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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 a
>reach, and run into a thousand or more speech varieties that they'd normally >consider separate languages, but, because the authority of that text, they
>accept the implication, and instead lump more and more different 'dialects'
>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 runs
into a
>new language, he must classify it as a dialect of one of the 300 accepted
languages. 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: Doug