What Is An Isolated Language?
Language isolate is a term that many people start to hear once they get interested in language and linguistics but what is an isolated language?
An isolated language is a language with no genetic relation to another language. To help you understand this let’s take a look at what it means for languages to be related. Take a look at the romantic languages; Spanish, French, Catalan, Italian and Romanian. All of these languages descend from Latin and make up a language family. Not only do they share a common ancestor but they will also share lots of common traits for example sentence structure, prepositions or postpositions, grammar, common words.
Languages can be influenced by other languages and take on new words for example the Spanish word azúcar (meaning sugar) comes from the Arabic word but this doesn’t mean that Spanish and Arabic are in the same language family.
So we know what language families are, what is a language isolate? An language isolate is a language that’s origin can’t be traced to another language. So even though the language may share some similar word it’s clear they do not share common ancestors.
Examples Of Language Isolates
The two most famous language isolates are Korean and Basque though there are many many more. Eventhough the Basque region sits in the north of Spain right by France and is so close to two dominant Romantic languages, Basque seemed to originate with no influence from either of them. It has no known linguistic relatives, them all now being extinct and is not part of the Romantic family.
Korean is a much more widely known language but not many people know that it is a language isolate. Some Korean words are borrowed from Chinese but the language is not related to any form of Chinese even though the two countries share a border. So if you’re asking really? Is Korean a language isolate? Then although you might be surprised, it most definitely is.
So to answer your question what is a language isolate? In simple terms it is a language with no family or known genealogy.
How many language isolates are there?
It is difficult to get an exact figure as there is often debate as to what classes as a language and what counts as a dialect. For example we used to believe that Japanese was a language isolate but now we class it in the Japonic language family. We still haven’t managed to classify all human language and instead of having a set number of languages we claim to have between 6000 and 7000 languages, which is a margin. The current count of language isolates is between 86 and 129.
Is Korean a language isolate?
Yes Korean is classed as a language isolate as it has no known linguistic relatives and seems to exist all on its own.
Is Japanese a language isolate?
It is debated whether Japanese is a language isolate or not. Japanese belongs to the Japonic languages which makes it part of a language family. However there are those that argue that the other languages are dialects of Japanese and do not count as separate languages. This kind of problem makes it difficult to map how many isolated languages there are and what to class as one.
What is an example of an isolated language?
Some examples of language isolates include: Basque, Korean, Bangime, Jalaa, Shabo and many more.