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  • In the biblical story of the Tower of Babel,

    聖經故事的巴比倫塔中

  • all of humanity once spoke a single language

    所有人類曾有過共同的語言

  • until they suddenly split into many groups

    一直到他們突然分裂成許多不同的語言個體

  • unable to understand each other.

    再也無法如同以往理解彼此

  • We don't really know if such an original language ever existed,

    我們無法確知人類是否曾有過共同的語言

  • but we do know that the thousands of languages existing today

    但我們知道現今世上成千的語言

  • can be traced back to a much smaller number.

    可追溯至更小規模的語系

  • So how did we end up with so many?

    然而,為何現今存在著如此多種語言呢?

  • In the early days of human migration,

    在人類遷徙早期

  • the world was much less populated.

    世界人口並未如現今般地龐大

  • Groups of people that shared a single language and culture

    不過有著同樣語言與文化的群體

  • often split into smaller tribes,

    往往分裂成數個小型部落

  • going separate ways in search of fresh game and fertile land.

    分道揚鑣以找尋新的獵物與肥沃的土地

  • As they migrated and settled in new places,

    當他們遷徙並在定居在新處所時

  • they became isolated from one another

    同時也和原先的部落疏遠了

  • and developed in different ways.

    並漸漸地發展出自有的特色

  • Centuries of living in different conditions,

    經歷幾世紀不同的居住型態

  • eating different food

    由於不同的飲食習慣

  • and encountering different neighbors

    和不同的鄰近區域的人們互動

  • turned similar dialects with varied pronunciation and vocabulary

    原先僅在發音與字彙上有些許差異的方言

  • into radically different languages,

    便發展成不同的語言

  • continuing to divide as populations grew and spread out further.

    人口更進一步地成長,向外擴展

  • Like genealogists, modern linguists try to map this process

    從系譜來看,現代語言學家試著將語言的發展情況描繪出來

  • by tracing multiple languages back as far as they can

    盡可能地追溯至更久遠以前

  • to their common ancestor, or protolanguage.

    語言共同的起源或是語言的原型

  • A group of all languages related in this way is called a language family,

    有著共同起源的語言可稱作一個語言家族

  • which can contain many branches and sub-families.

    它包含許多語言分支與次語言家族

  • So how do we determine whether languages are related in the first place?

    但我們要如何確定哪些語言原先是彼此相關的呢?

  • Similar sounding words don't tell us much.

    我們無法從發音相似的字彙得到答案

  • They could be false cognates or just directly borrowed terms

    由於發音相似的字彙,或許是誤用的同源字,抑或直接借用的術語

  • rather than derived from a common root.

    並非從同一個字源所發展而來

  • Grammar and syntax are a more reliable guide,

    從文法與句法,以及基本字彙

  • as well as basic vocabulary,

    所得到的答案反而較可靠

  • such as pronouns, numbers or kinship terms,

    例如代名詞、數字與家庭稱謂

  • that's less likely to be borrowed.

    上述這些語言用語由其他語言借來的可能性較低

  • By systematically comparing these features

    藉著有系統地比較這些特性

  • and looking for regular patterns of sound changes

    找尋規則的發音變化

  • and correspondences between languages,

    以及語言間相對應之處

  • linguists can determine relationships,

    語言學家較能夠確定語言彼此的關係

  • trace specific steps in their evolution

    在語言演變的過程中追溯其特定演變階段

  • and even reconstruct earlier languages with no written records.

    甚至是重建早期沒有書寫文字的語言

  • Linguistics can even reveal other important historical clues,

    語言學家甚至可以找出與語言相關的重要歷史因素

  • such as determining the geographic origins and lifestyles of ancient peoples

    例如依據那些字是當地用字

  • based on which of their words were native,

    那些字是從別的語言借用來的

  • and which were borrowed.

    去找尋出其地理上的淵源與早期人類的生活方式

  • There are two main problems linguists face

    當學者描繪出語言家族樹時

  • when constructing these language family trees.

    他們則面對到兩個問題

  • One is that there is no clear way of deciding

    第一,學者無法明確地斷出

  • where the branches at the bottom should end,

    語言分支分歧的起訖點

  • that is, which dialects should be considered separate languages or vice versa.

    換句話說,方言是某語言的一支,抑或方言本身是一種語言

  • Chinese is classified as a single language,

    中文是一種語言

  • but its dialects vary to the point of being mutually unintelligible,

    但是其中的方言卻彼此相異,無法互通

  • while speakers of Spanish and Portuguese

    然而,西班牙語與葡萄牙語

  • can often understand each other.

    彼此多能互通

  • Languages actually spoken by living people

    其實語言是由「活」的人類所用

  • do not exist in neatly divided categories,

    並非獨行俠我行我素

  • but tend to transition gradually,

    反而,彼此間交流著

  • crossing borders and classifications.

    邊界與類別間不斷地跨越

  • Often the difference between languages and dialects

    很多時候,語言與方言的差異僅在於

  • is a matter of changing political and national considerations,

    不同政治因素與國家考量

  • rather than any linguistic features.

    並非僅是語言特性上的差異

  • This is why the answer to, "How many languages are there?"

    所以,「世界上有幾種語言?」的答案

  • can be anywhere between 3,000 and 8,000,

    各個專業人士各有自己的算法

  • depending on who's counting.

    答案會是三千到八千種不等

  • The other problem is that the farther we move back in time

    另一個問題是,我們越往前追溯

  • towards the top of the tree,

    越往語言家族樹的起始點前進

  • the less evidence we have about the languages there.

    我們所能得到有關語言的語料越少

  • The current division of major language families

    現今主要語系的分支

  • represents the limit at which relationships can be established

    合理地說

  • with reasonable certainty,

    代表不同語言關係上的界線

  • meaning that languages of different families

    意思是,在不同語言樹上的語言

  • are presumed not to be related on any level.

    在任何層面上是被視為互不相關的

  • But this may change.

    不過,有朝一日這或許會改變

  • While many proposals for higher level relationships --

    有人提出語言更高層面的關係

  • or super families -- are speculative,

    或是較天馬行空的概念: 超級語言樹

  • some have been widely accepted

    然而有些說法得到廣泛的支持

  • and others are being considered,

    有些則需加以評估考慮

  • especially for native languages with small speaker populations

    尤其是對尚未廣泛研究的

  • that have not been extensively studied.

    少數民族語言

  • We may never be able to determine how language came about,

    或許我們永遠無法確知語言是如何誕生的

  • or whether all human languages did in fact have a common ancestor

    或確實全人類是否有過共同的語言始祖

  • scattered through the babel of migration.

    只是因為遷徙後,彼此分道揚鑣變得不同

  • But the next time you hear a foreign language, pay attention.

    但下次當你耳聞到外國語言時,注意囉

  • It may not be as foreign as you think.

    它或許沒有你想像的那麼陌生

In the biblical story of the Tower of Babel,

聖經故事的巴比倫塔中

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B1 中級 中文 美國腔 TED-Ed 語言 方言 字彙 家族 發音

【TED-Ed】語言是如何發展的呢? (How languages evolve - Alex Gendler)

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    Halu Hsieh 發佈於 2014 年 06 月 16 日
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