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Friday, July 11, 2014

Why We Can't Have an Universal Language

One universal language would make things simpler, wouldn't you think? Well, it's not that simple.

Linguists and historians will answer you similarly when asked the age-old question of why we lack an universal language. There are a dozen reasons that will remain uninterrupted through the development of modern societies.

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, people were confined to a relatively small space on the globe. At this point, it would have made perfect sense to speak the same mother tongue as your neighbor. However, we know that culture effects language, individuality, and dialect. 

We can also take from history's course of action that culture is instinctive. As humans we seek to identify and survive alongside other people with the same set of morals and standards. As the population grew and the world became occupied almost entirely, the number of languages used grew to an estimated 100,000.

Obviously, language has been condensed over the past couple of hundred years. Languages morph, simplify, vary, and associate. 

Languages are like food - you speak (eat) what grows best around you. 

Cultures that have flourished have maintained their language - at least to some extent. American English, for example, is being studied in countries opposite to America. When the Romans came head to head with Greece, a slew of languages was adopted. While Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and Berber were accepted, eastern Mediterranean disputes neglected Latin, decimating the historical language once and for all.

On a more peaceful note, think Shakespeare. Dr. Marc Ettlinger asks his readers to reflect on the particularly excruciating unit in high school, where many students struggle to translate and comprehend Shakespeare's plain English. A couple of hundred years from now, our version of English will be outdated and will be equally insufferable to study. Language is ever-changing and limitless.


We can gather that despite the worldwide effort, with the exception of math, there will probably never be universal means of communication. Modern humans have individualized through their patriotism, their culture, their society, and all of the quirks that come with it- including their unique vocabulary, diction, and syntax which form a single language among thousands which have been, are, and will be. 

So, we form a unofficial lingua franca to communicate to the best of our abilities. 

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