Provided by Betul Erbasi from betulerbasi.com
|How are you?||English|
|Wie geht es dir?||German|
The phrases in the set above mean the same thing in different languages. They look fairly different, right? I would not think that these languages could share anything at all.
Well, hint hint, some people disagree.
On top of that, take a minute to grasp the fact that there are about 6000 languages in the world. That is, 6000 ways of saying How are you?.
Now, another difference:
|Are you one of those people whom we could not make to be Czechoslovakian?||English|
What makes a sentence in English makes a word in Turkish. One single word. Same meaning, different ways.
|a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections in life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay||English|
Again, what one word says in one language is expressed by a lot of words in another, but this time because one lacks a concept the other has.
Another difference. Now in English.
|I have not seen the sun in days.||(Standard) English|
|I ain’t seen the currant bun in days.||Cockney Rhyming Slang (a systematic slang word construction system)|
Would you be able to guess what ‘currant bun’ means if you did not know Cockney Rhyming Slang?
So, the conclusion is that languages are so different that there is no way they can share anything in common, right?
Well, some linguists beg to differ. They argue that there is something called the Universal Grammar.
It is the idea that all languages share a basic, abstract structure that makes them a human language.
The idea that children are born with an innate ability to acquire and develop language.
Yes, children outsmart us adults by far in language because they have access to the Universal Grammar. We adults don’t.
Why do we think that children are born with that kind of a system?
First, even 2-day-old babies are able to differentiate between languages based on their rhythm (and even words in the same language).
Second, regardless of which language they are exposed to, all children learn languages using the same milestones at the same time. There is no harder or easier language for them.
Third, they can even learn multiple languages at the same time and they do not care. Talk about language learning!
Fourth, even when there is no language that children are exposed to, they create one using ‘default rules in the Universal Grammar’. That is how they take a pidgin and turn it into a creole in no time! A pidgin is an immediate communicative tool created by adults that is good enough only to serve immediate contact purposes such as trade. So, a pidgin is not a language. But a creole is. It is a language created by children.
What does Universal Grammar look like? That we don’t know. We can only speculate.
The topic of Universal Grammar is still debatable, as not all linguists agree that it exists.
My take on this is agnostic. But I would be happy if it did exist. Why? Because it tells me that there is something universal about humans. In fact, it was this vision that got me into Linguistics ten years ago.
Now let’s hear you.
Did you ever think that languages could be similar to each other after all? Did you notice any similarities in different languages? Did you ever reflect on how children speak so well at a time when they can’t even eat on their own properly? Do you think that language is a sign of human universality?