The Cultural Evolution of Artificial Languages: a Comparative Case of Modern Hebrew and Esparanto (2019)

In this research I explored the parallels and differences in the language evolution of Modern Hebrew and Esperanto.

Modern Hebrew and Esperanto are remarkable cases from a linguistic and evolutionary point of view. Both languages namely lack, each in their way, a natural development. Israeli Hebrew stems from Biblical Hebrew, which after a long decline was ceased to be spoken by the second century AD. Hebrew thus was considered ‘dead’ for at least 1750 years before it was revived and introduced again as the Jewish language in the late 19th century, resulting in a big gap in its evolution. Esperanto on the other hand did not have any natural development at all. It did not emerge like a natural language, but was carefully and structurally constructed as a fully fledged “perfect” language, and introduced as such - also in the late 19th century. Considering these evolutionary “missing links” it is interesting to see how these languages developed after their (re)implementation. Did the ‘hiatus’ in the evolution of Esperanto and Modern Hebrew affect the way these languages were adapted and, eventually, evolved? If so, how? What impact did the cultural transmission of these languages have on their lexicon, phonetics, grammar structure? This paper aims to explore the cases of these two artificial languages in the light of cultural evolution.

Theories related to cultural transmission and evolution, amongst which design without a designer, optimisation & emerging structure of language and the Founder Principle, are discussed.


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