Tuesday, June 16, 2009
So when did language begin? At the very beginnings of the genus Homo, perhaps 4 or 5 million years ago? Or with the advent of modern man, Cro-magnon, some 125,000 years ago? Did the neanderthal speak? He had a brain that was larger than ours, but his voice box seems to be higher in his throat, like that of the apes. We don’t know.
There are many not well known theories about the origins of language and many more that could be created, either here or on other information support media. Please feel free to contribute with anything you can think of and try not to repress yourself at all. Here are some samples taken from other people's ideas.
1. The mama theory. Language began with the easiest syllables attached to the most significant objects.
2. The ta-ta theory. Sir Richard Paget, believed that body movement preceded language. Language began as an unconscious vocal imitation of these movements -- like the way a child’s mouth will move when they use scissors, or my tongue sticks out when I try to play the guitar. This evolved into the popular idea that language may have derived from gestures.
3. The bow-wow theory. Language began as imitations of natural sounds -- moo, choo-choo, crash, clang, buzz, bang, meow... This is more technically refered to as onomatopoeia or echoism.
4. The pooh-pooh theory. Language began with interjections, instinctive emotive cries such as oh! for surprise and ouch! for pain.
5. The ding-dong theory. Some people, have pointed out that there is a rather mysterious correspondence between sounds and meanings. Small, sharp, high things tend to have words with high front vowels in many languages, while big, round, low things tend to have round back vowels! Compare itsy bitsy teeny weeny with moon, for example. This is often referred to as sound symbolism.
6. The yo-he-ho theory. Language began as rhythmic chants, perhaps ultimately from the grunts of heavy work (heave-ho!). The linguist A. S. Diamond suggests that these were perhaps calls for assistance or cooperation accompanied by appropriate gestures. This may relate yo-he-ho to the ding-dong theory, as in such words as cut, break, crush, strike...
7. The sing-song theory. Jesperson suggested that language comes out of play, laughter, cooing, courtship, emotional mutterings and the like. He even suggests that, contrary to other theories, perhaps some of our first words were actually long and musical, rather than the short grunts many assume we started with.
8. The hey you! theory. suggested that we have always needed interpersonal contact, and that language began as sounds to signal both identity (here I am!) and belonging (I’m with you!). We may also cry out in fear, anger, or hurt (help me!). This is more commonly called the contact theory.
9. The hocus pocus theory. Language may have had some roots in a sort of magical or religious aspect of our ancestors' lives. Perhaps we began by calling out to game animals with magical sounds, which became their names.
10. The eureka! theory. And finally, perhaps language was consciously invented. Perhaps some ancestor had the idea of assigning arbitrary sounds to mean certain things. Clearly, once the idea was had, it would catch on like wild-fire!
11. The pop theory. Gould thinks that language just popped into existence just all at once.
12. The never-ending storage theory The brain is capable to save an amazing amount of information, much more than what we have ever imagined, therefore the main task for the brain is to build proper filters to discard the non-relevant huge amounts of information, and keep only the relevant one.