thinksnack2

Posted by Jennifer Morrison

A thousand years is the minimum time span for a language to change so much that it becomes incomprehensible.

May 3rd, 2004 | Residents, Think-snack, Reading Room, Jennifer Morrison

10 comments

By who?
How do they know?
What do they think there was before the universe?

Comment by Adam
Tue 04 May, 2004
@ 4:44 pm

It’s amazing that it takes this long. I can’t understand the average person on the street half the time…

Comment by Baz
Wed 05 May, 2004
@ 1:42 pm

Incromprehensible to whom? Surely not to the people that are speaking it at the time?

Comment by raof
Wed 05 May, 2004
@ 3:59 pm

If you took one language, like say the english that you and I speak today, it will take at least 1000 years from now for that language ( ‘our’ english ) to change so much that it would be incomprehensible to us.

Comment by jennifer morrison
Wed 05 May, 2004
@ 9:44 pm

I’m with Baz on this one. I would have thought it took a lot less than 1,000 years for language to become incomprehensible. I know that when I was a kid my parents didn’t have a clue what I was on about. We’re talking slang, ’street’ language or buzz words here. But there are enough of them around to confuse people. Hypothetically, imagine saying to someone 100 years ago this phrase “pop us an email or give us a buzz on the bone when you’ve got a mo, yeah?” they’d just just think you’re from Scandanavia or something, no?

Comment by raof
Wed 05 May, 2004
@ 11:06 pm

Would we find the Old English of Chaucer’s time hard to understand? It’s hard to know as we don’t know how it was spoken. A thousand years from now it would be easier, as long as there is an antique CD / DVD / tape / record player around.

Comment by Adam
Thu 06 May, 2004
@ 3:16 pm

Language is one thing, meaning the entire grammatical construction, tenses, and the like, I reckon that does take the best part of a millenium. The odd word, here and there, as fashions come and go can happen overnight, but they don’t necessarily stick around. It wasn’t too long ago that everything was totally deck. That fluttered away, eventually.

Comment by Matthew
Thu 06 May, 2004
@ 5:49 pm

It’s true, the odd fad word here and there won’t stick. But the odd words like ‘email’, ‘buzz’ and ‘yeah’ (that form part of the current language), are hardly words that will “flutter” away. I mean, email’s been around for over 30 years. Not exactly an overnight one hit wonder, eh?

Comment by raof
Thu 06 May, 2004
@ 9:47 pm

Yes true, but within the overall context of the language itself, the odd ‘new’ word doesn’t make the rest of the language incomprehensible. with a bit of context either side, you can figure out what it means.

Besides, email probably won’t be part of our lives in 30 years time - something far more sophisticated and reliable will have come our way.

Comment by Matthew
Fri 07 May, 2004
@ 1:42 pm

Maybe, maybe not. It’s easy to be dismissive and not see the bigger picture though. In 2001, 250 new words were added to the Oxford English dictionary, In 2002, 3500 new words. And 2003, 3000 words. At that rate in a hundred years time there could be over 300,000 new words, In 500 years, 1.5 million new words. Not numbers to scoff at. The way we communicate today is far more diverse and progressive than at any other time. Mass media, Internet, Text messaging, an open Europe and the whole globalisation thing in general, etc has dramatically influenced social development and language along with it.

I’m not saying that it “will” take less than 1,000 years, but I’m not narrow enough to think that it “couldn’t”.

Comment by raof
Sun 09 May, 2004
@ 6:32 pm