Our Common Language


Anyone who follows this blog, or who has seen my workshops, knows that the prevalent theme of The Berlack Method is the idea that we are all connected.  That connection takes on many forms and manifests in many different ways, which provides a lot of material to talk about.  One element that many of us overlook is language.  Because there are so many languages worldwide, and because they differ so much from region to region, we often look at language as an indicator of the differences between us.  A study conducted by University of Auckland psychologist Quentin Atkinson suggests otherwise.

The article “Is All Language Out Of Africa?” in the May 6, 2011 issue of The Week magazine (page 24), cites the Atkinson study, which theorizes that the world’s 6,000 languages are all descended from a single ancestral tongue that developed between 50,000 to 100,000 years ago in southern Africa.

Atkinson tracks the movement of language by noting the descending number of phonemes, (basic vowel, consonant and tonal sounds) present in each language as one moves outward from Africa.  This pattern indicates the presence of what’s known as “the founder effect,” which is the tendency of smaller groups to narrow the diversity of a larger population as they move away.

The science of that is fascinating to me, but that may just be a reflection of my nerd-like tendencies.  More to the point, the Atkinson study provides further proof that it is our ignorance of who we are and where we come from that leads us to interact with each other based on perceived differences, leading to hate, jealousy, oppression and worse.  No matter the cultural or linguistic differences between us, we all share the same roots.

It is my belief that knowledge of our common roots – our common language – is the awareness that we need to change how we do business with each other.  Perhaps when we internalize how similar we actually are, we can change this world for the better.

Wake up people, and see our similarities!  Am I speaking your language?

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