Science Questions

How did early civilisations learn the language of their neighbours?

Sun, 16th Nov 2008

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Question

Jim asked:

How did early civilisations learn the language of their neighbours?

Answer

Martin - One thing we know is that as farmers spread probably languages spread with them. You can do a family tree of languages and a family tree of genes. There’s a reasonable match but we also know that there was contact between hunter gatherers and farmers and so there would have been an interaction with people with very different languages.  I guess we must just assume that their body languages were sending the right messages.

Chris - And also their tummy telling them they’re hungry so they’d be willing to swap food and things.

Martin - That’s right and I think there are more multilingual communities now than in the English speaking world we imagine there were.

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