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Speaking in Tongues: The History of Language
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1.

Let There Be Words [electronic resource]: Origin of Human Language

What precisely is language, and how did humans acquire it? In an effort to answer those essential questions, this program journeys back to prehistoric times in search of language's origin. But this is not a passive discussion, as Noam Chomsky; Brown University's Philip Lieberman; Johanna Nichols, of U.C. Berkeley; Stanford University's Merritt Ruhlen; professor of anthropology Richard Klein; Nobel physicist Murray Gell-Mann; and others passionately defend their points of view. Additional topics include distinguishing features of human communication and what humankind's first utterances may have been. The early evolution and migration of humans is also considered.
Online
2007
2.

Constant Change [electronic resource]: Diversification and Spread of Language

In this program, John McWhorter, author of The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language; Lyle Campbell, of the University of Utah; Brian Joseph, of The Ohio State University; and population geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza examine factors that contributed to the diversification and spread of languages, including early migration, the introduction of agriculture, and genes. Language transfer from mother to child and from one population to the next is also investigated, along with the concept of dialects and commonalities among the world's more than 6,000 languages.
Online
2007
3.

Mother Tongues [electronic resource]: Languages Around the World

This program travels the globe as it surveys a large portion of the world's languages-25 percent of which are spoken by a mere 0.1 percent of the Earth's population. Moving from Africa to Oceania and up to Asia and then west to Europe and across the ocean to the Americas, the program assesses how many languages are spoken in each region, the characteristics they share, and misconceptions about them. Historical background on some of the key languages of the regions is included as well. The commentary of Salikoko Mufwene, coeditor of The Ecology of Language Evolution; Larry Hyman, of U.C. Berkeley; Hua Lin, of the University of Victoria; Harvard University's Jay Jasanoff; and Lyle Campbell, of the University of Utah, is featured.
Online
2007
4.

Civilization to Colonization [electronic resource]: Language Takes Written Form

Writing is a relative latecomer to the history of language. This program tracks its emergence in Mesopotamia, China, and Mesoamerica and its spread down through the millennia via conquest-usually violent, sometimes benign-and colonization. The creation of creoles and pidgins resulting from the interaction of specific populations is also addressed, and speculation is made about the first things to be written down. Noam Chomsky; Peter Daniels, coeditor of The World's Writing Systems; the Manhattan Institute's John McWhorter; MIT's Michel DeGraff; and Salikoko Mufwene, of The University of Chicago, contribute.
Online
2007
5.

Birth and Death [electronic resource]: Life Cycle of Language

It is predicted that within a century more than half of the world's languages will become extinct, but as languages are lost, new ones emerge naturally or are constructed. In this program, Noam Chomsky; Esperantist Thomas Eccard; endangered languages researcher Peter Ladefoged, who has since passed away; and others provide insights into the language life cycle. Topics include constructed languages such as Esperanto, language endangerment and preservation, and the role of globalization in language obsolescence. The experts also discuss current language trends and offer their opinions on which languages may emerge as front-runners of the future.
Online
2007