Tonality, Language aptitude, learning patters and (microcephaly-related) genetics


Pretty incredible stuff. I was doing some reading today on tonal languages. Google will tell you that it is estimated that between 50-70% of the world's languages are tonal. Tonal languages are found the world over, with the overwhelming exception of Europe, the Americas and the Middle East (although there are languages even in these places that exhibit at least some elements of tonality).
A largely foreign concept to English speakers (and those of the western world as a whole), it is interesting to consider where languages come from, what molds them and how the become what they are.
This got me to a question I've asked and discussed before.
Knowing that there is such correlation and transparency with a culture and its language (i.e. what the language reflects about the culture and vice versa), the chicken-or-egg question is: does culture influence language or does language influence culture? There is clearly a give-and-take relationship here, and opinions and viewpoints are biased. Those that know nothing of a language and only (possibly the stereotypes of) the culture obviously do not have the insight that those do who possess knowledge of the language and DEDUCE linguistic and cultural relations rather than superimpose them onto a people.
That being said, I find it interesting that not only is it just personality and character that make languages unique, such as things for which one language might have a plethora of words that another lacks entirely, but that even grammatical and phonological traits can (or might) be linked to fundamental genetics.
In our next issues: how languages (and learning them) are like cars, why you can thank Midlands English you're not conjugating, and what vikings, leprechauns and Zeus have to do with the dental fricative.

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