I bet you have never really THOUGHT about the human language. Why do you speak the way you do? How did the language originate? How has it developed to its current form? The truth is, the human language still baffles not only the commoners but also professional linguists and language researchers. The chamber of some language’s secrets still remains closed, but we thought we’ll take a peek through the keyhole and list the languages that puzzle us the most.
Something that looks like just a random set of letters is the name of the language known also as Vilamovian or Wilamowicean. To look for its origins you’d have to go to a small Silesian village in southern Poland – Wilamowice. It’s home to around 3,000 people and it dates back to the 13th century.
Right now, Vilamovian is spoken by 25 people and it’s considered to be one of the smallest micro-languages of the Western-Germanic branch. Yes, you read that right — Vilamovian, despite being spoken in Poland, has absolutely nothing to do with Slavic languages. How come?
The language has been on the verge of extinction for years, but the amateurs of this ethnolect are making a lot of efforts to preserve it. Since 2016, it’s been taught at local schools and more research has been conducted. The analysis of the Vilamovian culture and the language itself indicates that first inhabitants of the village came from Flanders and Frisia, and the name of the village comes from its apparent founder, a Scotsman named William. This theory is also backed by the village’s location – it’s situated far from rivers or lakes. In the 13th century, the Northern Sea flooded big part of Flanders, so it’s understandable why the migrants would like to live away from any water reservoir. The isolation of the Vilamovian people preserved the language which has never mixed with Polish.
Africa is considered to be the crib of human languages (as it is considered to be the crib of humans in general). Anthropologists think that every language in the world comes from one mother tongue that originated around 100,000 years ago in West Africa.
The astonishing diversity of African linguistics landscape surprises with an inexplicable phenomenon – a Nigerian village where men and women speak different languages.
If by any chance you ever find yourself in Ubang, a village in south Nigeria, and you ask for some water, a woman would give you amu. A man, on the other hand, would bring you bamuie.
Anthropologists and linguists are puzzled by the lack of a pattern — men and women in Ubang use different lexicons in some cases and in others they share the same words. It’s not dependent on whether the words are commonly used or on a subject they describe. The words are completely different, they don’t even sound similar. The differences are huge — they are much more profound than in i.e. American and British varieties of English.
Men and women are able to understand each other due to the way they raise their children. Mothers take care of their children – both girls and boys – in the early years, so young males also speak the women’s version of Ubang. At some point in their lives, they simply switch to the male language — no one tells them when.It is supposed to be a sign of a boy’s maturity.
Researchers have tried to decrypt the mystery of the double lexicon in Ubang. Some theories point to the dual-sex culture of Africa, where men and women lead very different lives. But this argument is considered by many as highly insufficient, as such lifestyle prevails in most of the African cultures, and only Ubang is home to such enigmatic language phenomena.
The Zunis are indigenous to Western Mexico and some parts of Arizona in the USA. The Zuni language is still the most common form of communication, especially in Zuni Pueblo in Mexico. But you may be familiar with many other indigenous languages of Southern and Central America, so what’s so special about this one? Because its closest relative may be found over 10,000 km away – in Japan.
But wait, it’s just one of the theories about why this language exists where it exists, and why it even exists. Let’s go through it together.
Zuni is one of the isolate languages, just like Basque. Modern-day Zuni includes a lot of words borrowed from Keresan, Hopi, and Pima which are of Native American and Aztec origin.
None of the many hypotheses about its classification has been widely acknowledged. It is generally recognized that Zuni is related to Penutian — a Native American language once spoken in Washington, Oregon, and California. Another interesting theory has been introduced by Nancy Yaw Davis, who discovered some similarities to Japanese. She claims that the two distant languages share syntax and many similar-sounding words that have the same meanings. She then came up with a theory that a group of Japanese missionaries traveled to Mexico around the 12th century and stayed there. Interestingly, she discovered that type B blood is very common among both Japanese and Zuni people, while it’s usually absent in other American tribes. Her theory was also backed by the analysis of the Zunis living between 1200 and 1400 AD. It showed a significant change in skeleton characteristics during that period.
As we mentioned above, none of the hypotheses about Zuni origins is widely recognized, so we may never know the truth.
Why do we research languages? Cause any language is linked to some culture, beliefs, tradition, upbringing and the way people perceive the world. Linguists dedicate their lives to researching languages so we can know more about people who speak them. The baffling fate of languages and messages encrypted in them has been cracked, but as you can see, there are still some curious cases in the linguistics world.
Perhaps, the most enigmatic one is where the human language comes from, in the first place? Did it appear just like that? Was there any anthropological process that led to the creation of language? It seems that there’s still more to languages than meets the eye.