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In modern politics and history, a parliament is a legislative, elected body of government. Generally a modern parliament has three functions: representing the electorate, making laws, and overseeing the government (i.e., hearings, inquiries).
Although some restrict the use of the word parliament to parliamentary systems, it is also commonly used to describe the legislature in presidential systems (i.e., the French parliament), even where it is not in the official name.
Historically, parliaments included various kinds of deliberative, consultative, and judicial assemblies (i.e., the mediaeval parlements).
The term is derived from Anglo-Norman parlement, from the verb parler 'talk'. The meaning evolved over time: originally any discussion, conversation, or negotiation (attested around 1100), through various kinds of deliberative or judicial groups, often summoned by the monarch. By 1400, it had come to mean in Britain specifically the British supreme legislature.
Various parliaments are claimed to be the oldest in the world, under varying definitions:
Since ancient times, when societies were tribal, there were councils or a headman whose decisions were assessed by village elders. This is called tribalism. Some scholars suggest that in ancient Mesopotamia there was a primitive democratic government where the kings were assessed by council. The same has been said about ancient India, where some form of deliberative assemblies existed, and therefore there was some form of democracy. However, these claims are not accepted by most scholars, who see these forms of government as oligarchies.
Ancient Athens was the cradle of democracy. The Athenian assembly (ἐκκλησία, ekklesia) was the most important institution, and every citizen could take part in the discussions. However, Athenian democracy was not representative, but rather direct, and therefore the ekklesia was different from the parliamentary system.
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