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Environmental factors behind linguistic diversity, says study

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It is a known fact that the gradual evolution of human biology involves the anatomy, physiology and functions of the body. However, recent findings of an international research organisation suggested that distinctions in human linguistic evolution are also a result of the adaptation to local ecological conditions.

Most of our human features are found in other species as well, even if they are rudimentary in nature. But what sets us apart is our rich and productive human language. The evolution of human speech represents a quantum leap in the assembly of Eukaryote cell. A Eukaryote refers to any organism whose cells contain a nucleus and other organelles enclosed within a membrane.

A study took place to examine the relationship between sound structures with worldwide samples of human languages and climatic and ecological factors including temperature, precipitation, vegetation and geomorphology.

The results indicate a correlation between ecological factors and the ratio of resonance that are responsible for linguistic diversity. This resonating sound is produced by the uninterrupted airflow in the examined languages.

This points out that species adapt their acoustic signals to optimize sound transmission in the environment they live in. These acoustic signals finally turn into human languages.

“We find that the number of distinct sounds and the degree to which consonants cluster together in syllables correlate with mean annual precipitation, mean annual temperature, degree of tree cover and the geographic elevation of the area in which they are traditionally spoken,” Ian Maddieson, the primary researcher and adjunct professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of New Mexico, was quoted as saying.

“Both the number of distinct consonants and their distribution in syllabic structures are lower where tree cover and temperature are higher,” he added.

This is why people living in areas of abundant tree cover tend to have a less consonant-heavy language as compared to people living in an environment where higher frequencies are less realistically transmitted, leading people to favour the use of low-frequency sounds, or loud sounds.

Putting this in a context of the Indian demography, it, very interestingly, clarifies the reason behind the extreme linguistic diversity in the acoustics of Indian languages.

It is striking that in this comparatively small geographical area, we have such phonetic extremes and vast linguistic diversity. For instance, Hindi and Kannada have an entirely different sound catalogue.

Even though Indian languages are majorly divided into just two language families of Indo-Aryan languages and Dravidian languages, we have phonetics changing from city to city due to the contribution of our diverse geography.

People in the Himalayan states such as Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh are softer in their tone while the astringent tone is used in Punjab and Haryana. The Dravidian languages, which include Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, and Malayalam, are mostly limited to southern India and uses a combination of mild and unusual sounds.

These differences can very evidently be seen in the exceptionally diverse musical tones of India. Thus, we need to maintain this environmental balance which has gifted India with not only geographical diversity but also acoustic diversity.

“There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard,” Sun Tzu rightly said in The Art of War.

This is exactly what India represents– an archipelago of phonetics. We have hundreds of dialects and a thousand acoustic ways to express them.

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Microsoft Announces Indian Languages Support For e-mail Addresses

Microsoft's products will also support additional Indian languages as and when their IDNs and e-mail addresses become available in the future

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Representational image.
Representational image. Wikimedia Commons
  • Microsoft announced support in Indian Languages for e-mail
  • There will be 15 Indian languages supported now
  • Indians will be able to use Microsoft in their local languages

Microsoft on Wednesday announced support for e-mail addresses in 15 Indian languages across its apps and services, including Office 365, Outlook 2016, Outlook.com, Exchange Online and Exchange Online Protection (EOP).

Microsoft introduces 15 new indian languages to its support.
Microsoft introduces 15 new Indian languages to its support.

Indian users would be able to use local language e-mail addresses for Outlook accounts on their personal computers, the company said on the occasion of the International Mother Language Day.

It would also allow users to seamlessly send/receive mails to/from local language e-mail addresses via Outlook client on PCs, Outlook.com in addition to Outlook apps for Android and IOS.

“Making e-mail addresses available in 15 languages is an exciting step to making modern communications and collaboration tools more accessible and easier to use for all,” Meetul Patel, COO, Microsoft India, said in a statement.

The Indian languages which will be supported include Hindi, Bengali, etc. Wikimedia Commons
The Indian languages which will be supported include Hindi, Bengali, etc. Wikimedia Commons

“We are making technology use the language of people and not requiring people to first learn the traditional language of technology,” Patel added.

The initiative is part of the company’s ongoing efforts to support Email Address Internationalisation (EAI) across its products and services eco-system and make technology accessible in local languages.

The languages being introduced are those that support Unicode — an international encoding standard for use with different languages and scripts.

Microsoft’s products will also support additional Indian languages as and when their IDNs and e-mail addresses become available in the future, making this feature forward compatible.

Microsoft launches 15 Indian languages in its support. VOA
Microsoft launches 15 Indian languages in its support. VOA

Last month, Microsoft announced the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Deep Neural Networks (DNN) to improve real-time language translation for Hindi, Bengali and Tamil languages.

This technology would help users in getting results that are more accurate and natural while surfing the Internet across any website on the MS Edge browser, Bing search, Bing Translator website, as well as MS Office 365 products like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Skype. IANS