This was an interesting picture from an online dictionary that illustrates the evolution and relationships of Indo-European languages. It was interesting to note that Frisian and Dutch are the most similar to English. What is Frisian? On a similar topic, recent studies at Havard and the University of Reading examined how language evolves and why some words tend to change more than others.
“By combining their data, the researchers determined that it would take as little as 750 years to replace less-used words and up to 10,000 years for new words to evolve in place of the most frequently used ones.”
The researchers tried to identify high frequency words that have been in regular use over time such as water or numbers. They found that more often a word is used the less likely it is to change over time. These frequently used words also tend to be similar across languages.
“The word for the number three in all Indo-European languages, for instance, is similar to the English version: from tres in Spanish to drei in German to the Hindi theen.”
The Shift Happens video had an interesting quote:
“There are about 540,000 words in the English language, about 5 times as many as during Shakespeare’s time.”
I am not sure where that quote was originally from but it seems to fall between some estimates. The Oxford Dictionary estimates that there are approximately 250,000 distinctly English words and could be as many as 750,000 if we include technical and regional vocabularies.
New words are being created in the present to describe new products and processes. How often do you use the words internet, website, mp3? Do you learn this vocabulary in your Spanish, French or Chinese classes? Does your language have words for these terms and do you cover them in class?