Babel’s Dawn is a new blog about the origins of language – a subject which I find deeply fascinating. Today Mr Babel makes an analogy with evolution and describes the three main forces in biological evolution (drift, conservation and innovation) and how the same forces exist in language evolution. I found the section on conservation particularly interesting:
Indo-Europeans have spoken of time (in terms of the main verb tenses) in pretty much the same way for at least 7,000 years while their neighboring Semitic language speakers have spoken about time in a different way for the same period. There has been constant jostling of the two language families as the Greek-speaking Alexander moved into Semitic-speaking Egypt and Moors pressed up into Spain (to limit myself to two examples). Words moved back and forth across the languages, but the way they spoke of time was conserved.
If only I knew someone who spoke a Semitic language I could ask her when I get home this evening.