I cannot recall where I read this -- I though it was in Vivien Law's _History
of Linguistics in Europe_, but I cannot find it in there now.
This website refers to the belief in 70 or 72 languages, depending on the
version of the Bible consulted: