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In Search of the First Language

Program Overview


There are almost 5,000 different languages spoken in the world. Many linguists believe that these 5,000 evolved from about 200 distinct and apparently unrelated families. Whether or not all of these language families could have developed from a single language is the issue explored by this episode of NOVA.

There is a controversy among linguists as to whether a primordial language once existed. Some claim that after about 10,000 years, any language has changed too much for anyone to ascertain the original tongue. They argue that theories about languages before 10,000 years ago are pure speculation. Others are turning to DNA patterns to support theories of language origin. All of these linguists are collecting information that they hope will help them find relationships among the various families of languages.

Teacher's Guide
In Search of the First Language
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