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<Asa Lovejoy>
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I've recently learned that genetically-speaking, the San, or Bushmen, are the oldest race of humans known. Does it follow that their language - the "click" language, is also the oldest? I understand that there are at least three dialects of Khoisan. Can one be identified as older than another?
 
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There are about twenty or so Khoisan languages and probably many other dialects of those throughout southern Africa (link). It's the term click language I am having difficulty with. All of these languages do have click consonants in them, and if that's what is meant by click languages, then I understand you. But, it is important to remember that the Khoisan languages have , at best, only been recorded in the past century or so. We really do not have any evidence that the proto-Khoisan languages or whatever proceeded them had clicks. They might have and they mightn't have. Also, as Homo sapiens left Africa about 60K BP, it is unlikely that people were speaking anything back then that can be identified with modern-day Khoisan. 8-10K BP is about as far back as we can reliably reconstruct a language.) We have clicks in English, they are just not used as phonemes, but more as verbal gestures: e.g., the giddy-up lateral clicking sound made to get horse to go, the kissing click, the click usually transcribed as tsk, etc. Also, some other non-related African languages, e.g., some in the bantu family, have click consonants, too.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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I guess I'd best start unlearning some stuff. Frown

Thanks.
 
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<Abbey314>
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captured it from a forrest or brush fire or used rocks struck together or the old bow and dowel method
 
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We seem to have a load of this rubbish today. Can we complain to the host service. It only seems to have happened since their last "upgrade".
 
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I fear I have to disagree in some measure with Larry Trask's statement, "...There is no such thing as ''the world's oldest language''. The very notion is incoherent. If language A is ''older'' than English, then where did English come from? Did it simply pop into existence from nothing? Was there a first generation of English-speakers? Did they manage to learn a language that didn't exist?..."

Someone or some people, somewhere, sometime in the history of human evolution invented language (unless, of course, you believe in the Biblical concept of Creation and we all sprang into being, fully fashioned and fully literate)). Assuming you do not, then at some point when our apelike (and non-lingistic) ancestors were evolving into primitive (and lingistic) man, langiage was invented.

And that is the world's oldest language - although whether or not it still exists is another matter. The argument must be about which extant language derives most directly from that primordial language.


Richard English
 
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Originally posted by Richard English:
Someone or some people, somewhere, sometime in the history of human evolution invented language (unless, of course, you believe in the Biblical concept of Creation and we all sprang into being, fully fashioned and fully literate)). Assuming you do not, then at some point when our apelike (and non-lingistic) ancestors were evolving into primitive (and lingistic) man, langiage was invented.

And that is the world's oldest language - although whether or not it still exists is another matter. The argument must be about which extant language derives most directly from that primordial language.


We don't know if language evolved once or many times. Assuming it evolved once, then all modern (non-creole) languages share a common ancestor. They are all derived from that first primordial language, and the question "what is the oldest language" doesn't make any sense. That primordial language isn't dead, it's still spoken today, in the form of all the world's languages.

If languages evolved more than once, then yes, one language family might be older than another, but we have no way of determining that.

As far as we can tell, all modern (non-creole) languages consist of an unbroken line of speakers stretching into prehistory, and that's why the question "what is the oldest language" makes no sense. It makes no sense to say that Old English is an older language and Modern English is a new language, because Old English and Modern English are the same language, spoken at different points in time. It makes no sense to say that Hebrew is older than English; Hebrew was spoken 4000 years ago, and so was English.

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I think we are really saying more or less that same thing here - except that I don't agree that the question makes no sense; it makes perfect sense - except that it is unanswerable.

It's a bit like arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The question is perectly reasonable - and also completely unanswerable.


Richard English
 
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It's unanswerable if language evolved more than once. It's meaningless if language evolved only once, and it's meaningless if we restrict the question to recorded history. Since we don't know whether language evolved once or more than once, I guess that makes it unanswerable.
 
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We seem to have a load of this rubbish today. Can we complain to the host service. It only seems to have happened since their last "upgrade".
Sorry to be chiming in late, Bob. As you may have seen in Community, we have taken a couple of actions, and this last ones seemed to have worked. For some reason, I can't seem to delete that Abbey's post tonight, but I will do so when my computer is working right.
 
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