Stanley Rice (1976)
The Importance of Language.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that all of mankind's progress has been made possible by communication and of the many forms of communication, the most basic is speech. Written languages, and hand signals, are mere graphic representations of spoken sentences. Other media of communication, everything from Morse-code-flashlights to radio and television, do nothing but widen the range and increase the speed of our older forms of communication. I believe it would be accurate to say that all our forms of communication have grown from the spoken language, like branches from a tree trunk.
The Bible gives an interesting insight into the importance of speech. Genesis 11 gives the well-known, perhaps not-so-well-understood, account of the Tower of Babel. Now whether you believe this is superstition or that it is fact (we shall deal later with this question), still it illustrates just how important speech is to any human undertaking. Verse 1: "Now the whole earth had one language and few words." Essentially, the boundaries such as we have today between nations, the suspicions which alienate people of different languages and cultures from one another, did not exist. Verse 4: "Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth."' Notice that, contrary to popular legend, the main emphasis of these ancients was on "making a name" for themselves, and that the Tower was merely symbolic of this goal (which does not alter the fact that the Tower literally existed). From context we can infer that this civilization embarked on a massive proliferation of technology such as the world had never thitherto seen. They united their efforts, because they feared that otherwise they might slowly decompose into weak fragments: "'lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. Having a solitary language made this undertaking easier.
Verse 6: "And the Lord said, 'Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they now propose to do will be impossible for them."' First, notice that if the activities of these humans were restricted to the mere building of a tower, God would have had no reason to bother confusing their tongues; obviously, much more technological achievement was involved. Secondly, the Bible here admits that the possibilities for scientific advancement are practically unlimited. The scientists of this civilization didn't have to worry about the many divisive issues that plague the scientific community today. Instead, those ancient researchers could devote their full time and energy to developing a technology. Notice that the USSR has a more efficient government than, say, Italy: Italy has many factions, whereas the Russian government is strictly centralized. The government at Babel, in the land of Shinar in Mesopotamia, was not troubled with factionalism because everyone was working toward a common goal: build a city, build a tower, build a name for ourselves!
Verse 8: "So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city." (Verse 7 describes how God confused their language so that they could not understand one another’s speech.) This confusing of the languages put an end to their explosive technological progress. A dark age of savagery had began simply because they now spoke many different tongues.
If all men spoke one language, where might we be today! We could have had space travel before 1700! Perhaps. At any rate, good communication among scientists is chiefly responsible for our progress today; and bad communication is the chief reason it didn't come sooner.
2. Difficulties in researching the origin of language.
Scientists seeking to understand our modern society and its problems have long realized that to do so, an understanding of the history which has led us to our present situation is necessary. And to comprehend history one must understand how our various institutions, customs, methods of interpersonal activity began. In view of the importance of the spoken language in the development of society as well as its importance to us today, scientists have spent considerable effort in trying to explain the origin of speech.
Speech consists merely of vibrations in the air; within a matter of seconds these vibrations are lost forever, unless they are written down or unless a recording device is employed. (Even then, of course, the original vibrations are lost.) Since speech undoubtedly long preceded both writing and recording devices, we have little evidence to tell us what the original language/languages of mankind were like. This has proved troublesome to scientists because unlike paleontologists, linguists cannot dig up fossils. All they can do is infer, or employ educated guesswork. The only materials at their disposal are 1) modern languages, and 2) documents, carvings, paintings, etc., of ancient writing systems. This second category, these relics from the past, are, however, themselves of relatively recent origin: even the oldest samples of writing come from an age after languages had already come into existence. (Besides, many of these writings cannot be deciphered, and thus, for the philologist, are practically worthless.)
However, this is not sufficient excuse to justify an abandonment of scientific reason and therewith a reversion to daydreams and fiction. Scientists still have a responsibility to use the best evidence available, even though it may not be as good as they might wish it, and to draw the most logical conclusions possible from said evidence. Instead, in this case they seem to proceed as follows: "We will assume that language evolved. Now, let us imagine how this might have happened. Imagine yourself in a cave, in southern Europe 500,000 years ago. Outside the wind is howling, the pine-trees swaying in disconsolate wails..." This is a perfectly effective procedure for science-fiction writers, but it is, or at any rate should be, unacceptable to scientists.
Since scientists so often employ this unstructured, indeed irrational, approach to the question, is it any wonder that there is little agreement among scientists as to how speech began? Many theories have been proposed, each ostensibly as good and as bad as the other. Not only are many of these theories scientifically unreliable; sometimes they are degrading to science. Various names include: "Bow-wow theory"; ''Ouch-ouch theory"; "Ding-dong theory", "pooh-pooh theory". Some scientists must have had a grand time cooking up these rollicking titles as they propounded their theories. They sound like something right out of an Art Buchwald column or a Bennett Cerf anthology.
The application of scientific knowledge can send men to the moon, devise a computer which can perform thousands of operations accurately in less time than it takes for a human to decide to add two simple numbers. Scientific research itself has unlocked for our understanding many of the mysteries of nature—from the inner space of inside the human body to the outer space of galaxies billions of billions of miles away. Should we allow the above-mentioned jocular tales to be inserted midst such laudable achievements and share the distinctive title of "science"?
However deserving of ridicule these theories seem to be, the reasoning which scientists use to justify them is quite well-thought-out. I will now examine some of these prevailing theories and describe their pros and cons.
First, let me clarify this point: No matter what objections are raised to either the creation theory of the origin of language (the "Tower of Babel Theory"), or to the evolutionary theory, each side always has excuses available. If the evidence points favorably toward evolution, creationists like me can always say, "Well, the evidence shows that evolution could have occurred, but maybe it just didn't." If the evidence points away from evolution, on the other hand, the evolutionist can always say, "Somewhere, somehow, sometime, the diligent and industrious spade of the researcher will unearth new evidence to establish our theory beyond doubt." Thus, both theories are unfalsifiable. This situation applies not only to the origin of languages but even more to the origin of the universe and of life. With such a situation on our hands, our best hope is to examine the evidence and come to the most logically-warranted conclusion possible. We must despair, however, of "proving" or "disproving" either theory.
I have selected for a sourcebook "The Story of Speech and Language" by Charles L. Barber, from which most of the following theories are drawn, accompanied by my comments.
3. Theory #1: The Bow-Wow Theory.
This theory maintains that language arose through onomatopoeia, or the imitating of sounds in nature. This seems to be a favorite of renowned linguist Mario Pei:
"Most picturesque among |the theories| is the 'bow-wow' hypothesis, to the effect that men began to speak by imitating the natural sounds they heard, or thought they heard, around them....If the chief of o small primitive tribe pointed to a dog, whose bark he heard as 'woof woof', and repeated the sound often enough to his followers until they grasped the fact that he wanted them to call the dog by that particular sequence of sounds, we would have the elementary understanding necessary for setting up the beginning of a language. But by the same token , the chief's order would not carry over to the other tribes, which would set up their own separate designation for dog, and here you would have the beginning of two or more distinct languages." (Pei,15, 20)
However, other linguists, themselves evolutionists, neatly deflate this theory, as I shall show now.
The bow-wow theory does not explain the origin of 1) distinct consonants and vowels, 2) distinct words, and 3) use of sentences. Animals make noises in "regular patterns, but do not construct these noises in consonant/vowel clusters as humans do. Animals never use words, or arrange them into [sentences].
Barber [shows how] the bow wow theory fails to account for consonants, vowels, and words: "This theory however, doss not explain how language obtained its articulated structure. When we invent an imitative word like whizzbang or crump (emphasis his], we use an already existing language system, with its vowels and consonants, its laws of word structure, and so on, and we make our imitative word conform to this pattern. But man in the pre-linguistic stage had no such 1anAguage system, and his imitation of a horse or an elephant would simply be a whlnnying or a trumpeting sound, without the articulation characteristic of speech." (Page 31.)
Goldschmidt explains how the bow-wow theory does not account for the origin of grammatical sentences. "Language involves the communication of ideas; the placement, through sounds, of objects and actions in a context of time, place, and circumstance. My dog cannot say: "Let me back in when I have finished the bone," nor can the gibbon mother warn her offspring to avoid a tiger, if and when one comes along. All that either can do is to express immediate states of readiness, awareness, or emotion. They cannot communicate the relationship between things and events, they cannot express the conditional, the possible, the future, or the past." (p.44.)
Goldschmidt proceeds to explain why human language is made possible by superior human mental prowess. "Efforts to teach animals to vocalize experience have regularly failed. One scientist spent six months trying to teach an orangutan to talk, and she seemed to have learned to say "cup” for water and "papa" for her teacher. Then she died—presumably not from mental exhaustion. Two young psychologists had a chimpanzee live with them and grow up with their baby. The chimpanzee learned everything during the first year faster than the baby did—except speech. Apes have the physical equipment to make the complex set of sounds that constitute human speech: larynx, tongue, palate, and lips; they can and do make a variety of sounds. But they do not make regular sets of sounds so as to form words and sentences. Though one student claims that they do not speak because they have nothing to say, this seems unlikely (at least it isn't true for man). We can only conclude that man has some mental ability that he shares with no other living creature." (Pages 44-45.)
Thus, the bow-wow theory can explain the manner in which many words entered human languages after human speech was already well-established, but cannot explain the origin of language.
4. Theory #2 The Pooh-Pooh Theory.
"This theory argues that language arose from instinctive emotional cries, expressive for example of pain or Joy." (Barber, pp. 32-33.) Again, the origin of consonants, /vowels, words, and sentences is left unexplained. Barber concedes, "This theory, it seems to me, suggests some of the material which language may have used, rather than the process by which it arose."
5. Theory #3: The Ding-Dong Theory.
This theory maintains that each object, action, or quality which primitive man ran across during his daily life called to his mind, perchance through some psychoneuroendocrinological process, a certain word. He sees a bird, so the word "bird" flashes into his mind. Perhaps the foundation of this process is brain chemistry.
if this be so, why does mankind speak hundreds of languages? In which language does brain chemistry operate? The caveman sees a bird; does the word "bird" flash into his mind, or does "pajaro", or does "tori"? Perhaps this is the theory which the great creationist crusader Mark Twain was referring to:
"Tuesday: Been examining the great waterfall. It is the finest thing on the estate, I think. The new creature calls it Niagara Falls — why, I am sure I do not know. Says it looks like Niagara Falls. This is not a reason, it is mere waywardness and imbecility. I get no chance to name anything myself. The new creature names everything that comes along, before I can get in a protest. And always that same pretext is offered — it looks like the thing. There is the dodo, for instance. Says the moment one looks at it one sees at a glance that it 'looks like a dodo.'...It wearies me to fret about it, and it does no good, anyway. Dodo! It looks no more like a dodo than I do!" (Diary of Adam and Eve, pp. 47-48.)
Barber's retort to this theory says all that needs be said: "The trouble with this theory is that it explains nothing: it merely describes the facts in a different terminology, and so is only a pseudo-theory." (P.33)
6. Theory #4: The Ouch-Ouch Theory.
The Neanderthal woman and her grubby children huddle in the corner of the cave while near the flickering fire, Father prepares to hack the evening meal into individual allotments. But he smashes his thumb instead. What a pity. If only language had evolved, he could cuss. So, humans began to evolve a language under this motivation.
This ought to be discouraging news to those campaigning to strengthen censorship against entertainment which uses "filthy language". My obvious objections to this theory are the same as before: it does not address itself to the origin of consonants, vowels, words, or sentences—just animalistic noises. True, noises with meaning—but noises nevertheless.
7. Theory #5: The Gesture Theory.
This theory "takes the view that gesture language preceded speech." (Barber, p.35) We all know speakers who flail their arms and saw the air with intricate gesticulations as they harangue. Primitive peoples often use gestures to communicate without speech.
"This does not prove, however, that gesture came first." (Ibid.) The mouth - gesture theory is a more refined version: man replaced arm gestures with lip gestures, and later made noises whilst using lip gestures and thus discovered the art of speech. I, for one, cannot see how early man could have resisted the temptation to use his voice, to develop instead a gesture language. As we can clearly see, speaking and gesturing go together, the one not accounting for the origin of the other. Besides, the gesture theories fail to explain the origin of syllables, words, and most importantly, grammar.
8. Theory #6: The Musical Theory.
Danish linguist Otto Jespersen studied the existing trends in language, and extrapolated them backwards in time, to get some idea of what the original languages were like. Since languages are everywhere simplifying, Jespersen believed the original tongues of early man to be complicated.
"By this means he arrived at the view that primitive language consisted of very long words, full of difficult jaw-breaking sounds; that it used tone and pitch more than later languages, and a wider range of musical intervals; and that is was more passionate a-Ad more musical than later languages. Earlier still, language was a kind of song without words; it was not communicative, but merely expressive; the earliest language was not matter-of-fact or practical, but poetic and emotional, and love in particular was the most powerful emotion for eliciting outbursts of music and song. 'Language,' he writes, 'was born in the courting days of mankind; the first utterances of speech I fancy to myself like something between the nightly love-lyrics of puss upon the tiles and the melodious love-songs of the nightingale.' A romantic picture." (Barber, p. 38)
This theory maintains that language has always followed the same uniformitarian trends; this has not bean proved. Moreover, the whole question of the origin of words and grammar is again left up in the air.
9. Theory #7: The Contact Theory.
This theory tries to explain how language developed cut of animal cries by stages. 1) A cry or whine expressing a need for companionship, 2) danger signals, 3) calls indicating a desire for something, 4) finally, words, which are uniquely human. However, we know each language has definite consonant and vowel sounds, to which this theory fails to address itself, besides entirely neglecting the origin of grammatical structure.
10. Theory #8: The Yo-He-Ho Theory.
This theory maintains that language began as grunts, gasps, wheezes, and groans which arise from the strained efforts of primitive men to move a tree-trunk, lift a rock, or something of that nature. These noises gradually evolved into words like "heave!" and "lift!" (and "lunch break!" perhaps). Let us imagine a man without a language lifting a rock 200 times, or 2000 times, and each time he utters a noise. Now, these noises will tend to be random, unless the man decides to memorize his favorite grunt-noise and use it over and over. Of course, this is possible. But it would seem unlikely that these grunts would fall into consonant-vowel patterns, and thus they would not be considered words in the linguistic sense. Nor does this explain the origin of grammatical structure. The theory does have an advantage in one respect. It provides a motivation, a reason, a purpose for language. Instead of picturing language as arising from a caveman imitating a coyote-howl to help him while away the after-supper hours, it depicts language as arising from a need for communication, to make it possible for men to engage in organized activity. However, let us suppose that our hypothetical languageless cavemen wanted to move a tree-trunk. If we are to believe that language arose from the grunts of their joint labor, it is only fair that we ask how it was that they decided to move the tree trunk in the first place, without language. "Rey, Wilberforce, help me move this tree-trunk," or some such request by one of the men would have been mandatory before even beginning the activity. Yet this involves both words and grammar, the very things this theory seeks to explain. This is the old chicken-and-the-egg syndrome. Are we to believe that a group of men commenced a cooperative activity totally without language? It is true that apes and baboons engage in group activities, but such activities do not necessitate language: they get along just fine without language. I am referring to the type of complex communal behavior for which language would be useful.
The fatal trouble with the yo-he-ho theory is that a somewhat complex social system would already have had to come into being before even the first words were invented. Baboons, as I mentioned, have complex societies, but they have no need of language, because they almost never do anything new. However, evolution claims that human society evolved because men began thinking of new things to do and began doing them—in joint effort. But before beginning their joint undertakings, they would have somehow to decide amongst themselves to do itl and at this stage, without language.
The foregoing is not, of course, an exhaustive treatment of this theory. Years of argument could rage on most of the points outlined above. But this much is definite: no provision is made for the origin of grammar, or of abstract words; of consonants and vowels; or how a social system got started void of language.
11. Overview of evolutionary theories.
All the above-mentioned, diverse though they may be, have this in common: they rule out any supernatural tampering in the origin of languages. "Since the basic function of language is to influence the behavior of our fellow men, this would favor theories that emphasize the origins of language in situations of social cooperation.." (Barber, p. 39) If a language is to develop, there must be a motivation: specifically, the desire to communicate. This implies social cooperation. This is ignored by the bow-wow, ouch—ouch, pooh-pooh, ding-dong, and musical theories. Void of advanced social cooperation, there would be no need for primitive men to develop a language any more than for baboons to develop one. The only above theory which deals with this is the yo-he-ho theory, so I will in this work accept it as roughly representative of the evolutionary viewpoint of the origin of languages (though all eight serve to explain the origin of some words after languages already existed).
Thus, evolution has no definite, reliable explanation for the origin of language. "How did language originate? Nobody really knows but speculation abounds....No one knows how, when, or where language first began. There are many theories, but none can be proved." (Pei, pp.11,15) "We are profoundly ignorant about the origins of language, and have to content ourselves with more or less plausible speculations." (Barber, p.27)
In the face of such admissions, it seems strange that scientists are so quick to reject any idea outside their beloved realm of evolution. To suggest that God authored the first human languages, according to many, borders on academic heresy. Even from people who profess to believe in God, this hypothesis seems often to meet with chuckles of incredulity if not hoots of derision. At any rate, despite the fact that scientists admit their "profound ignorance about the origins of language" they are very dogmatic, very zealous in their conviction that language evolved.
Since there is no direct evidence of how languages began, linguists must turn to indirect. They admit it must be treated with caution. I believe that such "evidence" is inadmissible because it proves nothing. Let us now individually examine the categories of indirect evidence which are used in an attempt to explain how language could have originated. (Again, these are extracted from Barber.)
12. The Language of Children.
The analogy is worthless as far as proving or even suggesting evolution is concerned. A child does not invent language, he learns it. Before learning a language, the child discovers that there is such a thing as language. The child notices that adults make throat noises and manipulate them with lips and tongue, producing these noises in compact groups (words) which are connected in series (sentences). Primitive man, if he evolved a language or languages, could not have done this. Every language in existence has words and grammar, without exception Where could man have gotten the idea for grammar? It is a big step from the level of individual words to that of structured sentences. Children learning to speak encounter this problem very acutely; it must have bean excessively difficult for "primitive man", who had no model to imitate. Yet we are to believe that this unlikely feat occurred not once, but many times as the primordial languages originated separately in various locations.
13. The languages of primitive peoples.
Later I shall examine such languages and explain how their characteristics point towards the Tower of Babel theory more favorably than toward evolution. However, evolutionists also cite primitive languages as indirect evidence for evolution. I will now show why this is futile on their part. It has been noticed that "in general a primitive people tends to have words for the specific things that are materially important to it (like the particular birds or plants that it eats), and to lump together other things (like birds or plants that it does not eat) under some generic expression." (Barber, p.29) However, our langua4es today do precisely the same thing. For instance, we have specific words for the parts of the cow which we eat (sirloin, T-bone, shank, flank, chuck, tripe, rib-roast) and lump the other parts into general expressions (guts, brains, bones). Plants and animals of nature which are noticeable or useful are readily identified by most people by specific names; but those less noticeable are called "little herbs", "weeds", "mossy stuff", "little bugs and worms". This source of evidence, then, fails to tell us anything useful. Obviously languages tend to emphasize those things important to the speakers, because the speakers have built their vocabularies with usefulness in mind.
14. Communication among higher animals.
"A study of the higher animals can help us by suggesting what man was like in the pre-linguistic stage, immediately before he became man." (Barber' p.5O) This presupposes that man evolved. We must allow this assumption for the sake of argument, since the limited scope of this article excludes this discussion. But as mentioned under the bow-wow theory, animals remain on the other side, languageless. They cannot tell us how man "emerged into the light of language".
15. Evolution and creation.
These theories and this "evidence" may sound' at the outset, plausible enough; and some unsuspecting souls may consider the matter closed, and proceed to close their minds. They think, since most scientists accept the evolutionary origin of languages, that it is established fact. However, there is more than mere "reasonable doubt" that evolution is adequate to explain the origin of tongues. Scientists admit they cannot disprove God; but they claim in defense that it is because God cannot be studied. But the fact that God is outside the realm of scientific inquiry does not mean He does not exist. Yet they begin with the assumption of no God—at least, no deity who has ever interfered with the spontaneous evolution of the universe. In other words God is fine for churchgoers on Sundays (or Saturdays) but He should be left quietly at home when one undertakes the work of explaining historical events.
Many scientists believe that God created most of what became man's first languages. The assumption of "no God" is the only factor which bars the creation theory from taking its place with equal standing among the evolutionary theories. Creation has not been examined scientifically for its relative merits because it is barred from scientific examination by the rigidity of custom and prejudice. The reason why most scientists automatically reject creation is not because of a lack of evidence for creation as I shall indicate in this article.
All the evolutionary theories presented above hinge on these two corollaries: 1) When language first evolved, they were very simple (only the musical theory claims otherwise), the transition from animal communication to human speech being gradual. 2) As languages develop, they increase in complexity. We will examine these two points, to see whether they are supported by the evidence.
As languages develop, they increase in complexity: true or false?
16. How languages change.
Certainly we do not dispute the obvious fact that languages evolve. Modern languages are evolving constantly. Fastest changes occur in "dialect", that is' colloquial phrases which pass quickly in and out of vogue. The day of "23-skidoo" is long past and the era of "far-out" is upon us. I need hardly belabor this point.
In most cases, such evolution of colloquialisms does not alter the language’s understandability. Although colloquialisms have changed drastically since the 1920's, a modern youth and a youth imported from the 20's could still converse with no difficulty. Sometimes these colloquialisms are so useful they become permanent and work their way into new dictionary editions.
There is a second area of change: as humankind makes new discoveries and has new experiences, new words are constantly introduced. A new food, or any new cultural element' introduced from another land, carries with it its name. Names for new inventions enter our languages constantly. Liftoff, Apollo, X-ray, X-rated, microwave oven, quadrophonic, laser — how many people a few decades back could even guess as to the meanings of these?
Languages tend to change when a certain group of speakers is isolated from others of the same tongue. At first the examples seem too numerous to mention: French changing to Cajun, Dutch into Afrikaans, Spanish into Mexican, British into American. However, on closer inspection we find that none of these new dialects have been isolated: Cajun was isolated from French but not from English influence; American was isolated from English, but not from Indian, French, Spanish, etc. Thus, this point should be expressed as follows, when cultures and thus languages mix and overlap, they alter one another.
The above does not pretend to pass for a complete dissertation on language evolution; but if you understand these three basic points, you should have some idea of what's going on:
1 Colloquialisms pass in and out of languages, sometimes staying.
2 New words are constantly introduced.
3 When cultures mix and overlap, their languages change.
It is no surprise that hundreds of years of such change can cause a language to be totally incomprehensible to the original speakers. It is impossible to say at what point a new language actually begins' the process being gradual. At one time French was Latin. A French dialect was developing before the fall of Rome; somewhere between there and the Middle Ages "French" was born. As Europe emerged from the dark ages and blossomed into Renaissance, communication improved, isolation was reduced, but at the same time overlapping was increased and so the languages continued all the while to evolve under these numerous influences.
17. Wherein does "complexity” lie?
Our original question was' do languages tend to become more complex. Thus we must define complexity. Reflecting a moment, we can generalize these three categories: 1) complexity of pronunciation, 2) complexity of vocabulary, 3) complexity of grammar.
1) It is difficult to say whether pronunciation simplifies in general or not. Perhaps it follows no pattern at all. It is difficult to know what pronunciation was even like 200 years ago. Besides, pronunciation which seems horrendous to us is actually quite simple to, say, the Japanese. Thus, we are almost forced to turn to the other two categories.
2) Certainly the vocabularies of all civilized languages are becoming larger. I described this process above. Some words die away, but even most obsolete words are kept alive by nostalgic writers like unto myself hither. And new words, particularly technical phrases, are swarming into all tongues (even "savage" tongues whose speakers have no choice but to encounter the new age of technology). This would seem to indicate progressive evolution. But wait! we aren't finished yet. Read on.
3) The real complexity of a language lies in its grammatical complexity. The magnitude or paucity of the vocabulary is not important. Let me give an illustration:
GO TO 5
This computer program (in the FORTRAN WATFIV language) will read a number off a card, print it, and then go to the next card and repeat the process. When it runs cut of cards, it stops. There is hardly a simpler program imaginable. Whether the computer has two cards to read, or 2000, it is still simple. In like manner, a language with simple grammar, regardless of how many words it contains, is simple. On the other hand, a 500-step computer program, where the computer is instructed to jump around from step to step, is difficult, even if the raw data to be used is contained on just one card.
18. Throughout history, languages have simplified.
If you read not only scientific but even literary works from the past century in practically any language, you will notice much more complexity and wordiness than today. Looking back to Shakespeare’s day, we find the wording and structure to be so different as to be unclear or incomprehensible without editors' remarks to help us. In large measure, the difference is clearly one of increased difficulty compared to today. For further proof, consider these specifics'
a) I/me,we/us,he/him,she/her,they/them have persisted due to their usefulness;
but thou/thee and ye have been supplanted by you. The corresponding
verb forms have been simplified: speak, speakest, speaketh to merely
b)The same thing has occurred in Spanish and German. In Spanish: yo/me, él/lo, ella/la, ellos/los, ellas/las persist, but tú/te and vosotros/vos although taught, are seldom used, compared to the frequently-appearing Usted and Ustedes. With them, the verb forms such as hablas and habláis are becoming more and more a literary oddity. In German, du and sie (thou and ye) are increasingly giving way to Sie(you), and with them the verb forms such as kommst and kommt.
The farther back we look, the more obvious it becomes. Let us now examine Latin, then Anglo-Saxon, with this in mind.
19. The complexity of Latin.
Of Latin's three noun genders, masculine, feminine, and neuter, only the first two survive in Spanish (although Spanish does have a handful of neuter pronouns, viz., esto, eso, aquello) and the other tongues descended from Latin. But the most notable change has occurred in the declension of nouns into cases. In Latin, they are:
1 Nominative, the subject of the sentence;
2 Genitive, or possessive to show relationship between 2 nouns;
3 Dative, which is the indirect object in English;
4 Accusative, the direct object;
5 Vocative, used when calling someone;
6 Ablative, in English the object of by, from, in, with;
Examples of their use:
1 Cicerō videt. (Cicero sees.) "Cicero" is the subject.
2 Amor līberatis. (Love of liberty) "Of liberty" modifies "love".
3 Thermistoolī mūnera donavit. He presented gifts to Thermistocles.
4 Thermistoolī muūera dônavit. He presented gifts to Thermistocles.
5 Crēdite mihi, jūdicēs! (O Judges, believe me!) You're addressing them.
6 Alexander sagittā vulneratus est. (Alexander was wounded by an arrow.)
I'm very sure that this is quite complicated enough as it is. But there's more. Besides these six cases, the student must master five declensions: 1) nouns which end with a, 2) nouns which end with o, 4) nouns which end with u, 5) nouns which end with ë. I omitted the Third Declension, which consists itself of five subdivisions. With five declensions, each with six cases, all singular and plural, we would expect sixty kinds of noun endings. Actually, counting the subclasses, there are closer to eighty. Contrast this with English: we use one noun form for practically every situation (John carne; I gave John a nickel; I heard John; hey, John!; I rode with John, the single exception being the genitive (John's book). Spanish, which is descended from Latin, has no declension whatsoever: Juan vino; Yo di una moneJa a Juan...as in English, but"el libro de Juan"is used for "John's book." It is obvious that Latin, in becoming Spanish, underwent drastic simplification.
Moreover, in Latin, the adjective must match the noun it modifies, by using the same suffix (hortus bonus, horti boni, hortErum bonCrum). --is also occurs in Spanish (libro rojo, libras rojas). But Spanish doesn't bother itself with 80 forms, just 4. English adjectives generally do not change at all: no matter in what circumstances the word red appears, it is always spelled and pronounced red.
As for demonstratives, English has two (this and that)' as does German (diese,des). Spanish has three (este,ese,aquel) meaning "this, that, yonder, as does Japanese (kono, sono, ano). Latin has six (hic, iste, ille, is, idem, for instance). Again, simplification.
There are four verb classes in Latin: those that end in 1) are, 2) ére, 3) ére, 4) Ire. Three of these persist today in Spanish: those endings in -ar, -er, and -ir. In each of Latin's four classes there are bath active and passive forms ("I love" and "I am loved"). And for each of these voices there are thirteen tenses distributed among the various moods. And for each tense, there are six persons: e.g., am_, I lave; amas, you love; amat, he loves; etc.) This figures out to 624 verb forms. Fortunately, there are patterns which make the learning of these forms easier. In Spanish, the number approaches 300; this is only half as difficult. (For references on Latin grammar, see Bennet, pp. 9-39, 55-105, 122-152)
Th.us, the historic degeneration of Latin into modern European tongues affords proof that languages tend to simplify. It is true that there are cases on record of languages apparently increasing in difficulty, instead of degenerating; Latin itself is such an example. In the early days of Roman civilization, Latin moved from simpler to more complex form. Prellterary, Pre-Republic Latin was still, however, an extremely complex language. Indeed, most of the basic grammar outlined ln the above discussion was inherited from those prehistoric days. How can this be explained? As I said earlier ( §16) that when two languages overlap, they influence one another. It was just such overlapping which occurred with Latin and Greek. A huge amount of Greek culture wan absorbed into Roman culture. Doubtless the influence of Greek linguistics caused Latin to become more complex. This ls not an example of "evolution toward greater complexity"' the complexity referred to did not evolve; lt was borrowed. Indeed, most cultured Romans as late as 100 A.D. spoke both Latin and Greek regularly.
20. The Complexity of Anglo-Saxon.
Latin is not alone in its distinction of complexity among ancient languages; the progenitor of our own tongue, from an entirely separate branch (the Germanic branch), was likewise complicated, though not rivaling Latin in any way. Nouns fell into several classes, depending on what kind of stem they had; and each class had its own distinctive set of endings. Each noun had four cases—nominative, dative, genitive, accusative, the same as discussed in #19. Of course, there was a singular and plural form for each. In addition, nouns could be masculine feminine, or neuter. Adjectives could be masculine, feminine, or neuter, and could be nominative, dative, accusative, genitive, or locative; besides sometimes the "strong" form, sometimes the "weak" form, was used, according to rules of grammar; of course, they could be singular or plural. This gives a possible total of sixty forms; in actual practice only about nine distinct noun and adjective forms were used, but the speaker had to select which of those nine were appropriate for each of those sixty slots. no small task. Corresponding- to the nouns and adjectives, the word "the" came in eleven distinct forms. Nouns in English today retain a distinction of singularity and plurality, and only one distinction of declension (the dative, as in John's book). Today, adjectives and the word "the" appear in only one form. There are 23 personal pronouns today (I, me, my, mine, you...etc.) but there were originally 45.
Verbs, too, have undergone simplification since ancient times, although not as dramatically as with Latin. In modern English we have a few score verbs which follow the sing/sang/sung pattern for present/past/participle forms, instead of sing/singod/singad. In Anglo-Saxon, there were about 300 "strong verbs" whose conjugation was entirely different from "weak verbs". These strong verbs fell into six categories, and .ad nine forms, giving a theoretical total of 54. Most of these have disappeared, some are in the process of disappearing, and some are still with us.
1. Helpan: healp, hulpon, holpen.
Help: help, helped, helped.
(The old forms have been lost. "Help" has become a "weak verb".)
2. Bid. bade. bidden is being slowly replaced by bid, bid, bid (He bid me come, yesterday, as he had bid previously.) Bid. bade, bidden is still considered standard, however.
3. Sprecan: spræc, spræcon, sprecen.
Speak: speak, spoke, spoken.
(The old forms, though simplified, remain.)
21. Other Examples.
Thus there is no doubt that Latin and Anglo-Saxon have degenerated into their modern. forms. This is true of German, also. Chinese is, grammatically speaking, a very simple language, almost totally devoid of the grammatical structures we have been discussing. However, classical Chinese was quite complicated (refer to Dobson). Japanese has undergone such radical simplification since the beginning of its modern era in 1863 that today classical Japanese is taught in Japan's high schools almost as a foreign language! And students of Biblical Greek can attest that it is considerably more complex than modern Greek.
22. Assyro-Babylonian and Egyptian, oldest recorded tongues.
From what we have thus far observed we should expect ancient languages to be exquisitely complicated. The Assyro-Babylonian language, from the remote past, does not disappoint us. In personal pronouns, this tongue distinguished between first person, second person masculine, second person feminine, third person masculine, third person feminine, all singular and plural. The result is 14 nominative, 20 genitive/accusative, 20 possessive, and 34 accusative personal pronouns, totaling 88, compared to our 23. We have two demonstratives, this and that, while they had 5, and these 5 demonstratives came in 33 forms, counting singular and plural, nominative, genitive, and accusative, masculine and feminine!
Verbs were chillingly horrid in their complexity. Each verb could be placed in any of fourteen classes. Examples of these classes: 1) normal (e.g., he ran); 2) intense (he(intensely)ran); 3) causative (he caused it to ran); 4) reflexive (he ran himself), 5) passive (he was run). Many of these fourteen distinctions were, by our standards, very subtle. Each class had its own verb forms. There were three tenses (present, preterite, and permansive), five persons (as mentioned above), all of them singular and plural, as well as a participle, an infinitive, and four imperatives. All told, each verb could be conjugated 504 ways! Further, there were extra rules to be followed in the event the verb began with a vowel, or contained a vowel in the middle syllable, etc. Not to mention the irregular verbs.
Nouns were declined, of course, into nominative, genitive, accusative; masculine and feminine; singular, dual, and plural. Adjectives were treated with the same suffixes as the nouns they accompanied.
Mesopotamia was a land at the crossroads of the world, the meeting- and mingling-place of three continents. It was conquered and reconquered, and civilizations rose and fell. As soon as a civilization began to decline, it was conquered. From history we know that languages decline fastest during the decline of civilization. But Mesopotamia seldom had a chance to decline when it began declining, it fell fast. On the other hand, Egypt was isolated in its snug little green ~-alley, isolated in the desert away from the noisome hubbub, and was hardly touched by conqueror's sword until after it had been civilized thousands of years. In other words, it and its language had a chance to peaceably rot away undisturbed by the winds of war. We might expect the Egyptian language, studied from hieroglyphics, to be simpler than Assyro-Babylonian. In actuality it is astonishingly simpler. There was no declension. Its nouns were distinguished masculine and feminine, singular and plural, and that's all. Verbs had no tenses, no moods, no voices, no conjugation. Modern Egypt, and its language, is now largely Arabic. The Ancient Egyptian tongue evolved downward and died away.
American grammar tended to simplify as America grew; Latin simplified as Rome declined. There seems to be a consistent trend of grammar simplification regardless of the sociological setting. Thus, we can conclude that, according to the evidence, languages tend to become grammatically simpler, contrary to the evolutionary expectation that languages should become more complex.
We must be very wary about extrapolating into the past. But if we carried this trend toward grammatical simplification, together with growth of vocabulary, back to the dawn of man, what would we have? We would expect to find languages with 1) few words, and 2) extremely complicated grammar. (Incidentally, the Genesis account echoes this suspected characteristic: "Now the whole earth had one language and few words." Genesis 11:1.) This seems, at first glance, incredible. We tend to think of "primitive" languages as being extremely crude, as being incapable of expressing lofty abstract concepts, to instead be enslaved to mundane utterances like "me eatum coconut." So, we must ask, were the original languages of humankind grammatically crude, or were they complicated? This leads to our other point.
The original languages were simple: true or false?
24. Primitive cultures.
The original tongues of man are gone for good, we suspect. But we can explore the languages of the world, seeking the closest thing to a primitive language we can find. ("Primitive" comes from the root "pri" meaning first, or original. But it is often difficult to get the point across without using the word "primitive" to denote "uncivilized" peoples.) Naturally in the process we would seek those languages which have changed least from their original form Naturally, we would look among the "uncivilized" cultures to find such languages; aboriginal Australians, native Africans, native Americans.
Am I justified in claiming these languages to be the closest to the primordial tongue/tongues of man? I think it would be safe to say that language in such "savage societies" changes little, if any, from decade to decade, generation to generation century to century. (Many are changing today, of course, because of their encounters with explorers and exploiters from "civilized" lands.) As I said before, languages change to meet new situations. In "primitive" cultures, there are few new situations, just the same old ones in endless cycle.
One would expect few if any new words in primitive tongues. Humans are, of course, creative, imaginative creatures; so when religion, legends, and customs are passed down, there is often modification. However, this creativity would probably not significantly alter the language itself. Even in our society, creativity is channeled through the existing linguistic framework. Languages change, but not significantly as a result of the creativity of the speakers. In primitive cultures, the methods of obtaining food, designs of clothing, methods of building shelter, tools, all remain virtually constant from generation to generation. Is it any wonder that their grammar remains similarly constant?
We will now examine some American Indian and African languages, to see if they are simple or not. Remember, the evolutionary theory would expect primitive languages to be simple, and the Tower of Babel theory would expect them to be complex or simple, either one.
American Indian languages. They are, as a rule, highly poetic and expressive. They are diverse, falling into hundreds of distinct families. (On the other hand, French' Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian are all in one family, descended from Latin.
25. Navaho. This is a good example of a difficult Indian tongue.
1. Verbs. a) Verbs have four persons~ first, second, and third as in English, and a special form which is used between family members, and when referring to someone held in respect. b) Verbs have three numbers: singular, dual (two people), and plural (three or more people). Thus, verb charts (paradigms) always show twelve forms, compared to just two in English.
Navaho , English
bohoosh'aah bihwiil'aah bidaLwill'aah learn — learn
bohooi'aah bobooi'aah bidahooi'aah learn — learn
yiLooi'aah yiho oi'aah yidaho oi'aah learns — learn
bihodiii'aah biho jiii'aah bidaho jiii'aah _ _
Note: sometimes the singular and the dual forms look alike in Navaho, but in many other cases, they don’t. We never have this problem in English, because simply there is no dual form.
c) There are different verb forms depending on whether you are talking to one person, two persons, or three or more persons. This seems to apply mostly to the command (imperative) verbs. Two examples:
Yah aninaah. Come in! (1 person) Dah ndah. Sit on something) . (1)
Yah ooh'aash. Come in! (2 people) Dah nohkeeh. Sit on something). (2)
Yah oohkaah.. Come in! (3 or more) Dah dinchb~Lh. Sit on something). (3 or more)
As can be seen, these verbs follow no easy pattern.
d) Verb tenses:
i. Present: action now incomplete which will be completed in the future.
ii. Continuative: action which will remain incomplete; a present tense.
Each of these tenses, as you remember from above, has twelve forms. Most Navaho verbs do not seem to have all four of these tenses. but they commonly have at least three. Thus, whereas English verbs come in four forms, Navaho verbs come in about thirty. Note: imperative verbs can be present or future.
e) There are special prefixes for the beginning, continuing, and ending of an action. Thus verb conjugations make the following distinctions:
Future: It is starting to rain
Beginning – Present: it is starting to rain
Past: it started to rain
Continuing: Present: it is raining
Ending: : Past: It stopped raining
Present: It is stopping (the rain)
Future: It will stop raining
Not every verb comes in all seven forms, because it doesn’t always make sense.
f) Verbs can be fully inflected, or they can be "passive", with no person indicated, or they can be "neuter", with no person and no tense indicated. Special particles can "futurize" a past-tense or present-tense verb to form it into a sort of subjunctive.
g) Navaho grammars are filled with many pages of charts describing the erratic behavior of irregular verbs. English has many irregulars (go/went, think/thought, etc.) but Navaho, if it is possible, seems a worse offender.
h) There are special affixes which can be inserted into Navaho verbs, to give them special meanings:
i.. Accompaniment verbs. They change the meaning of the verb to something
like "go with me while I (do this)."
ii. Repetitive form. Form which denotes "he does this over and over!”
iii. Usitative form. Form which denotes "he does this habitually."
iv. Conditional form. Form which denotes "he would have done this..."
v. Impossibility. "It is impossible to do this."
vi Optative. "He wishes to do this."
vii Again. "He does this again."
viii. Position. "This is here in position." Example:
Kodi tó siyi.. There is a puddle of water here.
ix. Reversion. Reverting to a former state. Example:
Kintahgóo ndeeshdoal (I will go to town again)
Kintahgoo ninaadeeshdoal (I will go back to town again)
1 toward the inside of
2 into an enclosure
3 away, out of sight
4 for his benefit
In English, these concepts are expressed as separate words, and thus there is no irregularity. However, in Navaho, since these concepts are verb affixes, there is sometimes irregularity, undreamt-of in our more familiar languages. In English, when we construct a sentence of this sort, we can think of "do this" and "again" as two separate words, whereas the Navaho must combine these two concepts in his mind and speak one word.
i) Navaho has a family of "class verbs" whose stems refer to the nature of the object being handled.
Future Present Past Meaning
aa' aeh à One roundish, or bulky, object
yeé' yeeh yi Puddle, or burden.
jih jaah jaa' Plural, in a group (coins, beans, etc.)
itt jiid jid Anything carried on the back
jo' jooZ jool Non-compact matter (wool, hay, etc.)
kaa' kaah ka Anything in a container
léèi lé la' Slender, flexible object
teeZ tech ti An animate object
t;[/ t',~h ta' Slender, stiff object
tZoh tleeh tZéé' Mushy matter
tsos tsoos tsooz Flexible flat object (paper, cloth, etc.)
nit nii' nil Plural objects
Compare these with the Tzeltal "numeral classifiers" discussed later. :
j) Navaho has many modal prefixes, the meanings of which are largely lost in tradition. Examples: 1) The mere act of doing, 2) Plurality, 3) Finality ("There remains nothing to be done"), 4) Transitivity, 5 Repetition, 6) Reflexivity, 7) Up from below, 8) action occurring on the land. This is only the beginning. There are many subtle distinctions of meaning derived from these basic categories almost impossible to describe in English. 2. Demonstratives. All the foregoing information was about verbs only. But as for demonstratives, English has two, but Navaho has seven.
azaa here,over here nllei over there visible, known)
aa- there(near) nlaah over there invisible, unknown)
aa- there (far) wonaani on the other side
Navaho also has these directional suffixes:
-gi at, in general area
-di at, in defined area
-goo moving toward
-déé' from(somewhere ) to here
-dod from(defined place) and onward
-jit Up to, as far as
-jI on the side of, in the direction of
By combining the seven demonstratives and seven directional sufficies, 23 prepositions are produced which make for much greater specificity than in English. These 23 prepositions refer only to directions, and can be expressed in English only by unwieldy combinations of at in, from, onward as far as, and toward. This does NOT include such preposition, under, beside, etc. In Navaho these concepts are expressed as postpositions, which come after the noun, and which form an entirely separate group of words.
3. Nouns. These are not declined to any great extent. There is no gender, and only a few nouns even show plural forms.
4. Pronouns. Personal pronouns correspond to the verb form, and thus there are twelve. In addition there are special pronoun forms to express "all of (us/you/them)", "both of (us/you/them)", "each (of you/us/them)”. This brings the total to about 25.
5. Numbers. Counting in Navaho far surpasses English in difficulty.
6. Adjectives. Adjectives can take on future, present, or past-tense forms entirely separate from verbs. There are special prefixes which are used to denote: 1) a continuous action, 2) a continuing condition, 3) an unchanging quality, 4) size or quality of land area, 5) repeated conditions, 6) coming upward from the ground, 7) in the general area of, 8) above, 9) inside, 10) various, 11) crossing each other, 12) overlapping. Remember, many such prefixes are possible for adjectives, entirely distinct from what is happening with the verb and/or preposition!
7. Adverbs. Great care is exercised in expressing even the smallest shade of manner or degree in which the act is posited. Thus, commonly, several adverbs, besides the verb and adjective prefixes, appear in complex Navaho sentences. "--go" can be added to any part of speech to make it into an adverb.
Numeral Classifiers. Following, indeed, is a most grotesque example of American-Indian (Amerindian) linguistic complexity. In the Tzeltal language, we will omit any discussion of verbs, adjectives, pronouns, nouns, demonstratives, and adverbs. We will concentrate on numeral classifiers.
In many languages, you cannot merely say "There are three things." For instance, in Japanese, you say "Sampiki ga iru" for "There are three small animals," "Santoo ga iru" for three large animals, "Sannin ga iru" for three people, "Mittsu ga aru" for three objects in general, "Sansatsu ga aru" for three books, "Sambon ga aru" for three long, thin objects, "Sammai ga aru" for three sheets, "Sambai ga aru" for thrce containers of liquid, "Sandai ga aru" for three large objects. Example:
Saks ga ippiki imasu.
As for fish, one there is. 'Sacana ga hitotsu ifliasu" would be wrong, since -hiki is the term associated with small animals. Such expressions are called "numeral classifiers" and are common in Asiatic and Amerindian languages. In some tongues, every noun is explicitly classified. Brent Berlin (U.C. Berkeley) studied Tenejapa dialect of Tzeltal, spoken in Southern Mexico by 160,000 Indians. He discovered that when they speak they must sort their nouns into about five hundred classes. English, in contrast, finds it unnecessary to classify at all. These classifiers are of five general types: 1) Those derived from verbs (e.g. lohé refers to "(number, blows with the hand" and is derived from the verb "to strike with the hand"); 2) Those derived from verbs of position (e.g. hoht' refers to "(number) animals in squatted position" and is derived from the verb "to squat"); 3) Combinations of the first two, 4) Those derived from nouns, and 5)Those of unknown origin.
In Tzeltal, these classifiers may be omitted. But researchers believe this is due to the influence of Spanish, which has no such system. Traditionally, speakers of Tzeltal have had to use the classifiers.
Nouns may be placed in more than one class, and each time the noun takes on a slightly different meaning. Examples of classifiers:
Domain #1. Slender flexible objects which are wrapped around nonflexible object. This domain has two classifiers.
Domain #2. Classifier a Long thin flexible unbroken objects
Classifier b Long thin flexible objects with some breakage
Classifier c Long thin flexible objects with severe breakage
Classifier d Long thin flexible objects with complete severance
Domain #3. Classifier a) Nonflexible covering, convex up
Classifier b Nonflexible covering, concave up
Classifier c Fabric covering
Classifier d Stopper-like covering
Domain #7. Balls of soft, flexible, stringy objects (grass, hair...) Three classifiers for three sizes of balls
Domain] #8. Classifier a Small unbound bunch of long slender objects
Classifier b Unbound handful of long slender objects
Classifier c Two hands-full of unbound long slender objects
Classifier d Armload of unbound long slender objects
Classifier e Bunch of long slender objects bound in middle
Classifier f Bunch of long slender objects bound at ends
Domain, #15. Spaces between vertically aligned objects a) wide b) narrow
Domain, #26. Severed pieces of flexible or nonflexible objects
Classifier a) Halved objects, length exceeding diameter
Classifier b) Chunks, diameter exceeding length
Classifier c) Slivers, width about equal to length
Classifier d) Slices, width exceeding thickness
Classifier e) Chunks with severed ends not at right angles
Classifier f) Chunks with severed ends, at right angles
Classifier g) Chunks with severed ends at right angles but still situated at the place they were originally severed
Domain #39. Actions of crushing. Contains three classifiers.
Domain #43. Actions of jumping. Contains three classifiers.
Domain #73. Actions of eating. Contains 26 classifiers!
The total list covers 80 domains with 528 classifiers in all! What a massively difficult job it is to learn to employ this multitude of classifiers!
This language was originally spoken in the Carolinas region and Georgia before the Cherokees were coerced into moving to Oklahoma. These three examples — Navaho, Tzeltal, and Cherokee—represent a fairly general geographical balance.
"The Moravian Missionary Board commissioned one of their members, Daniel S. Butrick, to learn the Cherokee] language; after several years of study the Board reported that "...he found nine modes, fifteen tenses and three numbers, singular, dual, and plural. No prepositions or auxiliary verbs were employed, these adjuncts being in the verbs themselves. Pronouns were seldom used; instead, the nouns were repeated. With the study of years, Butrick was not able to express himself so as to be understood by the Cherokees." (Porter, p.67)
28. Other Amerindian Languages.
I did research into the Tarasca language of Mexico, and the Chumash-Barbareno language of the Santa Barbara area(now extinct). Both are quite complicated. Anyone interested should refer to the books by Basalenque and Beeler, respectively, listed in the bibliography.
These are not generally as complicated as Amerindian languages. America was virtually isolated until the 1500's; although there was extensive trading, particularly in the Mississippi Basin, each tribe was largely isolated. But Africa has been explored, at least around the edges, since ancient times, due to its nearness to Europe and the Mideast. Due to this interaction with foreigners, and resulting intertribal interaction, African tongues evolved, not surprisingly, toward simplification.
This is not the most difficult language of Africa, but is very widespread. It is considerably complex, but is perhaps the world's most regular language, excepting, of course, Esperanto.
There are eight noun classes, each with a characteristic prefix.
To form plurals, each class changes its peculiar prefix in a peculiar way. Adjectives and verbs take on the same prefix as the noun they accompany. There are many adjectives, however, which do not follow this rule. They do not take on any prefixes. Almost without exception, these adjectives come directly from Arabic.
Notice class 7 above. There used to be a number of words in this category, but they have been lost. These words meant "place" but have all been replaced by the Arabic words "mahali".
A noun can move from one of these eight classes to another, to make it have a different meaning.
Examples of sentences:
Vitabu means "books" and is in the class which always begins with vikubwa means "small", and wili means "two", and thus "Two small books" becomes "Vitabu_kubwa viinli". Alsc: Visu vitatu vinatosha.
Knives three are sufficient.
Prefixes are also employed to distinguish verb tense.
Vistosha are sufficient
Vitatosha were sufficient
Vilitosha will be sufficient
Pronouns do not fit into the eight noun classes, so the pronoun replaces the noun-prefix (vi in cur examples) when it is used with the verb. When there is both a subject pronoun and an object pronoun, as in "I read it," they will both appear as prefixes. Thus, nilikisoma is a composite of soma (read), ni (I), li (past tense), ki (it), thus becoming "I read it."
The past tense has its own set of six pronouns. Also, negative verbs have their own pronouns. In English, "We" is used for past, present, and future, for affirmative and negative alike. Again, verbs from Arabic do not behave thus. Each noun class has its own form of the two demonstratives "this" and "yonder", giving a total of sixteen forms.
Besides past, present, and future, there are the following verb forms:
NiLisoma I, reading...
Nikasoma . . . and I read. . .
Nisiposoma If I do not read
Ningesoma I should read
Nigali!soma I should have read
There are special forms, for stative, prepositional, reciprocal, causative; for "undoing" an action; to "keep on doing" an action; for emphasizing an action.
The subjunctive is easily formed:
Nilisoma => Nisome
I read => that I may read (no tense specified)
There is a special tense, the hu- tense, which means "frequently this happens" but no person or number is specified.
Passive voice is formed thus:
Sikia => Sikiwa
To hear => To be heard
The verb "to be" is slightly irregular, but in almost every language it is irregular. It appears in our own as am, is, are, was, were, be, been. Swahili uses many more auxiliary verbs than English. Prepositions often change form so as to agree with, or match, the noun which is boing used. Numerals also vary according to noun class; thus each number comes in eight forms.
Swahili, then, is a language which was originally very complex, as we can see. But Steere says, "Swahili is a Bantu language, but it has been greatly modified by the intercourse of the inhabitants of the coast regions with traders and settlers who came to East Africa from very early times."
Later he stated that a large number of original Swahili words have been replaced by Arabic words. (See also Perrott's book.) This interaction has resulted in simplification.
An even more striking example of simplification under influence of Arabic is Hausa. Unlike Latin or Spanish, the pronoun is essential in understanding the verbs, because there is no conjugation such as we have encountered in the others. There are three tenses. The present tense has no verb conjugation (unlike Latin, which has 24). In the past tense, the same verbs are used but different pronouns. Notice:
I'lun komo Na komc lluka komo Na komo
We return I return We returned I returned
There is no way to distinguish present from past among singular verbs. The continuous tense has its own set of pronouns, and uses the same verb form as the others. The pronouns all follow patterns and are short, thus easıly learned.
There is no noun declension. For instance, instead of having a genitive case, they simply say "doki na sariki", the chief's horse, or the horse (daki) of the chief (sariLi).
Negation is effected by placing "ba" at the beginning and end of the sentence. Example: Ya gani, he saw; Ba ya gani ba, he did not see.
Languages such as Latin have a whole new set of verb forms for passive voice, and so do most primitive languages; but Hausa merely uses the same verb forms, but add an extra prefix.
Practically the only difficulty consists of: verb stem changes. forming plurals (there are five ways); gender (masculine and feminine).
Does the foregoing violate my premise that "primitive languages are complex"? Hardly. Just because a language is from Africa doesn’t mean that it's primitive. Robinson, p.1: "It is probably the most widely-spoken language on the continent of Africa." From this we would expect this language to have evolved considerably in the past centuries, to have departed from its original form. A full third of the adjectives being of Arabic derivation, Hausa must have undergone considerable modification under the influence of other tongues.
30. Aborıginal Australian.
Let us turn to another distant amphitheater of primitive culture, Australia. I could find little in regard to this tongue, but let me quote what I have.
"Our Australian verb... rivals and excels the Greek and the Sanskrit, for it has four futures, and, for time past, it has three forms, marking the past time as instant, proximate, and remote. Corresponding to these tenses, there are nine participles, each of which may be used as a finite verb. Besides an imperative mood and a subjunctive mood, there are reflexive and reciprocal forms, forms of negation, forms to express continuance, iteration, imminence, and contemporary circumstances...And, in Australian, this copiousness of diction is not confined to verbs: it shows itself also in the building up of other words." (From An Australian Language, edited by John Fraser, p. xlvii, quoted in Grabbe, p.30 columns 1-2 )
31. Summary of arguments.
I now come to my main point: if speech evolved, why did it evolve to such complexity among the primitive tribes? Language supposedly had its slow be,-inning as grunts became words to denote specific objects and actions. Sentences were born as words were used in groups. If these primitive progenitors of ours invented the words we, lift, and rock, they could have come up with some such sentence as rock we lift. This is clear enough; why would it be necessary to evolve verb conjugations for first, second, third person, singular and plural? One could argue that noun declension would be necessary in order to distinguish Gorilla killed he from Gorilla killed him, which are direct opposites. Many languages today do not find it necessary; but virtually all primitive tongues decline their nouns. Anyway, let us suppose that eventually the primitive speakers evolved noun declension to remedy this problem. In the meantime, how did these men communicate? Before noun declension had finished evolving, before it had gained wide acceptance, how did they communicate? They must have figured out some easy way to do it without noun declension, and it must have worked — otherwise, primitive society would have fallen apart then and there. But if it worked, why would it have been necessary to develop a complicated declension system? If it was, on the other hand, unnecessary, why did it evolve? And what possible reason could there be for complexity on the order of the Tzeltal numeral classifiers? Most people think primitive languages are crude, and are influenced in this belief doubtless by Hollywood ("Me-Tarzan, You Jane"). We have demonstrated that primitive tongues are not crude, but why aren't they? A crude language would be perfectly satisfactory to meet the needs of these "savage" speakers. Their houses, tools, clothing are sufficient for their needs, so they leave them simply as they are. Why would they, paradoxically develop a language whose complexity maddens the most patient of researchers?
As far as we know, there is no evidence that the Australoids, Africans, or Amerindians ever had a "civilization" as such, excepting the Mayas, Toltecs, Aztecs, and Incas, whose languages I have not discussed anyway. Yet the tongues of these three widely-scattered races are bafflingly complex. Primitive languages evolve only very slowly, just as the entire culture evolves but slowly; thus, these languages are more likely to resemble their primordial form than are our civilized tongues. I maintain that primitive languages, instead of retaining their original simplicity, instead retain their primitive complexity. Since 1) There is no evidence that languages have "evolved forward" and 2) Primitive peoples would have had no need for a complex grammar, I believe I am justified in concluding that mankind's original speech was taught, was created, that it did not evolve.
Objections. There are certainly many objections which will be made against my above conclusion. I will anticipate some of them and answer them now.
32 Objection #1:
That primitive languages are old. "But again we have to be careful, because the language of the most primitive people living today is still a very ancient and sophisticated one, with half a million years of history behind it..." (Barber, p.29) In other word., the languages of primitive peoples today are not primitive at all, but these languages have undergone prodigious evolution and thus bear no resemblance whatever to that which cavemen spoke at the dawn of time. If this is true, then it is possible my survey of these languages may prove nothing. However, no evidence has been produced to prove that languages ever evolve toward greater complexity if left to themselves; thus if indeed the Australoid tongue has half a million years of history behind it, this would most likely be a half million years of degeneration rather than progress. Just as water seeks the lowest point, so humans seek the simplest grammar (speaking for societies in general). Regardless of this objection, these facts remain: 1) Languages tend to simplify; if they gain complexity it is through borrowing from another language. 2) Primitive culture is an anomaly in that it uses simple tools and artifacts, yet has a language with intricacies it has no use for. Why did these intricacies evolve? I maintain that, whether primitive tongues are 500,000 years old or 500 million, such intricacy, being needless, would never have evolved. The Chinese have long had an advanced culture despite the almost total absence of grammar in their language. (See section 21)
33. Objection #2:
That imperatives are Primitive. In most languages' the shortest verb forms are the imperatives. For instance, in Latin, dic! (say! ) is shorter than any of the other forms of the verb dicere. It is argued by some that the first words in the first languages were commands. Commands would be more useful to a caveman than would be statements of fact; indeed, commands (run! hide! help me! be quiet!) are necessary if a group of humans dwell together, whereas the other forms of conversation, while they make life more pleasant, are unnecessary. Now, this point, though enlightening, proves nothing. If the evolutionary origin of speech were a proven fact, then this information would be valuable. However, such evolution is not fact but theory. Now, when long words are used frequently, they are customarily shortened—pianoforte to piano, violoncello to cello, Federal Bureau of Investigation to FBI, etc. Suppose that, when God confused the tongues at Babel, He invented long, burdensome, complex imperatives in the various tongues. Humans have always found imperatives to be very useful words. Perhaps, subsequently, the speakers decided to shorten these long words into shorter, more manageable terms (a time-honored process continuing to this day). This, too, would explain why imperatives are generally the shortest verb forms. Thus, either theory, evolution or creation, can be used to prove why imperatives are short; and thus, this argument cannot be used to prove evolution or discount creation.
34. Objection #3:
Who knows what primitive speech was like? "Put we know nothing of languages before the Bronze Age; even if there has bean a universal trend in language since the beginnings of Bronze Age civilization (which is by no means certain), it does not follow that the same trend occurred in the Old Stone Age, when man's circumstances were entirely different. Moreover, we have a historical knowledge of relatively few of the world's languages: of the two thousand languages spoken today, only a handful have records going back to the Pre-Christian era." (Barber, p.38) This argument uses ignorance to defend evolution. If the current trends are extrapolated back into the past, as I said before, the result would be mind-bogglingly complex primitive tongues. In response, the evolutionists must claim that the trends which have been at work for the last 3000 or so years were not at work in the Stone Ages. It is true, we have no direct evidence as to the nature of Stone Age languages. But this admission of ignorance does not prove evolution. Such ignorance proves only that the matter is still open to alternate theories. Yet, despite the evidence presented and despite these admissions of ignorance, linguists largely consider the evolutionary origin of speech a proven fact, and immediately reject the Tower of Babel as a foolish fairy-tale. I think it is obvious that this is unfair, indeed, unethical. We must admit that neither creation nor evolution of speech can be absolutely proved by scientific evidence; but the existing evidence, the existing trends, point toward creation.
35. Objection #4:
Role of Folklore in Language Evolution. Perhaps, it is argued, grammatical complexity arose out of primitive religions and folklore. Primitive people may be mundane and lowly in such matters as buildings, tools, etc., but almost all these cultures are very wealthy with oral tradition, a complexity of spiritual beliefs, and colorful art. Perhaps language was elaborated bit by bit as folklore grew and proliferated around the communal evening campfire. If they invented elaborate pantheons and legions of demideities, why could they not invent elaborate grammars? In response to this, I must make the distinction between religious rites and everyday life True, the distinction in many respects is blurred in primitive society; religious custom being an everyday part of life. But, in these cultures, the oral traditions and elaborate mythologies are maintained by storytellers, priests, and medicine men. If complex grammar—declension by the hundred, conjugation by the score — arose in this manner, it car be assumed that the medicine - men would be the linguistic experts of the tribe. This grammatical complexity would remain the private bailiwick of the priestly few; but the complex grammar hereinbefore mentioned in relation to "savages" is employed by average, workaday-world tribesmen. Thus it seems unlikely that such grammar would have sprang from the same source as "medicine rituals". Language supposedly evolved because of its usefulness in communication; are we to believe instead that it grew from the impetus of ritualism, serving no useful end? Even campfire tales are seen to be useful because they satisfy that urge, universal to mankind, to explain origins. But such mind-boggling grammatical sophistication serves no useful physical or spiritua1 end. Moreover, we are to believe that such labyrinths of grammatical complication arose in every primitive society in the world, that virtually none of them chose the simpler path of grammatical pragmatism and simplicity. This is the most unlikely aspect of all.
36. Objection #5
Spiritual Origin of Gender. In a related vein, primitive people often believe that divine spirit beings inhabit physical objects. To reverence the object is, to the primitive mind, to reverence the Being that inhabits it. If the spirit was male, then perhaps the word for the corresponding object was declined as a masculine noun; if the spirit was female, the noun became feminine. Presumably those objects thought to be uninhabited become neuter nouns. Does this argument demonstrate the way in which complex grammar could have evolved in prehistoric times?
I did not claim that God created every aspect of grammar. it is entirely possible that masculine/feminine/neuter noun declensions evolved in this manner. There is no evidence for this, as we have seen, but it is nonetheless conceivable. Alternatively, it is possible that God created many complicated categories of declension, and that in many languages all these were discarded save for masculine/feminine/neuter, which were preserved because of the primitive conviction of the indwelling of spirits. Regardless, this is only a minor aspect of lar4´uage. Are we to assume that the other types of noun declension—such as case and class—evolved from a belief in spirits? Swahili does not distinguish masculine and feminine; instead, they have eight categories independent of gender. Did this evolve from eight species of spirit? As we continue pursuing this train of thought, objection #5 begins more and more to resemble objection #4. I have already answered #4: religious rites and belief cannot account satisfactorily for the rise of complicated grammar though it may have aided in the development of languages after their beginning. This objection raises a possibility, but proves nothing The oldest known languages had masculine and feminine nouns. we cannot know whether or not noun gender arose because primitive peoples imputed the indwelling of spirits to physical objects. Why, then, does evolution claim to have a monopoly on the evidence? Objections #4 and #5 are perhaps the strongest; yet despite their argumentative merits they are based on absolutely no evidence whatever.
The story of the Tower of Babel is treated by many who fancy themselves to be intellectuals, and many who really are intellectuals, to be the best example of a Biblical account which has been roundly exploded by modern science and scholarship. However, I have shown that the available evidence militates against the evolutionary model of the origin of languages.
This is but one example from among the many instances where educators and researchers automatically reject the creation model before looking at the evidence. Thereafter, they seem to feel perfectly justified in throwing away any evidence which points away from evolution, since, of course, they have already decided that point and there is no need to discuss it further. They also feel free to ask their readers and students to liberally make use of their imaginations, to mentally fill in the gaps left unexplained by the theory.
However, to a priori reject creation is, we maintain, an unethical procedure. To reject evidence simply because it doss not fit the prevailing theory is likewise unethical. To silence the creation point of view by slamming slurs against its proponents is likewise unethical. Progress has been made in science due to a logical treatment of collected data and a respectful examination of the many hypotheses suggested. Without this, progress would be impossible. Suppose that researchers assumed, a priori, that cancer is caused by a virus, and never by any other agent. Any progress made under this theory would be at best chancy and questionable. This procedure however - an a-priori assumption—is precisely the one used by most scientists when they stipulate evolution.
I have shown 1) Languages tend to simplify, and 2) The most primitive languages in existence are extremely complex, not simple. Both these facts make evolution an inferior theory.
In view of this, we urge you to seriously consider the creation model, and to examine the conflict between creation and evolution in other areas, such as biology, geology, and astronomy, as well. Creationism implies God (supernatural force + supernatural mind = God). This is not a popular thing to say, but nevertheless we have shown that this conclusion, i.e., God exists, can be reached by examining the evidence in the strong light of reason. And if God is thus ”re than just a belief or fable, isn't it time you started finding out what God is like, what He is doing, and what His relationship is to you?
 - Originally published: pp. 92-118 in Student Essays on Science and Creation. Dennis A. Wagner ed. Creation Society of Santa Barbara CA (1976)
 - Dictionaries generally cannot respond to the subtler changes in colloquial expression. What dictionary can convey the shade of wry humor connected with have no recollection" or "expletive deleted" where the user suggests the irony of the Watergate hearings? These phrases may soon die away but before doing so, they and many like them will have crept into our contemporary literature. Incidentally, a similar thing happened in Japan where "I have no recollection'' and "peanut" have become faddish as a result of the Lockheed scandals. Merchants are selling shirts and such paraphernalia which say "unidentified flying peanut" ~ and a weekly news paper, called the "Weekly Peanut", was founded to report on the Lockheed bribery hearings proceeding in the Japanese Diet.
 - Chinese does not summarize, it does not analyze, but it sees things apart in never-ending variety. It accumulates one concrete simple image after another in the order in which they come to the mind." (Forrest p.76)
Barber, Charles L., The Story of Speech and Language, Thomas Y. Crowell
Company, N. Y. ~4. First published in II.S. 1965.*
Basalenque, Diego, Arte de la Lengua Tarasca, 1714. Reprinted 1886 Oficina Tip. de la Secreteria de Fomento, Mexico.*
Baugh, Albert C., A History of the English Language, Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc. New York 1935.
Beeler, Madison S. Topics In Barbareño-Chumash Grammar. University of Calif., Berkley. Unpublished, available in typewritten stencil in UCSB library
Bennett, Charles E., New Latin Grammar, 1918, published 1962 Allyn and Bacon.*
Berlin, Brent, Tzeltal Numeral Classifiers' A Study ın Ethnographic Semantics, Mouton and Company, N.V., Publishers, The Hague, 1968*
Bible. Revised Standard Version.
Clemens, Samuel Langhorne, "The Diary of Adam and Eve", printed in Mark Twain's Best, Scholastic Bock Services, 6th printing 1969. New York.
Dobson, W.A.C.B., Late Archaic Chinese, University of Toronto Press, 1959.*
Forrest, R.A.D., The Chinese Language, Faber and Faber Ltd, London, 1965.*
Goldschmidt, Walter, Exploring the Ways of Mankind, Bolt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc., 1971.*
Goossen, Irvy W., Navaho Made Easier, 1967 Northland Press, Flagstaff, Ariz.*
Grabbe, Lester, "Evolutionists' Speechless' on Origin of Languages," Plain Truth, August-September 1970, Vol. XWV No. 8-9, pp.28-32. Ambassador College Press, Pasadena, California.
Haile, Berard, A Manual of Navaho Grammar, Franciscan Fathers, Cincinnati, 1926. Santa Fe New Mexican Publishing Corporation, Santa Fe.*
Mercer, Samuel A.B., Assyrian Grammar with Chrestomathv and Glossary. Frederick Ungar Publishing Company, N.Y. Republished 1961.*
Pei, Mario, What's in a Word? Hawthorn Books, Inc., New York 1968.*
Perroit, D.V., Teach Yourself Swahili, English Universities Press Ltd, London. First printed 1951. *
Porter, C. Fayne, The Battle of the 1.000 Slain and Other Stories Selected from our Indian Heritance, Scholastic Book Services, New York. Third printing Jan. 1971.
Renouf, P. LePage, An Elementary Grammar of the Ancient Egyptian Language, Samuel Bagster and Sons, London 1875.*
Robinson, Charles H., D.D. Hausa Grammar, 1959, Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd, London.*
Steere, Edward, with Hellier, A.B., Swahili Exercises, Sheldon Press, London 1941. *
*Available in the UCSB Library.
Note: This article has been transcribed with care, but some non-european
accented characters in the original text may appear unaccented.