Linguists have observed that natural languages, ones that haven’t been tampered with, languages that have never been agents of empire, are vastly stranger than the big global languages. When left alone in mountainous corners of the world, languages get singular, ingrown, and specialized. They develop quirks, then sub-quirks based on those original quirks, and so on. They get weirder and weirder, in beautiful and natural ways. The Navajo language has no regular verb conjugations; other languages pile up all sorts of outrageously specific verb forms, or require you to append an article to every noun depending on its shape or type.
When languages become imperial, this color and specificity falls away. When a language travels the world and gets forcibly taught to adults in conquered lands, those adults learn the language incompletely, and it is their version of the language that gets passed down to future generations.
In many respects these simplified, universalized languages are preferable. They are much easier to learn, and they still effectively communicate information. But they lose their natural stamps of strangeness and singularity. They lose their connection to the land that gave them rise. They become standardized. They become more like other languages.
10 Best of 2014
January: Wyoming and the Open
February: New Mexico and the Holes
Notes on The Accounts