Constant change : diversification and spread of language

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  • In this program, John McWhorter, author of The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language; Lyle Campbell, of the University of Utah; Brian Joseph, of The Ohio State University; and population geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza examine factors that contributed to the diversification and spread of languages, including early migration, the introduction of agriculture, and genes. Language transfer from mother to child and from one population to the next is also investigated, along with the concept of dialects and commonalities among the world's more than 6,000 languages.


  • Encoded with permission for digital streaming by Films Media Group on Oct. 24, 2007.
  • Films on Demand is distributed by Films Media Group for Films for the Humanities & Sciences, Cambridge Educational, Meridian Education, and Shopware.
  • Mode of access: Internet.
  • System requirements: FOD playback platform.
  • Closed-captioned.


  • A Biblical Account of the Diversification of Languages (2:00) -- Effects of Human Migration on Language (2:59) -- Genetics and the Evolution of Language (3:19) -- Biological Basis of Language (2:02) -- Linguistic Evolution (3:23) -- Language Innovations Across Generations (4:38) -- Directions in Language Diversification (2:34) -- Effects of Agriculture on Language Diversification (2:13) -- Language and Dialects (4:36) -- History of Modern Language (3:01) -- How Many Languages Are There? (2:46) -- Characteristics of Language (2:45) -- Learning Language (2:46) -- Academic Linguists: Noam Chomsky (2:33) -- Comparative Linguistics (2:36)
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