Why do human languages resemble each other?

Is it coincidence, or do our brains come hard-wired with a language? A new experiment suggests another possibility: humans adapt language in ways that make it easier for human brains to process.

Linguist Daniel Midgley makes it clearer on this episode of Talk the Talk.


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Show notes

Julia Gillard’s speech prompts a redefinition of ‘misogyny’.
http://www.afr.com/p/national/macquarie_has_last_word_on_misogyny_NzrQFdWcPJG6G8qLRRiZtK

English used to have a case system, until sound change made everything sound the same
http://www.nexuslearning.net/books/elements_of_lit_course6/Middle_Ages/The%20English%20Language%20Middle%20English.htm

Details of the experiment
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-10/gumc-psl101412.php
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-10/uor-lis101512.php

Participants used case for the made-up language just as real languages do. Many languages won’t put an ergative case ending on an animate subject because, hey, it’s animate. Inanimate ones get one, though.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animacy#Split_ergativity