Are Popular Languages Evolving Towards Stupid Simplicity

There is an old saying not to chide a man if he sounds queer speaking English, it just means he knows another language. This particular notion has been taken and drawn out into a host of trains of thought that spread their reaches from all of pop culture as we see in many popular movies with their array of colourful characters and songs, to even literature, art, politics and international relations and would reach even farther when the temporal influences associated are considered.

Other than the fact that there are the Chinese who number almost 1.3 billion who speak Chinese, the fact that there are some 1.1 billion recorded primary and secondary English speakers make it one of the most popular languages spoken on the planet. The power of the English language is very likely difficult to dispute even though others, just as popular or a bit less i.e. French, Portuguese, Arabic, etc. still exist.

For the readers of authors like J.R.R. Toiken who wrote The Lord of the Rings, George R.R. Martin who ever so beautifully makes his fantasy world the comprises the comprises the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and all their environs; for those like Tom Sawyer and the unforgettable William Shakespeare who have come to be known at least as one of the all-time greats as far as English literature is concerned and a great many others, too many to count who have shown beyond a measure of reasonable doubt that the older dialects of the English language with all its wealth of expressions; the laconic delivery of wit and humour and the flavourless passing of dry sarcasm that has come to be inextricably linked with the language in itself, exudes an ironically indescribable brand of elegance… well, depending on who reads and who writes.

In this part of the world and like many others, while either English, French, Spanish, etc. remain the official languages of the land especially those colonised by European explorers from whom these invading languages came, there exists a chore of coexisting with the traditional dialects that the original dwellers hold. For example, Indians speak Hindi but also have English as one of their official languages. In the Indian sense of it, it is not uncommon to hear the native Hindi dialect but with a heavy handed dose of English thrown into the fray which makes it quite the issue to contest just how many pure Hindi speakers exist in the world and if the Hindi-English dialect would eventually make its way into becoming a unified solitary language of its own. In this case, an instance where two languages form some sort of synergy and become more or less one is evident. Other examples would be with the African expression of French, the fusion between Igbo and English which has raised significant levels of concern within the Igbo community as they fuel fear that the language may be dying, we also see an example with Chilean Spanish which apparently sounds so different from conventional Spanish that an average Spaniard has little clue what is being said. On the other end, there is a situation where one language becomes introduced into a new environment and systematically, the original languages of the area fall into disuse and eventual extinction to be replaced by the new invader.

The Lagos State government as one esteemed organisation has in its wisdom deemed it necessary that the Yoruba language is to become a prerequisite for admission into any of the state’s institutions of higher learning in a bid to ensure that the language sees more years ahead than it sees competition. However, languages tend to evolve with the society in which they are used and quite often, the efforts at protection soon enough become impossibly tedious like every situation in history where a system has tried to fight against the changes that evolution itself brings. Protecting Yoruba for example by instituting the above stated action might be a good enough act to begin with but, while a fluency in English remains a requirement of securing paid employment in most organisations in Lagos State itself, it is unlikely that the action is sufficient to successfully see out the task with which it has been charged. The Canadian province of Quebec embarked on similar quest in the 70s to protect the use of French which was indigenous to the region and saw some success. The steps taken might be serve as a historical reference point for today’s Lagos and a bit of homework as well.

To consider something along the lines of philosophy of languages, identifying the difference between understanding and recognising a language is one thing, but with respect to the way the processing of languages affects or influence thoughts processes with their originators and their audience is another. For example, it is commonly contested that Adolf Hitler might not have become the man he turned out to be, leading the Nazis into a quest for world domination if he was an English speaker because the German language itself sounds like it was formed with the fires of demagoguery kindled deep within the bowels of its essence while a language like French or Chinese or even English lacks enough of a defining edge to sell the same message. Or, does speaking a language like Japanese make it easier for the speaker to hold a high level of self-pride and a penchant for honour like seen in the Japan of old? Essentially, can speaking a language make you more intelligent, more philosophical, more artistic or perhaps even dumber? Another school of thought also proposes that to people who are experiencing a sequence of unfamiliar languages for the first time, the different unfamiliar languages all sound the same. In essence, it is possible to speak ten different languages within the course of an address and have the audience oblivious to the changes occurring therein.

The human brain is beyond the measure of a doubt the most complex structure that our species has endeavoured to study and perhaps one of the most complex things existing on earth if not within the confines of the known universe but with regards to languages, the fact that languages seemingly evolve towards to a precept of progressive simplicity is one notion that may be difficult to refute. Consider the English language as one example which seems to be evolving in this same trend. The older versions of the language were graceful in a way that lacks glaringly in the modern expression – well depending on how far back one reaches, ideally just at the introduction of the Latin/Romance inputs and a bit after the beginning of the excision of many of the Saxon/Germanic faculties. The correlations between the spellings of the words and their pronunciations, the sentence structures, the application and the universe of semantics that lay behind seem more popularly to be evolving towards what seems like a watered down version of language as it becomes even more popular. One possible reason why would be because every new speaker of the language brings something into the language that simplifies it to fit within the paradigms of their understanding of languages just a bit more. If the increasing simplicity of a language serves as an indicator of just how acceptable it becomes, and those more difficult to learn as they choose to retain their complex foundations slowly fall out of fashion until only the simplest is eventually left, would this ordinarily imply that the simplest ultimately wins in a contest of complexity? Or does it just mean that our increasingly intelligent brains are just evolving towards laziness and that the lazy among us are actually more evolved than the average hard-worker?

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