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Language evolution

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Aldarion, May 18, 2020.

  1. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

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    My setting has what is basically Western Roman Empire if it had survived into 15th century. But that brings a problem: current language placeholder is Latin, as in, Classical Latin. In thousand years however language would have changed a lot - but since in my setting barbarian invasions will have been replaced by invasions of fish people, simply using Romance languages is out of question.
    Are there any guidelines on how language will have evolved over time?
     
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    If there is still a strong central authority, you could go the Arabic route... From what I know [admittedly fairly little] Arabic used in teaching the Koran and in early Scientific Treaties is still readable and understandable to modern speakers 1000-1200 years later.
    I don't know but am guessing that locally there is a lot of slang that is very regional.
     
  3. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

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    Thanks. Is Chinese similar?
     
  4. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    Don't really know enough to say. There is a long history [2500 years!] of calligraphy that moved into art rather than pure text reproduction. But I guess it has to still be readable. That is another place that has had strong, if not always stable, regimes for a very long time.
    I only knew the Arabic thing because of a TV show called Science and Islam.
     
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    It's my understanding that Chinese is similar. Korea, China and Japan all use the same written kanji but their spoken languages are very different.
     
  6. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    Not quite. South Koreans replaced hanzi with hangul in formal education, so most modern South Koreans can't read Chinese. No idea what the situation in North Korea is. Japanese people know about 2000 kanji from general education, but Japanese kanji have mutated in use compared to Chinese hanzi, not to mention that they have replaced some with simpler symbols and some are outright Japanese innovations. My understanding is that unless a Japanese person studies it specifically, they will struggle to understand Classical Chinese.

    Also, and this is also the case with Arabs and Greeks, the main reason most Chinese can read the classics is that they're studied in school.
     
    Devor likes this.
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    You're not going to write the book in Latin. Presumably you're just looking to drop a word or two, which means you're free to just use the original. We do know some of the linguistic shifts--the hard c often going to a sibiliant, for example. We can even trace shifts in grammar. Books on the evolution of Latin in the Middle Ages will give you guidance, but I should think that would only be relevant if you were planning on making whole sentences or longer in Latin, which of course would render it incomprehensible to most of your readers.

    IOW, why are you wanting to know the details of this? Because in addition to the words, you're also talking about shifts in orthography and even syntax. And talking about variations by class and region. It can get very messy, as actual human beings are very messy creatures.
     
    Demesnedenoir likes this.
  8. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

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    Because many name roots are in Latin (though I also included Old Etruscan where I could, and used Old Celtic and Welsh for northern parts of the Empire). So I was wondering whether it was acceptable to leave entire thing in Latin (names and active language) or I should introduce some form of linguistic shift. There are no elves, after all.

    Or maybe I just have OCPD.
     
  9. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    I believe the answer you seek is "yes"
     
  10. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

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    All languages evolve over time but, generally speaking, a person who can read the modern version of a language can still read and understand some, if not most, of the ancient version. The most obvious example is Greek.

    A person who is fluent in modern Greek can read most ancient Greek. However, the meaning of many words have changed over the centuries. This makes ancient Greek difficult to understand for a modern Greek reader. Also, many words used in ancient Greek are no longer used in modern Greek. Thus, if an ancient Greek person was to meet a modern Greek person they would find it difficult to communicate but not impossible.

    The same principle also applies with Latin. Even at the time the OP''s story is set the Latin used then is almost certain to be quite different from the Latin used even a few hundred years earlier.

    Another thing to consider is that the Latin used in official documents is unlikely to be identical to that used in everyday life. In English we see an example of this in Commonwealth countries. The English used in everyday speech often incorporates local indigenous words and/or slang whereas governments, the education system and the media use a very formal English that is sometimes dubbed BBC English or the Queen''s English.
     
    Aldarion likes this.
  11. You could use Itallian. Yes, part of itallian formed under the influence of the invaders of italy which in your setting aren't really there. But it's close enough. Or, if you want to get closer, go for sardinian.
     
  12. elemtilas

    elemtilas Inkling

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    Oo, one of the dicier questions of history! When did the Roman Empire actually end...or did it ever end at all? I could think of two or three different dates off hand and could argue for its continuation up to the present time as well. But language is the issue!

    One thing we need to understand right off is that Latin never stopped being spoken. It is still spoken to this very day, we just call it by different names. Not "Classical Latin", like you're taught in school, but Vulgar Latin, the language spoken in everyday life by citizens of the Empire and its descendant polities. It has changed a lot over the years, from a language similar in many regards to Classical Latin to the languages we now call French and Spanish and Italian (among others).

    This, for example, was the Latin ~ French spoken in France in the 9th century:

    Pro Deo amur et pro christian poblo et nostro commun saluament, d'ist di en auant, in quant Deus sauir et podir me dunat, si saluarai eo cist meon fradre Karlo, et in adiudha et in cadhuna cosa si cum om per dreit son fradra saluar dift, in o quid il mi altresi fazet. Et ab Ludher nul plaid nunquam prindrai qui meon uol cist meon fradre Karle in damno sit.

    Clearly it's neither "Latin" as you know it, nor is it exactly "French" yet. We don't really know what the spoken Latin of the common folk looked like in the first century. Educated people didn't bother writing it down, and when they did bother with it, it was only in an effort to "correct" the mistakes of the uneducated. We can see a foreshadowing of what far future Latin (aka French & Spanish) would look like in the Appendix Probi of the 300s, things like "nobiscum non noscum" (compare with Spanish conmigo) and "aquaeductus non aquiductus" and "speculum non speclum".

    Not sure what "fish people" are, but I don't understand why you can't use Romance or Latin.

    As for how Latin evolved over time, you can hardly do better than "From Latin to Romance in Sound Changes". It gives you all the essentials of phonological evolution. Otherwise, you'll be wanting to look into historical grammars of Old Spanish and Old French and Old Provencal. Talk about rabbit holes!
     
    Aldarion likes this.
  13. ShadeZ

    ShadeZ Troubadour

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    Chinese actually has two versions traditional and modernized. Also most of the area languages are very similar or modeled off Chinese for example the Japanese alphabet was made by women who studied Chinese and created their own written language it eventually became the written language as we know it now and many Chinese and Japanese words are very similar or the same for example the Japanese word for firefly is Ho (fire) Taru (fly) the Chinese word for it is huo (fire) Chong (fly) as you can see in the example their word for fire is very similar. So any outstanding islands in your books may have developed languages very similar but slightly different to your core tongue.
     
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