How human language began has been a question that has plagued researchers for centuries. One of the biggest problems with this topic is that empirical evidence is still missing despite significant technological advances. This lack of concrete evidence has even led to the ban on future discussion of the origins of communication by the Linguistic Society of Paris. Despite these obstacles, a number of researchers including psychologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, and linguists continue to study the topic. Results from various early communication studies can be divided into two main categories of communication: vocalizations and gestures. Here the emphasis is on pronunciation.
Our hyoid bone and complex brain: part of what helps us do more than chat like chimpanzees
Because spoken language is inherently impermanent, the best empirical evidence for this area of thought is the hyoid bone. This bone as it looks and functions in modern Homo sapiens is thought to exist only in our common ancestor, Homo heidelbergensis, 300,000 years ago and in our prehistoric “cousins,” the Neanderthals. However, the appearance of the 2 hyoid Kebara in both species does not conclusively prove that they are ready for complex language or speech use.
However, many researchers believe that the hyoid bone is the basis of speech for humans, and without our properly shaped hyoid bone in the right place, working in conjunction with a tilted larynx, it is thought that we would look like chimpanzees. .
So, we have an accurate and complex throat anatomy, but apart from this part of the anatomy, we also have to have a pretty complex brain to talk about. Researchers believe that our ancestors possessed, what Noam Chomsky calls the LAD (Language Acquisition Device), the ability to learn and use language creatively. This creativity can be proven by the art created by our ancestors from the Paleolithic period around 300,000 to 700,000 years ago.
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Combining these two ideas, our ancestors may have been ready to start talking (or at least making well-crafted sounds for purposeful purposes) about 300,000 years ago. Nonetheless, most acoustic theories say the date is too late – only 100,000 years ago when there was also an increase in brain size. This is a summary of the natural developmental acquisition of language.
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Ancient origins of some dead or dying languages
Looking for a common origin in the languages of the world
Contrary to the evolutionary point of view, there is also debate about whether language was a divine gift, or perhaps a conscious invention by early humans. Both theories are based on the complexity of human language.
Apart from trying to determine the date, continuity, and presenter of the first spoken word, another very important question that scholars are trying to explain is: What did the early ancestors say?
Early Theories of the Origin of Phonetic Languages: La-la, Bow-wow…
There are six main theories developed between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that aim to explain the origins of words used in phonetic languages. They have a cute title attached that gives a hint of the idea behind the theory.
1. Bow-Wow Theory: This theory states that the first words are phonemic (words that use sounds related to the noun/verb they also refer to) – such as hiss, bang, and splash. The Bow-Wow theory has been discredited by the fact that many “spoken” words vary between languages, are not actually derived from natural sounds, and were recently coined.
2. Ding-Dong Theory: This is the theory that harmony with the natural environment creates the need for language, and that sound and meaning are innately connected through nature. While it is true that there are some examples of “sound symbolism” (English words related to light and fast), research has not been able to prove an innate relationship between sound and word meaning.
Illustration of ancient Indians hunting glyptodon, an animal thought to be extinct with the arrival of early humans in South America (1920) Heinrich Hardy
3. Pooh-Pooh Theory: Stated that language begins with intrusion (phrases like “Aw!” “Oh!” “Ha!”). One problem with this theory is that it can be argued that many animals make this sound/similar but do not make other words. Another problem with Pooh-Pooh theory is found in the lack of intervention currently found in most modern languages.
4. Yo-He-Ho Theory: This is a theory based on the grunts and groans of people when doing strenuous physical work. Although these sounds can be associated with several rhythms in some languages, they do not really explain the origin of most words.
5. La-La Theory: An idea that emerges from vocal language through play, singing and love. The contradiction is that the theory does not explain less emotional words.
6. Ta-ta theory: He believes that words arise from the desire to imitate movements using the tongue and mouth. For example, ta-ta would be a waving tongue. One obvious difficulty with this theory is that many movements cannot be reproduced by the mouth and tongue alone.
Despite its shortcomings, most of these theories are still studied today as a starting point for research in the field of human speech.
The legendary origins of the Chinese language
Studies of Neanderthals reveal that the origin of language is much older than previously thought
Uncovering the origins of human language
One mother tongue or many?
Another problem that plagues researchers interested in the origins of phonetic languages is, were there one or more native languages? Given the diversity of today’s languages, the spread of our ancient ancestors, studies of modern language acquisition, and other factors have led to hypotheses on both sides: monogenesis and polygenesis.
The belief in the existence of a single native language (monogenicity) is the oldest of the two theories. Believers have suggested that language is a divine creation. Monogenesis is also a preference for proponents of mother tongue theory – related to theories outside Africa (both are based on a single human evolutionary origin from Africa). Polygenic theorists argue for this single origin based on the multitude of languages spoken today as well as the diversity of early ancestral sites.
Since scientists have yet to provide concrete evidence for the first spoken word, no one can be completely sure that either of these theories is true.