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A Good TED Ed Video Lesson on How Languages Evolve

November 4, 2014
In this excellent Ted-Ed video lesson, Alex Gendler provides a historical account of the development of languages.The overarching question Alex addressed here revolves around the reasons why we ended up with thousands of languages when in the past there were only few numbers. To investigate this issue further, Alex started with the problematic of language origin and stated that linguists are not sure whether the thousands of languages we speak now can be attributed to a single root. Next, he talked about some of the factors that lead to language diversification stating human migration as the main reason.

As for the difference between a language and a dialect, Alex maintained that political and national consideration are of a determining factor here than linguistic features. The examples of Chinese language which contains so many dialects to the point of mutual incomprehensibility between some of them and the case of Portuguese and Spanish languages which are somewhat mutually understandable are provided. Another important point covered in this video relates to linguists' work in the classification of languages. Linguists, as Alex stated, create family trees of languages based on the study of linguistic features such as syntax, grammar and vocabulary. Phonology here is not a determining variable because of the presence of false cognates and borrowed words.

Overall, this is a good video lesson to share with students to teach them about the origin of languages and how they developed to where they are now. As is the case with every TED-Ed lesson, there is a section for questions and discussion that you can use to check students comprehension. Enjoy