TWIN TALK. My parents always told us that there was a period when my brother Elmer and I spoke what they called “twin talk”, a language that nobody else was able to understand. This article in Slate by Jon Lackman cites Aarhus University linguist Peter Bakker for the proposition that “all full-blown twin languages spontaneously develop the same structure, regardless of the language spoken at home.” The languages are all simple, and they put the most important words at the beginning of the sentence (negatives always come first). It seems to me that they avoid a lot of the difficulties we encounter when we learn a second language: verbs are not conjugated, and there are no pronouns. Linguists are now interested in twin talk because it may give glimpses into how the first language came about. A caveat: it’s easier to develop a language to deal with situations involving only two speakers.

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