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Interesting Lectures and Seminars

Basic General Lectureβ
Comparative Philology: The Indo-European Language Family

Kowa Niikura
1st Year Student at the School of Political Science and Economics

Unlike other animals, humans have the ability to use language to communicate. Even if a limited number of feelings are able to be conveyed through animal sounds, animals cannot convey their messages using a wide array of expressions in a skillful manner like humans. It is no exaggeration in saying that the evolution of the human race has been made possible due to the accumulation of knowledge acquired through language.

There are currently several thousand living languages in the world split into "language families." This course compares the languages in one of these families, the "Indo-European Language Family," as well as picking out the similarities. Each lesson looks into smaller subgroups of the Indo-European family, such as the Germanic and Romance languages. We also examine the different types of sounds used in world languages and methods to identify them. This holds an extremely important position in comparative philology analysis techniques. Furthermore, content of the class covers a broad range including exploration of English history and European classics etc.

Although this course covers everything from a wide range of contents, the true essence of the course lies in its name, "language comparison." Because languages from the Indo-European family share a common "ancestor," making comparisons is relatively simple. While many comparison criteria exist, the model example is "pronunciation." This is because, whereas writing (spelling etc.) has undergone major changes over the ages, pronunciation has remained largely unchanged. As an example, take the Dutch word "vader," meaning "father." At first, this word seems unrelated to other languages, but in Dutch, "V" has the same pronunciation as the English "F." With this knowledge, the relationship to the word "father" in English becomes clear. In German, another language where "V" is pronounced as an English "F," "father" is "vater," further exemplifying the correlation between the languages. With every lesson come many new discoveries like this to arouse one's intellectual curiosity.

We usually don't think about the language we use every day, but I am fascinated by the never-ending depth of the language world. I am always looking forward to the new discoveries that will be revealed in each lesson.

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)