Thee, thou, and the evolution of language

Subject: Thee, thou, and the evolution of language
From: David Neeley <dbneeley -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Sun, 20 Dec 2009 10:54:54 +0200

The evolution of language is a fascinating thing. Generally, languages
become much simpler over time. We have been discussing terms used in
middle and early modern English ... thee, thou, ye, and such. Read a
little Chaucer in the original and it is interesting to see how far
the language has evolved in such a relatively brief period.

Interestingly enough, there are languages today that retain more of
the very early linguistic forms. As you probably know, most Western
languages descend from what is often referred to as "Indo
European"--which stemmed from what is now Northern India and
thereabouts. The two languages today which seem closest to that root
are probably Farsi and Lithuanian, for whatever reason.

In fact, an acquaintance of mine was living in Lithuania for a time,
and he happened to have a visitor from Iran. On the visitor's first
day, he accompanied my acquaintance on an errand to a local bank. He
was surprised to find that he could follow much of the conversation
because, he said, it was unexpectedly close to Farsi.

Linguistics scholars in the universities in Lithuania, too, have done
a rather extensive job of formally analyzing and documenting their
language. My acquaintance was interested in using Lithuanian as a "hub
language" because its grammar rules seemed a fairly clear superset of
the grammar rules of most if not all Western languages. As the more
common tongues evolved, their grammar simplified often in different
ways--but having the central language with a well mapped superset of
these variations could mean that each language could translate cleanly
to Lithuanian as the intermediary, then to the target language again
cleanly. This would mean the number of transforms would be vastly

This was to be presented as a proposal to DARPA, but my association
with it ended before it got that far. Thus, I have no idea if it was
ever put forth.

As you may be aware, among European languages the two I can think of
that have absolutely no discernible connection to that Indo European
root are Basque and Catalan--both from the Pyrenees region of the
Iberian Peninsula.


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