Evolution of Language
Where did language come from?
Language developed as the human species evolved. Development of language sets us apart from our closest relatives, the chimpanzees.
No other natural communication system is like human language.
Human language can express thoughts, convey information, ask questions and give orders.
In contrast, animal can only communicate immediate issues such as food, danger, threat, or reconciliation.
How did language evolve?
Did a bunch of cavemen hold a conference and decide to make up language?
One theory is that hominids (our human ancestors) started by grunting, hooting and crying out, and this gradually developed into the language we use today.
But apes could grunt and hoot as well. Why did their grunting not evolve into a ‘language’?
Because 6 million years ago the hominid and chimpanzee lines diverged.
The size of the hominid brain increased and developed over time, while chimpanzee brain remained the same.
Another theory is that language began as sign language and then switched to the vocal modality.
Did languages develop simultaneously all over the world?
Some have argued that language evolved independently in different parts of the world.
While a recent study shows that all languages in the world evolved from one prehistoric language first spoken in Africa tens of thousands of years ago.
And it spread across the world with the migration of our ancestors when they left Africa 70,000 years ago.
Do languages stay the same over the generations?
Languages change as they are handed down from generation to generation due to change in culture and influence of other languages. That is why the English spoken in the Elizabethan Era is way different from the English we speak today.
The subject of language and its evolution is still undergoing lively investigation among linguists, psychologists, and biologists.