New Evidence May Prove Relationship between Language and Environment

September 18, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. evidence [EV-i-duh ns] (n.) – something that proves or disproves an idea, event, or circumstance
Example: The anthropologist cannot prove the relationship between society and language because he has no enough evidence.
2. deduce [dih-DOOS, -DYOOS] (v.) – to arrive at a conclusion based on logic or facts
Example: After observing how the natives spoke to each other, the researcher deduced that they belong to the same tribe.

3. altitude [AL-ti-tood, -tyood] (n.) – the height of something from a reference point
Example: Native tribes who live at higher altitudes seem to have stronger health.

4. noteworthy [NOHT-wur-thee] (adj.) – important enough to be noticed or to be given attention
Example: The scientist felt excited about his noteworthy discoveries.

5. coincidence [koh-IN-si-duh ns] (n.) – a situation in which events unexpectedly happen at the same time
Example: Mary thinks that Roger’s and her synchronized expression of words was just a coincidence.


Read the text below.

An anthropologist from the University of Miami named Caleb Everett believes that he might have found the first evidence linking the environment to language.

Everett knew that a small percentage of the world's languages uses a sound called "ejective consonant." He began to wonder whether producing these sounds have something else in common. He deduced that producing ejective consonants, which involve compressing air in the back of the throat, might be easier at higher elevation - where less air pressure occurs.

Everett studied about 600 languages. Out of 600, 92 languages used ejective consonants. He then compared the altitudes at which these languages were spoken. He found that 87% of the languages spoken in places of high elevation used ejective consonants.

Upon comparing the data, he also discovered that his observation applies for North America, South America, Africa, and the whole Eurasia. Because of such results, he concluded that the use of ejective consonants works anywhere in the world.

But for now, Everett’s findings are just noteworthy observations. He is still not certain whether the high altitudes triggered the use of ejective consonants or it is just a mere coincidence.

However, if high elevations really cause languages to use ejectives as Everett assumes, then the environment may really have an effect to language. This assumption may thus have a big implication on the evolution of language.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you think that the environment really affects the way language is developed? Why or why not?
·         In your opinion, what would be the implications to society if evidence shows the environment really does affect language? Please explain your answer.

Discussion B

·         What other aspects of human life does the environment affect? Briefly explain.
·         Do you think that changing a person’s environment would change his or her personality? Why or why not?


September 18, 2013