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Proto-Indo-European has been reconstructed from its descendants. Have Proto- languages been reconstructed for the other language families?

Also, it strikes me as odd that language families are so entirely different. It's as if, by analogy, biologists had discovered that vertebrate genetics were based on DNA, crustaceans on RNA, and mollusks on stacked PAHs. It seems as though language was very underdeveloped when the various groups separated geographically, and evolved into modern languages in parallel.
 
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Have Proto- languages been reconstructed for the other language families?

Yes. There are other proto-laguages which have been reconstructed: e.g., Proto-Semitic (the reconstructed ancestor of Hebrew, Arabic, Maltese, Amharic (aka Ethipian), Tigrinya link, Proto-Athabascan (including Cree, Apache, and many others; link), and Proto-Polynesian (including Hawai`ian, Tahitian, and Maori) are just three of them.

Also, it strikes me as odd that language families are so entirely different.

One reason may be how quickly languages change in comparison to the time it takes species to evolve. Old English and Modern English are mutually incomprehensible and separate by roughly 500 or so years. Another unanswered question is whether all languages descend from a single language or not. Most linguists think all languages have a single ancestor, though because the "fossil" record only stretches back about 6K years or so (and many think language developed at least 100K years ago), coupled with how rapidly languages diverge, it is the consensus that reconstruction of the common proto-language cannot be taken back much further than 10K BP (before present). Some think it can, e.g., there is a group of linguists who have reconstructed a controversial proto-language called Proto-Nostratic (link).


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Aren't there some who believe Middle English is a different language from today's English?
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
Aren't there some who believe Middle English is a different language from today's English?


Probably. Here are some audio files
 
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some who believe Middle English is a different language from today's English?

If you're going by mutual intelligibility of the spoken language, I'd say they are different languages. If you're going by the written language, they seem closer because of the archaizing system of spelling we use in present-day English. They are not different in the same way that English is from Russian (a related but totally mutually unintelligible language) or Chinese (no discernible relatedness). Besides the obvious difference between Middle and present-day English in phonology, there are differences in vocabulary, morphology, and syntax.


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and many think language developed at least 100K years ago

Does anyone think that languages developed in the last 10K to 15K years, in parallel? Wouldn't that explain the enormous differences between language families?
 
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Does anyone think that languages developed in the last 10K to 15K years, in parallel? Wouldn't that explain the enormous differences between language families?

An interesting idea. I'd never read of anybody suggesting such a thing. I'd think if languages developed in parallel they'd be even more diverse. Also, I could imagine finding an isolated group who didn't have language. I'd always assumed that language had developed by the time humans started migrating out of Africa (ca.60-40K BP).

[Edit: Hedged my numbers.]

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