History of Language Essay

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A language family is a group of related languages said to have descended from a common proto-language. Most languages are known to belong to language families. An accurately identified family is a phylogenetic unit; that is all its members derive from a common ancestor. The concept of language families thus entails the concept of a historical genetic ancestor of a language implying a gradual evolution over time of one language into another language (as opposed to sudden replacement of a language). The concept of linguistic ancestry is less clear-cut than the concept of biological ancestry as in cases of extreme historical contact in particular the formation of creole languages and other types of mixed languages; it may be unclear which language should be considered the ancestor of a given language. However these types of cases are relatively rare and most languages can be unambiguously classified into families. The common ancestor of a language family is seldom known directly since most languages have a relatively short recorded history. However it is possible to recover many features of a proto-language by applying the comparative method — a reconstructive procedure worked out by 19th century linguist August Schleicher. This can demonstrate the validity of many of the proposed families listed below. Language families can be divided into smaller phylogenetic units conventionally referred to as branches of the family because the history of a language family is often represented as a tree diagram. However the term family is not restricted to any one level of this "tree"; the family for example is a branch of the Indo-European family. Some taxonomists restrict the term family to a certain level but there is little consensus in how to do so. Those who affix such labels also subdivide branches into groups and groups into complexes. The terms superfamily phylum and stock

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