Sources include Infoworld, 10-24-96, and July 1997 Popular Science magazine; both sources speak of a substantial consolidation of human languages ahead, but do NOT predict it to occur quite as rapidly as I do here; however, I believe those sources do not consider all the factors relevant to this matter in the decades and centuries following 2000.
50% of the 6000 different human languages in use on Earth in 1999 were spoken by less than 10,000 people-- 25% by less than 1000.
-- How many active languages are there in the world? from The Learning Kingdom's Cool Fact of the Day for November 30, 1999, http://www.LearningKingdom.com
90% of the over 6000 languages spoken circa 2000 AD possess less than 100,000 speakers each. 200-250 languages possess over a million speakers each. The English, Mandarin (Chinese), and Spanish languages number among those attracting the most new speakers. Papua New Guinea offers the greatest diversity of languages today.
-- Most World Languages Gone by 2100 ["http://www.discovery.com/news/briefs/20000530/misc_language.html"], May 30, 2000, discovery.com
Between 2000 and 2100 90% of the 6000 languages with which the world starts the period could disappear.
-- Top 10 Forecasts from Outlook 2000, THE FUTURIST magazine, WORLD FUTURE SOCIETY, http://www.wfs.org, 1999
-- Predictions for the new millennium By LANCE GAY, October 25, 1999, Nando Media/Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.nandotimes.com
At minimum 50% (perhaps 90%) of the 6700 or so languages spoken today will disappear by 2100. Linguists and other scientists are racing against time to acquire as large a knowledge base and collection of samples of the more obscure languages possible, before they are gone forever.
Anthropologists point out that virtually each language is a massive accomplishment by mankind, rich with nuggets of knowledge and history often unique to it alone. For instance, substantial botanical and medical knowledge as yet unknown to mainstream science-- and perhaps never to be known, if not rescued from the mass extinction of languages now underway. Other intriguing information can be found in comparisons between different languages, which serve to reveal the workings of the human mind in general. Many of the dying languages could also shed light upon the many prehistoric mysteries involving human migrations and how civilization truly began-- if only there was sufficient time to analyze them.
At present humanity is losing about one language every two weeks(!)
-- Vanishing tongues Scientists fight to save world's disappearing languages By Gareth Cook, Globe Staff, 11/5/2000; This article appeared on page A01 of the Boston Globe on 11/5/2000
The widescale adoption of an almost wholly new human language based upon hard won knowledge of past centuries across almost the entire breadth of human scientific endeavor is opening the doors to exploitation of the full potential of language, will, and imagination so far as the human organism is concerned.
It's turning out that this new, highly advanced language, supplemented with various bio-feedback and other learning technologies, is allowing children to assume far greater conscious control over their biological forms than ever thought possible for any but a few yogis, athletes, and other elite specimens of humankind.
The ideas and techniques of expression and visualization accompanying the new hyper-language serve to push up intelligence quotients, quality and quantity of natural memory storage capacity, powers of concentration, and control over both voluntary and involuntary bodily functions.
Byproducts of the language are immune systems largely under the control of their owners. Speed control over metabolisms (including for some the ability to hibernate for weeks or months like a bear). Relaxation, sleep, or adrenaline on demand. Pain control. Accelerated healing. Photographic memory. Enhanced sensory perceptions. Greater access to innate creativity. Greater empathic sensitivity to others. Improved capacities to detect deception in others. Accelerated teaching and learning, as well as more rapid and accurate interpersonal communications. Some access to genetic memories (stored in areas once considered to be 'junk' DNA), as well as improvements in directional positioning and navigation. Exquisite muscle control and coordination. Virtually any child with the appropriate training can now possess 20th century Olympic athlete speed, strength, and coordination in brief spurts, if not longer. Injuries due to falls or accidents are greatly reduced.
The range of new abilities and capacities enabled by the new language and related techniques would appear astonishing to observers from the 20th century. Full exploitation of such potential can easily require decades. The lengthy period of training is not seen as a liability, since the language itself also extends lifespan. Thus, most children become specialists in certain areas for maximum career performance, and only generalists in others (for contingency survival use; generalist mastery offers perhaps anywhere from 30% to 80% of a potential specific ability (largely proportional to natural talent in the given area), on a somewhat brief basis (seconds to hours, depending upon the exertion required by the action in question).
Of course, such new abilities and capacities have for some time now been routinely added to the human form via genetic engineering or cyborg supplements. But this new language area of potentials realization still offers many intriguing possibilities. For one thing, the new language allows pure biologicals to achieve many of the same things before possible only through artificial means. This gives a new opportunity to the poor, as well as those religiously or philosophically opposed to using artificial devices to attain such capacities.
The new language also improves many aspects of daily life even for cyborgs and genetically enhanced peoples, in the areas of learning, teaching, and communications. Plus, its redundancy or overlap with some aspects of artificial human enhancements provides a welcome backup or contingency reserve in case of technological failure-- and during this period catastrophic failure of personal (and other) technologies leading to death or significant injury or other loss is not uncommon.
One substantial drawback to the new language is that it generally may only be fully exploited by those who begin with it at an early age. It's very rare that an adult manages to utilize even a fraction of its power. Thus, translator devices are often required between those with the language and those without.
Apparently some people can and do extend their lives by sheer force of will or desire, as is evidenced by larger than average numbers of deaths occuring after certain milestones, dates, or major events are reached. In New York city 50.8% more deaths took place in the first week of 2000 than did in the similar period of 1999. It was also 46% more than in the same period of 1998. People effectively stretched out their lives a bit longer to see the dawn of the new millennium.
It appears that people in general have long possessed the power to stretch out their last days in order to make it to or past events like religious holidays, birthdays, or anniversaries.
-- Spike in deaths shows some held on to see dawn of 2000, Nando Media/Associated Press, January 15, 2000, http://www.nandotimes.com
-- THE MIND'S CONTROL OF BODILY PROCESSES From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies ["http://www.knowledge.co.uk/frontiers/"] #34, JUL-AUG 1984 by William R. Corliss, citing Theodore X. Barber; "Changing 'Unchangeable' Bodily Processes by (Hypnotic) Suggestions: A New Look at Hypnosis, Cognitions, Imagining, and the Mind-Body Problem," in A.A. Sheikh (editor?) Imagination and Healing, Baywood Publishing Co., Farmingdale, NY, 1984, pp. 69
-- Hypnosis helps patients control stress and anxiety, UF researchers say by Cathy Keen, EurekAlert!, 3 AUGUST 2000, Contact: Paul Schauble firstname.lastname@example.org 352-392-1575 University of Florida]
-- MIND MARSHALS WHITE BLOOD CELLS From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies ["http://www.knowledge.co.uk/frontiers/"] #19, JAN-FEB 1982 by William R. Corliss, citing "Hypnotism May Help Antibody Production," Baltimore Sun, October 19, 1981
-- HYPNOTICALLY ACCELERATED BURN WOUND HEALING From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies ["http://www.knowledge.co.uk/frontiers/"] #36, NOV-DEC 1984 by William R. Corliss, citing Lawrence Earle Moore and Jerold Zelig Kaplan; "Hypnotically Accelerated Burn Wound Healing," American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 26:16, 1983
-- Sexual fantasies increase pain tolerance, Contact: Karen Infeld, email@example.com, 410-955-1534, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, EurekAlert!, 16 DECEMBER 1999, http://www.eurekalert.org
-- EVERYONE A MEMORY PRODIGY From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies ["http://www.knowledge.co.uk/frontiers/"] #26, MAR-APR 1983 by William R. Corliss, citing K. Anders Ericsson and William G. Chase; "Exceptional Memory," American Scientist, 70:607, 1982
-- DIFFERENT PERSONALITIES: DIFFERENT BRAINWAVES From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies ["http://www.knowledge.co.uk/frontiers/"] #28, JUL-AUG 1983 by William R. Corliss, citing "Multiple Personality Not All in the Mind," New_Scientist, 98:290, 1983
-- Self-Hypnosis Cuts Childbirth Complications, APA Report Says By Cathy Keen; Contact: Paul Schauble, Cathy Keen; 04-Aug-2000, UniSci Daily, http://unisci.com
-- HUMAN DIRECTION FINDING From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies ["http://www.knowledge.co.uk/frontiers/"] #53, SEP-OCT 1987 by William R. Corliss, citing D.J. Walmsley and W.R. Epps; " Direction-Finding in Humans: Ability of Individuals to Orient towards Their Place of Residence," Perceptual and Motor Skills, 64:744, 1987
-- RARE BUT THERE: HYPNOTIC ENHANCEMENT OF EIDETIC IMAGERY From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies ["http://www.knowledge.co.uk/frontiers/"] #51, MAY-JUN 1987 by William R. Corliss, citing Helen J. Crawford, et al; "EideticLike Imagery in Hypnosis: Rare But There," American Journal of Psychology, 99:527, 1986
-- THE UNTAPPED HUMAN MIND From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies ["http://www.knowledge.co.uk/frontiers/"] #99, MAY-JUN 1995 by William R. Corliss, citing John Wilding and Elizabeth Valentine; "Memory Champions," British Journal of Psychology, 85:231, 1994, and "Mnemonic Wizardry with the Telephone Directory---But Stories Are Another Story," British Journal of Psychology, 85:501, 1994
The US Army was researching the possibility of human hibernation in 2000. Two genes available in many mammals (including humans) have been found which may help prepare the body for hibernation if properly activated. It appears short stints of stasis might be achieved in humans perhaps a few decades down the road.
Such stasis could be useful for deep space missions as well as medical and military purposes.
A Madagascan lemur has recently been discovered which hibernates-- the first close relative to man (a primate) discovered with the ability. The discovery has led at least one scientist to speculate that some physical conditions like hibernation might be triggered-- and ended-- with little more than the proper state of mind.
-- Gene research scientists close to human hibernation breakthrough By Jonathan Thompson, 3 December 2000, Independent Digital (UK) Ltd.(a date of 12-14-2000 was also attached to this piece)
The capacity of human beings to learn new languages begins to diminish around ages 12-13.
-- CBS News | Birth Of A Language ["http://cbsnews.cbs.com/now/story/0,1597,188527-412,00.shtml"], CBS Worldwide Inc., found on or about 6-1-2000
Clock-like precision in telling time; measurement of objects by glance with less than an inch margin for error; the capacity to speak dozens of languages and even create wholly new ones; photographic memory; these are some of the things certain autistic savants can do, unaided by any artificial means. Autistic savants are commonly considered to be among the disabled or mentally ill, as they are typically severely restricted in regards to many ways that the so-called average among us may deal with life and others. They usually rate low in IQ testing but sometimes show surprising skills in highly specialized areas.
10% of autistic savants display remarkable abilities in specific areas of human endeavor. A still smaller fraction possesses outright astonishing capabilities. This tiny number of savants numbers around 25 identified as living today, with only 100 known to have existed over the past 100 years.
The latest research indicates that the very greatest savant capabilities might well be accessible to everyone, under certain conditions. To be more specific, the skills may exist subsconciously in us all.
Most of us tend to focus on the gist, theme, or central concept or meaning drawn from this subsconscious processing, rather than directly upon the calculations underneath; savants are instead often tangled up in those calculations, and unable to grasp the gist of same.
The filtering mechanism which separates the rest of us from savants may be bypassed via certain techniques-- thereby granting us access to the powerful abilities of savants as well.
All people may actually expand or increase specific regions of the brain in terms of size and/or neural density, via heavy or constant usage of those regions. These changes usually lead to greater capacities or abilities in certain areas of endeavor. And the new or better abilities may be improved far out of proportion to the brain changes themselves. I.e., a 100% increase in brain density may offer a 5000% improvement in the related skill.
All young children might operate similiarly to savants as they acquire language. Indeed, the act of language acquisition in normal children may be what triggers the main development of the frontal cortex (the seat of conceptual processing) around age one and a half.
The acquisition of language also seems to trigger the dominance of one side of the brain over the other. Language may end up largely residing in either the left or right hemisphere, but usually does so in the left (right brain dominance results in left-handedness, while left-brain dominance causes right-handedness; most of the human population of the 20th century are right-handed, and so left-brain dominant).
Some researchers believe most savants are right-brain dominant, due to the types of skills commonly displayed. Savants are roughly six times more likely to be male, which may be related to the fact that testosterone can slow the development of the left brain hemisphere, and may do so routinely as a temporary part of the normal growth of male fetuses. In savants, the temporary aspect of a lagging left hemisphere may be made permanent or at least lengthened considerably. Left-hemisphere injuries also seem to sometimes make savants out of people who previously were not.
Carefully applied magnetic pulses might be applied to create savant-like abilities on demand. Of course, such a feat will likely be accompanied by the same or similar drawbacks seen in natural savants. Thus, the normal person accessing such savant capacities might require constant assistance from another normal person (or suitable supplementary technologies) to fully exploit the new abilities.
-- Tune in, turn off ["http://www.newscientist.com/ns/19991009/tuneinturn.html"] by Rita Carter, From New Scientist, 9 October 1999
Human beings may reach their greatest brain complexity and energy utilization between the ages of two and three, using twice the energy of adult brains and possessing one quadrillion synapse connections at that time. Many of the synaptic connections will be subsequently dissolved and the energy usage rate lowered, sometime after age three, as feedback from the environment causes a re-prioritization of brain performance and structure.
-- The new convergence: Infotech, biotech and nanotech By Steve Jurvetson, February 14, 2001, CNET Networks, Inc
Aphasia sufferers who lose the ability to easily comprehend language due to damage to the brain (typically the left side) can more accurately detect lies from others than normal people based solely on facial expressions (73% success as compared to 50%). In tests where audible speech was included along with sight of facial expressions, aphasia sufferers were more accurate in lie detection by 15% over other test subjects.
-- Language Loss Boosts Ability to Spot Liars - Study By Patricia Reaney, Reuters/Yahoo! Science Headlines, May 10 2000
The capacity to learn new languages (and recover from language-related brain damage) goes down dramatically after age 12. Development in the frontal sections of the brain peaks around ages three and then six. Language-related brain regions develop somewhat slowly between three and six, but speed up afterwards, maintaining a good pace up through 15 years of age (the cut off point for subjects of the study).
-- Scientists Map Children's Brain Development, Reuters/Yahoo! Science Headlines, March 8, 2000
The brains of the blind appear to re-assign at least some regions once dedicated to sight to audio processing. In tests involving certain types of verbal comprehension, this seems to result in the blind functioning at twice the speed of the sighted; or performing the same task in half the time required by sighted people (150 milliseconds was required by sighted test subjects).
-- Quick thinking by Nicola Jones, From New Scientist magazine, 14 October 2000, citing Neuropsychologica (vol 38, p 1482)
The whole of language processing ability in the human brain is widely distributed over the organ, much like the nature of a hologram.
It may be that the ability to learn and utilize language is the essence of human intelligence and consciousness.
An average human being can produce a meaningful (non-gibberish) string of words for themselves or others at a rate of around 150 words per minute, making each word selection from possibly 50,000 choices within a matter of milliseconds, and filtering the entire sequence on-the-fly through a complex set of rules regarding syntax and grammar.
The human throat makes one sound and one word error for every million expressed, respectively.
The more complex the grammar used in language, the more of the brain that is utilized to process it. Language, in a sense, can be a driver of the entire mind.
There are 600 possible consonant and 200 possible vowel sounds in physical human speech, but none of the known languages circa 2000 AD uses anywhere near that total for expression.
The structure of functionality of each and every human brain is almost invariably unique. In terms of physical location, the language regions alone can vary between any two people by as much as 3 or 4 centimeters plus.
Language abilities seem to be intricately intertwined with human DNA. In normal people, language seems predominantly processed in the left brain hemispheres of men, while in women both hemispheres seem to participate perhaps somewhat more equally. Bilinguals use different brain regions to store different languages, seemingly based on the age they gained fluency in each.
Words literally change the functionality of the brain. Language shapes and structures brain capacities and performance.
-- A Scalpel, a Life and Language ["http://www.latimes.com/news/science/science/20000124/t000007551.html"] By ROBERT LEE HOTZ, January 24, 2000, Los Angeles Times
The act of reading utilizes brain resources proportional to the complexity of the user's native language. One study concluded that elements of individual culture such as writing systems can have enormous effects upon the neurophysiological systems of a given population.
-- Brain patterns differ according to native language, Reuters Health/Yahoo! Health Headlines, December 29, 1999
Primordial language may have consisted of physical gestures and whole body language, which evolved into hybrid gestures/verbal sounds, then finally into full fledged verbal language-- with physical gesturing now a vestigial organ of sorts which still accompanies speech at times. The point here is the intimate connection between certain types of physical movement and the evolution of language. Some evidence for this exists in the overlap in modern brain areas dedicated to language and motor functions.
It may be that body language and gesturing also tap into a subsconcious form of communication-- making use of a holdover from our prehistoric ancestors-- to offer us an alternative form of communication in instances where verbal language isn't available or suitable for some reason.
-- Bodytalk by Laura Spinney, From New Scientist magazine, 08 April 2000
Babies which communicate to parents via sign language appear to learn to talk faster and attain higher IQs than others.
-- Baby's first word could be in sign language By DEBORAH WHITE, Nando Media/Scripps Howard News Service, July 30, 1999, http://www.nandotimes.com
Where once geography served to define and delineate cultures, in the new, increasingly networked society, language may become the new predominant driving force. And effects of the network itself may reshape the language which is redrawing society.
-- "You Say Tomato" Language and Growth in the World's Major Media Markets ["http://www.geitf.co.uk/prog/murdochspeech.htm"] Delivered by James Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of STAR TV . Sunday 27th August, THE ALTERNATIVE MACTAGGART, Edinburgh International Television Festival, Sponsored by United Productions, found on or about 8-31-2000
Language and identity are close relatives.
-- From Grunts to Grammar By Amanda Onion, March 31, 2000, FoxNews.com/Associated Press/Reuters Ltd. /News Digital Media 2000, http://www.foxnews.com/
Analysis of a sufficient number of modern day human languages can help detail the prehistoric migrations and mixing of human ancestors. Languages may also contain large accumulations of ancestral knowledge relating to the world and its history. Just one aspect of such knowledge may be a virtual library of references to medicinal herbs and plantlife suitable for food or other uses.
-- Vanishing tongues Scientists fight to save world's disappearing languages By Gareth Cook, 11/5/2000, Globe Newspaper Company; story also appeared on page A01 of the Boston Globe on 11/5/2000
It may be that the right hemispheres of most normal human brains specialize in global or 'big picture' work, seeing the world in a relative way, while the left hemispheres are used to grasp the details and direct sequential stages of thought and action which enable the right side to build its model of a given subject.
Put another way, the right side may be the best suited to perceiving 'gray areas' or complexities pertaining to a particular subject, while the left may be more simple-- more prone to seeing only black or white, positive or negative, in an isolated situation or circumstance.
In practice of course, complex skills like language tend to require the capabilities of both sides. And this whole brain usage seems to be a trademark of most higher human functions, with the individual brain hemispheres mostly differing in their style and approach to a given task, rather than being exclusively responsible for a given function.
-- Left brain, Right brain by John McCrone From New Scientist, 3 July 1999
Some believe that human language abilities are related to-- perhaps even the same as-- their mathematical skills. If this is true, then those languages most closely tied in essence to mathematical concepts might give their users a mathematical edge over others whose speech falls into a less mathematically-inclined pattern. One statistic cited is that an average child in China may count up to 40 at age four, while a comparable British child may only count up to 15.
-- I met Calculus and it was magic ["http://www.the-times.co.uk/news/pages/tim/2000/04/26/timfeafea02001.html"] by Moira Petty, April 26 2000
Some genius researchers believe (and some evidence indicates) genius capabilities in a particular specialty can be attained by almost anyone through suitable practices performed over a lengthy period of time (say ten years).
-- Who wants to be a genius? Jan 11th 2001; The Economist
-- Even thoughts can turn genes on and off ["http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2002/06/21/financial1029EDT0061.DTL"] by SHARON BEGLEY; June 21, 2002; Associated Press/The Wall Street Journal
Note that relatively small numbers of the younger generation are being introduced to the new and exciting hyper-language at this time; it will require decades for human society as a whole to realize the value of the new language, and overcome various prejudices against its adoption for their own children. The much smaller numbers of children being born worldwide now compared to previous centuries also has an impact here. Thus, hyper-language empowered people will be a distinct minority of the population until at least the late 23rd century. This minority status, along with the youthful limitations on who may fully utilize the language, and a growing realization of its competitive advantages results in some stigma being attached to the hyper-language users in some circumstances and regions, over decades.