Some paleoanthropologists and evolutionary biologists once speculated that Homo Sapiens won the genetic arms race with their Neanderthal cousins because of the development of language by the former facilitated an enormous non-zero sum cultural revolution that the latter could not match. A one-sided linguistic advantage for Homo Sapiens may not have been true
but language certainly represented the greatest innovation in human history and even today, often structures the core of our personal and collective identities.
I make mention of this because there were two very interesting posts today relating to language and its uses by Younghusband
of Coming Anarchy
, who is himself a linguist and also at NuSapiens
( hat tip to Dave
Younghusband lambastes the theories of George Lakoff
, the Democratic Party's " framing" guru who I have blogged on previously
. An excerpt from YH's post "Highjacking the American Language
[On Lakoff's " Framing"] "Unfortunately this is pseudo-science at best, and is based on the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis which was effectively disproven by the cognitive revolutionaries of the 60’s, and absolutely demolished by my linguistic hero Steven Pinker
. The point is, people don’t think in words, thus you cannot control their thoughts by controlling their language. Sorry Mr. Orwell! Ever knew what you wanted to say but couldn’t put it into words? Ever have an idea that you couldn’t explain? As much as the military says “collateral damage” everybody really knows what it means. A “Personal Hydration Engineer” is really just a “waterboy.”"Over at NuSapiens, we have some speculation on the mechanics by which Indo-European languages replaced their indigenous predecessors in "Some Thoughts on Language Replacement":
"In a nutshell: I wonder whether Indo-European can be seen as an ideology associated with a technology, rather than a language associated with an ethnicity or culture. Many people associate the spread of IE languages with the spread of agriculture in Europe following the last Ice Age. But how did Indo-European replace indigenous European languages? Maybe old languages don't die, they just fade away. Reductionistic linguistic models might miss this by looking for the wrong things: maybe change happened gradually without anyone realizing they were "adopting a new language....Our model biases our view: we look at European languages, and see them as Indo-European. We look for common grammatical structure, common words, etc. But what about other variable elements, such as tonality or "accent"? A Spaniard once described Spanish to me as "Latin with a Basque accent." Well, what is this "accent," something linguistics might consider random or trivial? Remember, modern linguistics is part of the Indo-European linguistic-thinking system, so how can it objectively view itself? The parts considered trivial or invisible are most likely to maintain survivals of pre-IE influences. "
There's some logic here but being a certified outsider to the field of linguistics, I'm wondering how this hypothesis stacks up by looking for Indo-European's " invisible" connections with Uralic languages and Basque ? Any ideas out there from my learned and multilingual commenters ?