Don't miss the special BONUS offer during our Beta-test period. The next 100 new Registered Users (from a unique IP address), to post at least five (5) piglix, will receive 1,000 extra sign-up points (eventually exchangeable for crypto-currency)!

* * * * *    Free Launch Promotions    * * * * *

  • Free Ads! if you are a small business with annual revenues of less than $1M - will place your ads free of charge for up to one year! ... read more

  • $2,000 in free prizes! is giving away ten (10) Meccano Erector sets, retail at $200 each, that build a motorized Ferris Wheel (or one of 22 other models) ... see details

Origin of language

Larynx external en.svg
Anatomy of the larynx, anterolateral view
Anatomical terminology

The origin of language in the human species has been the topic of scholarly discussions for several centuries. In spite of this, there is no consensus on the ultimate origin or age of human language. The topic is difficult to study because of the lack of direct evidence. Consequently, scholars wishing to study the origins of language must draw inferences from other kinds of evidence such as the fossil record, archaeological evidence, contemporary language diversity, studies of language acquisition, and comparisons between human language and systems of communication existing among other animals (particularly other primates). Many argue that the origins of language probably relate closely to the origins of modern human behavior, but there is little agreement about the implications and directionality of this connection.

This shortage of empirical evidence has led many scholars to regard the entire topic as unsuitable for serious study. In 1866, the Linguistic Society of Paris banned any existing or future debates on the subject, a prohibition which remained influential across much of the western world until late in the twentieth century. Today, there are numerous hypotheses about how, why, when, and where language might have emerged. Despite this, there is scarcely more agreement today than a hundred years ago, when Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection provoked a rash of armchair speculation on the topic. Since the early 1990s, however, a number of linguists, archaeologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and others have attempted to address with new methods what some consider "the hardest problem in science".

  • "Continuity theories" build on the idea that language exhibits so much complexity that one cannot imagine it simply appearing from nothing in its final form; therefore it must have evolved from earlier pre-linguistic systems among our primate ancestors.
  • "Discontinuity theories" take the opposite approach—that language, as a unique trait which cannot be compared to anything found among non-humans, must have appeared fairly suddenly during the course of human evolution.
  • Some theories see language mostly as an innate faculty—largely genetically encoded.
  • Other theories regard language as a mainly cultural system—learned through social interaction.
  • Bow-wow. The bow-wow or cuckoo theory, which Müller attributed to the German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder, saw early words as imitations of the cries of beasts and birds.
  • Pooh-pooh. The Pooh-Pooh theory saw the first words as emotional interjections and exclamations triggered by pain, pleasure, surprise, etc.
  • Ding-dong. Müller suggested what he called the Ding-Dong theory, which states that all things have a vibrating natural resonance, echoed somehow by man in his earliest words.
  • Yo-he-ho. The yo-he-ho theory claims language emerged from collective rhythmic labor, the attempt to synchronize muscular effort resulting in sounds such as heave alternating with sounds such as ho.
  • Ta-ta. This did not feature in Max Müller's list, having been proposed in 1930 by Sir Richard Paget. According to the ta-ta theory, humans made the earliest words by tongue movements that mimicked manual gestures, rendering them audible.
  • Theory of mind
  • Capacity to acquire non-linguistic conceptual representations, such as the object/kind distinction
  • Referential vocal signals
  • Imitation as a rational, intentional system
  • Voluntary control over signal production as evidence of intentional communication
  • Number representation
  • Productivity: users can create and understand completely novel messages.
    • New messages are freely coined by blending, analogizing from, or transforming old ones.
    • Either new or old elements are freely assigned new semantic loads by circumstances and context. This says that in every language, new idioms constantly come into existence.
  • Duality (of Patterning): a large number of meaningful elements are made up of a conveniently small number of independently meaningless yet message-differentiating elements.
  • New messages are freely coined by blending, analogizing from, or transforming old ones.
  • Either new or old elements are freely assigned new semantic loads by circumstances and context. This says that in every language, new idioms constantly come into existence.
  • Allott, Robin. (1989). The motor theory of language origin. Sussex, England: Book Guild. ISBN . OCLC 21874255. 
  • Armstrong, David F.; Stokoe, William C.; Wilcox, Sherman E. (1995). Gesture and the nature of language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN . 
  • Botha, Rudolf P.; Knight, Chris (2009). The prehistory of language. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN . OCLC 819189595. 
  • Burling, Robbins. (2005). The talking ape : how language evolve. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN . OCLC 750809912. 
  • Cangelosi, Angelo; Greco, Alberto; Harnad, Stevan (2002). Angelo Cangelosi; Domenico Parisi, eds. Symbol grounding and the symbolic theft hypothesis. Simulating the evolution of language. London ; New York: Springer. ISBN . OCLC 47824669. 
  • Christiansen, Morten H. (2013). Rudolf P Botha and Martin Everaert, eds. Language has evolved to depend on multiple-cue integration. The evolutionary emergence of language : evidence and inferenc. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN . OCLC 828055639. 
  • Corballis, Michael C. (2002). From hand to mouth : the origins of language. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN . OCLC 469431753. 
  • Crystal, David (1997). The Cambridge encyclopedia of language. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN . OCLC 34704876. 
  • de Grolier, E. (ed.), 1983. The Origin and Evolution of Language. Paris: Harwood Academic Publishers.
  • Dessalles, J-L., 2007. Why We Talk. The evolutionary origins of language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Dor, Dan; Knight, Chris; Lewis, Jerome (2015). The Social Origins of Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN . 
  • Dunbar, R. I. M. (Robin Ian MacDonald); Knight, Chris; Power, Camilla. (1999). The evolution of culture : an interdisciplinary view. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN . OCLC 807340111. 
  • Fitch, W. Tecumseh (2010). The Evolution of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge. ISBN . OCLC 428024376. 
  • Givón, Talmy; Malle, Bertram F. (2002). The evolution of language out of pre-language. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: J. Benjamins Pub. ISBN . OCLC 223393453. 
  • Harnad, Stevan R. (1976). Steklis, Horst D.; Lancaster, Jane, eds. Origins and Evolution of Language and Speech. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, v. 280. New York: New York Academy of Sciences. ISBN . OCLC 2493424. 
  • Hurford, James R (1990). I. M. Roca, eds. Nativist and functional explanations in language acquisition. (PDF). Logical issues in language acquisition. Dordrecht, Holland Providence, R.I: Foris Publications. ISBN . OCLC 832515162. 
  • Hurford, James R. (2007). The origins of meaning – 1 The origins of meaning. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN . OCLC 263645256. 
  • Hurford, James R.; Studdert-Kennedy, Michael.; Knight, Chris (1998). Approaches to the evolution of language : social and cognitive bases. Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN . OCLC 37742390. 
  • Kenneally, Christine. (2007). The first word : the search for the origins of language. New York: Viking. ISBN . OCLC 80460757. 
  • Knight, Chris (2016). Puzzles and mysteries in the origin of language. Language and communication vol. 50, 12–21.
  • Knight, Chris (2016). Decoding Chomsky: Science and revolutionary politics. New Haven & London: Yale University Press. ISBN . 
  • Knight, Chris; Studdert-Kennedy, Michael.; Hurford, James R. (2000). The Evolutionary emergence of language : social function and the origins of linguistic form. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN . OCLC 807262339. 
  • Komarova, Natalia L. (2006). L E Grinin; Victor C De Munck; A V Korotaev; Rossiĭskiĭ gosudarstvennyĭ gumanitarnyĭ universitet., eds. Language and Mathematics: An evolutionary model of grammatical communication. History and mathematics. Analyzing and modeling global development. [Moskva]: URSS. pp. 164–179. ISBN . OCLC 182730511. 
  • Laitman, Jeffrey T.; Reidenberg. Joy S (2009). Marvin P Fried; Alfio Ferlito, eds. Evolution of the Human Larynx: Nature's Great Experiment. The larynx. San Diego: Plural Pub. pp. 19–38. ISBN . OCLC 183609898. 
  • Lenneberg, E. H. 1967. Biological Foundations of Language. New York: Wiley.
  • Leroi-Gourhan, A. 1993. Gesture and Speech. Trans. A. Bostock Berger. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Lieberman, Philip. (1991). Uniquely human : the evolution of speech, thought, and selfless behavior. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. ISBN . OCLC 21764294. 
  • Lieberman, P. (2007). "The evolution of human speech: Its anatomical and neural bases" (PDF). Current Anthropology. 48 (1): 39–66. doi:10.1086/509092. 
  • Lieberman, Philip. (2006). Toward an evolutionary biology of language. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN . OCLC 62766735. 
  • Lieberman, Philip; McCarthy, Robert C.; Strait, David (2006). "The recent origin of human speech". The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 119 (5): 3441. Bibcode:2006ASAJ..119.3441L. doi:10.1121/1.4786937. 
  • Logan, Robert K. 2007. "The Extended Mind: The Emergence of Language, the Human Mind and Culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • MacNeilage, P. 2008. The Origin of Speech. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Mazlumyan, Victoria 2008. Origins of Language and Thought. .
  • Mithen, Stephen 2006. The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body.
  • Ostler, Nicholas. (2005). Empires of the word : a language history of the world. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN . OCLC 58563178. 
  • Pinker, Steven (2007). The language instinct : how the mind creates language. New York: HarperPerennial ModernClassics. ISBN . OCLC 672454779. 
  • Pollick, AS.; de Waal, FB. (May 2007). "Ape gestures and language evolution". Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 104 (19): 8184–9. Bibcode:2007PNAS..104.8184P. doi:10.1073/pnas.0702624104. PMC 1876592Freely accessible. PMID 17470779. 
  • Tomasello, M. 2008. Origins of Human Communication. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Weiss, B. (1974). "Medieval Muslim discussions of the origin of language". Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft. 124 (1): 33–41. 
  • Weiss, B. (1987). "'Ilm al-wad': an introductory account of a later Muslim philological science". Arabica. 34 (1): 339–356. 
  • Zahavi, A. and A. Zahavi 1997. The Handicap Principle. A missing piece in Darwin's puzzle. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Don't forget! that as one of our early users, you are eligible to receive the 1,000 point bonus as soon as you have created five (5) acceptable piglix.