T R E E S
THE TREE AS IMAGE
Perhaps the most common image of a family of languages is the tree. From one trunk one sees branches growing, from each branch new branches etcetera.
Trees in nature usually, but not always, develop this way. If the circumstances force a tree or perhaps allow a tree to behave differently, it may do so. And one may see two branches not separate completely for some time. Or two branches that grow together for some time, perhaps seperating again later on in time.
In the case of languages, circumstances can occur which cause similar "anomalies" of both growth and development. Peoples may exercise political, cultural or religious dominance over other nations. As is known, in the process, some or many elements of the language of the dominant nation may influence that of the other or others. A few may be absorbed from "below". And it is not uncommon for the dominating nation’s language to be entirely accepted by the other. This has happened with languages such as Arabic, Turkish and English.
In the case of geographical vicinity, with cultural and economic interchange, languages may well influence each other considerably. Often one among them being more easily absorbable and therefore accepted than the other.
ALLIANCES AND CONFLICTS
Between nations and tribes inevitably there are contacts, that may be of friendly or unfriendly character. Alliances are concluded and dissolved. Wars are fought and ended in one way or other.
Two nations may be friends today and enemies tomorrow, just to become friends again later.
DIFFERENT FROM TREES
Trees only very seldom have branches that reunite and redivide repeatedly as do human linguistic groups. That is why the comparison between the growth of trees and the development of languages perhaps is not so perfect as one might wish.
It cannot be excluded that in various situations, one language that can be considered as a branch of a major group, lives some common developments with another language that is to be considered a branch of a different major group. This may occur more easily in a phase in which the two main groups have separated not too long ago.
To put it more concretely, North-Western Semitic may have lived part of its development in close contact with some Indo-European group of languages, such as Greek or Germanic. It is basically through comparison of roots that the writer would like to see if there exists some evidence of this.
An endless number of pitfalls might be experienced on account of the changes in sounds and meanings that make life difficult. It is said that sounds change less than meanings. We will see what obstacles we will stumble upon.
An unexpected, also complicating, possible support for our surmise comes from the result of a research on Y chromosomes at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem :
The actual speakers of Hebrew, the Jews, themselves genetic "twins" amongst each other, have a closer genetic affinity to Turks, Armenians and Kurds than to their Semitic-speaking Arab "brethren". This is consistent with the existence of cultural links among populations in the Fertile Crescent in early history and indicates that the Jews are direct descendants of the early Middle Eastern core populations which later divided into distinct ethnic groups with very different languages.
QUESTION MARKS ON ORIGIN
With that we have no answer to the inevitable questions about the original Semitic language. Has
there been one ? Who spoke it ? Which of the existing Semitic languages is nearer to the original
one in roots ? And which is nearer to it in the build-up of words with affixes ? And what kind of relation has there been with people speaking languages of other groups, such as Indo-European ?
Of those nations considered genetically near the Hebrews, the Armenians speak an Indo-European language. The Kurds claim to be the descendants of the old Medes, that had their reign together with the old Persians, and there has been found kindship between Kurdish and Farsi (new Persian) .
That may place Kurdish somewhere in or near Indo-European. But the Turks speak Turkish, which
belongs to a quite different group, called mostly that of the Turkic languages and sometimes linked
with Uralic ( including Finnish and Hungarian ).
For the moment we certainly find more questions than answers.
| Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: Thursday 10 January 2013 at 19.58.31