⚡ Make language learning easier by understanding how words have evolved from ancient languages.

Murray Gell-Mann presenting his TED talk on the ancestor of languageThe Ancestor of Language | TED Talk by Murray Gell-Mann

A nice 2-minute TED talk from the winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize in physics on… not physics, but language.

The history of language totally fascinates me, but I admittedly know very little about it. I recently wrote about how learning languages can be made easier by learning the basic buildings blocks of the language… but actually you can go further than the basic blocks of the language itself. If you look at how words have evolved from previous languages, you can understand how modern words have taken their current forms and notice patterns that make learning languages a lot easier in general.

This doesn’t just apply to the language that you’re learning — it can help you to understand other languages without you even realising it. Many European languages, for instance, are derived at least in part from Latin. If you learn the etymology of an English word, seeing the latin basis for it, that can then help you to recognise words in French, Italian, etc.

Murray Gell-Mann’s idea is that all languages might have evolved from a common ancestor. The video is pretty old (2007), so I’m sure that knowledge on the subject has developed a lot since the talk — I’ll do my best to get up-to-date and post about it here.