Why did older languages in general have more complicated, multisyllabic words, when most other things increase in complexity as they develop further?


Doesn’t it make sense to start with simple noises to represent the everyday things?

In: Other

Language is one of those things that is rarely designed and created intelligently (by which I mean languages don’t tend to be created at all). They develop organically which means there’s a lot of room for nonsense. Nobody decided what makes sense, they just communicated.

Older languages have tons of simple words as well, it’s just hard for us to parse what we’re actually hearing so it seems complex. Plus there’s also a difference between complexity in vocabulary and complexity in grammar.

I have wondered the same thing. Ancient languages like classical Greek and Latin have 6 grammatical cases for example. But their descendants are much simpler. I wonder if is because, when population and mobility increased, intercommunication made it necessary to simplify. Likewise the internet.

So 2-day u r like, whatever.

There may be multiple reasons.
1. Some of the complexity you see in older languages was deliberately introduced to maintain their status as the language of aristocracy. I know that was the case with Sanskrit (very similar to Latin with 8 cases and singular, plural and “dual” forms). The masses often spoke a very simple version which had shorter more simple words.
2. Assimilation of new languages (invasion, migration etc…) often introduced new words foreign to both native populations. What was simple to one became complex for the other due to different speech patterns. These often became simplified as time went on as the languages met in the middle.
3. This is my own take so no clue if it is widely held: I think when languages were written down they quickly evolved a complex grammar like any system that “just works” in practice but is difficult to put down in rules when you define them. Then scribes started using that grammar to create complex words. Which maybe why in written literature you see words that no one uses in practice. E g. In old English poems people could just throw together two different words together to create a new word (e.g. whale-road for sea) for artistic effect but that doesn’t mean people were using that word in practice. As time goes on most of those words fell away due to disuse.
4. New complexity is always being introduced, it just doesn’t seem complex to us. We routinely use new complex words without issues because we have become familiar to them (e.g. decentralization, multiculturalism).

It could be because we live in a fast paced world and we strive to save time and don’t enjoy things at leisure and look for short cuts. Also comparatively we have more things to do than before hence easier life style changes.