LANGUAGING (Speak to us)

Languaging is the act of communicating by language. It is one of the pillars of human culture. Languaging is a type of interaction that transfers the thoughts and meanings and coordinates actions between two or within a network of people. Also, self-talk in human beings is an important process of cognition and action planning. The languaging  uses a lexicon or vocabulary, i.e. strings of complex sounds for transferring thoughts and their meaning between people.

The lexicons define an important property of languages. Lexicons (i.e. vocabularies) are stable sets of words for longer periods of time. They fluctuate around the language standard variety and form language dialects. Different languages are related with each other and hence have some degree of lexical similarity. Two or more languages have also syntactic and semantic similarities. These are also relatively stable properties of each language. The states of lexical, syntactic or semantic similarity can be measured by similarity variables. They measure the mutual intelligibility which informs about the degree of learnability of a language given the knowledge of other language. Mutual intelligibility can be informative for the ‘genetic relationship’ between languages.

One property of languages is that they evolve over time through bifurcations or multifurcations from some common predecessor. This means that there are short periods of time during which substantial linguistic differences of the common ancestor language arise and than these differences are enhanced untill new language varieties temporarily stabilize (see Figure 1). Most often, already extant varietes (i.e. dialects) within the common ancestor language may be enhanced and generate a new stable successor language.

Figure 1.  Context dependent multifurcation of stable language families α, β, γ from a common language ancestor δ. As  time passes (vertically from top-down) the historical context changes and causes language families to differentiate further to diverse stable languages αi, βi, γi. Contexts are usually a combination of constraints such as:  geographic separation, foreign language contact, political elite influence, spontaneous internal changes, and many others. These constraints enhance linguistic innovations that induce development of separate language families, languages and language dialects.  Context changes channel the evolution of languages through bifurcations or multifurcations. The stable common language ancestor δ, language families α, β, γ and languages αi, βi, γi are located in the hierarchy of basins of attraction (i.e valleys of the hierarchical landscape). The barriers (repellers) between the valleys are the dissimilarity degree between the language species, as measured by a combination of lexical, semantic and syntactic similarity measures.  The landscape can be defined as informational or energetic. If we define the barriers as informational then they represent the mutual unintelligibility and hence can be used as approximate measure of learning difficulty of languages. If we define the landscape as energetic, than barriers are the energy that one has to spend (i.e. work to do) to learn the language across the barrier.

An example of this multifurcating process which over several to tens of milenia brought about current landscape of similarity of Indo-European languages is presented on Figure 2.

Figure 2. A tree of representatives of Indo-European languages (not all Indo-European languages are represented). The vertical axis is the distance (i.e. disimilarity) between languages which corresponds to the hight of the barrier (i.e. repeller) between two basins of attraction on Figure 1. Here we see how Indo-European languages have multifurcated and diversified from a common ancestor the Proto-Indo-European located at the top of the hierarchical tree (see the arrow). The same multifurcating process also forms dialects (which are not represented).  Compare the language tree with Figure 1 for insight into dynamics of formation of separate languages.

On the Figure 2 we clearly see how context dependent multifurcations (see Figure 1) bring about separation of a common ancestor language first into language families and from there to separate languages. Groups of relatively similar languages separated by smaller distances (i.e. lower barriers) separated by larger distances (i.e. higher barriers) from other more similar languages are readily visible. Clusters of languages such as: Hindi, Kashmiri and Persian are representatives of the Indo – Iranian language family. The cluster starting with Latvian and ending with Polish is a representative of the Balto-Slavic family, which further bifurcates on Baltic (Latvian and Lituanian) and (Bulgarian, Russian, Polish) representatives of South, East and West Slavic languages, respectively. Starting with Swedish and ending with German is the family of Germanic languages and languages starting with Romanian and ending with French are representatives of the Romance language family. The Irish, which is a Celtic language, shows similarity to this group probably due to the Celtic language substratum lexicon in Romance languages which have the Latin as a superstratum. Greek, Armenian and Albanian do not belong to a larger language family.

Languaging in Arts

Novels, theatre plays, songs or films are always based on existence of a network of relations and communications between characters or actors and the audience in certain contexts that evolve at different time and/or spatial scales. They all form metastable patterns of languaging which embedded in the context formed by the constellation of other artistic constraints are a source of permanent beauty, inspiration and joy. 

Robert Hristovski