Languages Change


Languages change through time and become two or more languages when communities do not talk to each other enough. The languages of Europe have changed in this way.

For example here are words for ‘cat’ in four languages:

English: cat
German: katze
Spanish: gato
French: chat

Why do these words look so much alike?

First there was one language, named Indo-European. That language divided several times until there was one group of Germanic languages, another group of Romance languages, and several other groups. The Germanic group then divided into English, German, and others; and the Romance group divided into French, Spanish, and others.


The same thing happened in Mexico. We do not know if all the languages came from one, but we do know they came from only a few. One of the early languages in Mexico is called Proto-Otomanguean. By studying the words of languages spoken in Mexico today, we know what some of the words of Proto-Otomanguean must have been like.

A word for ‘brothers and sisters’, for example, was something like ita'n. When Proto-Otomanguean divided into several languages, this word began to be pronounced differently in each. Today it is pronounced as shown below in five of the languages of this family.