Before we begin, first and foremost, it is critical to accept the fact that language is a far too wide and vague topic for anyone to say anything sensible about, if you disagree, I would have liked to hear your opinion after you read this article.
It is a long standing argument that proclaims evolution of language to have seized, going along the fact that so has, to all intents and purposes, human evolution. A handful, with fingers to spare claim humans are still evolving and so is the dynamic complexity of language. One can only get muffled in an already confused field.
To have a grip without falling off the wagon on your journey to get something close to clear cut understanding, this article should help us – yes believe it or not, I am seemingly green no matter the countless times I have and still approach the subject – get to a more level-headed understanding. We will keep our focus on how symbolic units such as manual signs, speech and words evolve.
How language came about is still a mystery and on-going study to figure out the mechanics to the development of this complex but effortless modality of communication. It would be the next best thing close to sliced bread, when we finally understand how it all began. Language though does share a common ancestry. The relation between Latin and the languages spoken today such as English, French, Spanish and many more have been known for centuries to be linked though their translation will differ among different cultures.
According to Smith and Szathma’ry (1995) and Nowak et al (2002), the evolution of human language is one of the most important and interesting evolutionary events in the history of life on this planet.
When talking about “evolution,” it’s vital to cautiously define terms otherwise misperception will result.
What is evolution?
Evolution is known to be a process that changes micro-organisms to what we have discovered to what we see today. Language evolution however, Language is what makes us human. The power of language to share unique limitless thoughts has played a significant role in the development of our species in the last million years of which no discovered communication with equivalent sovereignty exists elsewhere.
Did language begin with speech or with signs?
According to Bickerton (2005), he prefers to suggest that language began utilizing, sounds, signs, gestures, body movement and any other mechanism that would carry intention and meaning.
The study of evolution of language has commanded an increase in interdisciplinary collaboration and exchange because since the 1960s, an increasing number of scholars with trainings in evolutionary biology, genetics, anthropology, speech science, linguistics, and neuroscience have dedicated themselves to understanding various aspects of language evolution. The study of language has turned into a discipline of its own with vast literature about it.
Fitch (2004) goes ahead to identify three crucial components of the human language faculty and these include:
– Semantics (the meaning)
– Speech (signal)
– Syntax (structure);
Therefore; Speech, syntax, semantics.
Speech is the default signal that provides a standard protocol for communication of language in the world today. Despite its dependence on auditory and spoken system, that is shared broadly among most mammals. Language can as well be conveyed by non-verbal means and this is through sign language, writing and body language.
We observe another component of language which is syntax or ‘grammar,’ that allows the breakdown and production of ordered structures in language. Recursion is an aspect discussed in very many forums on language evolution. The use of repeated terms and steps in construction, each based on the result of the one before, for example phrases within phrases.
And finally semantics considered the most critical component of human language that distinguishes language from any other sound like music, it is our ability to encode and intentionally communicate an unlimited set of divergent planned meanings.
Bickerton (1990) develops an argument that nothing resembling human language could have developed from prior animal call system. The Genre Continuism theory of the evolution of language limits that proposal to the general true statement that evolution does not generate novelties but merely tinkers with what is there (Bickerton, 2005). Bickerton critics the theory on how it should at least explain how a call system could have acquired the very different properties such as:
– Calls semantically equivalent to propositions (mate with me, stay off my territory, look out!)
It’s interesting taking note that language was caused to develop in one species and not any other. No other species has system of communication the way humans do, even in the most basic simple form. There so many theories that have no rationale for why humans, but no other species, acquired language.
It’s tough enough to sit through a biology class to learn about evolution unless its reproduction. So am not going to bore you with the nitty gritty of scientific theories, that’s for your teachers and college professors to guide you through.
Allow me to site a few examples that could explain how language is theorised to have evolved; one of the pre adaptations of the development of language, still used today is the JOINT ATTENTION. Take, exhibit A, four gents on a park bench in the heat of the weather, catching a breather, when a gorgeous looking lady – I decline to despair into cheesy poetry. The whiff of her perfume, so to speak is a scent that brings life like spring to flowers. The quadrate of blokes directs their attention to the amazing looking passer-by and they gaze and look back to each other in approval. I whole conversation happened without speech.
Language evolution has not stopped, it is constantly progressing and more rapidly. The study of language evolution has been and should considerably be approached from multiple disciplines. It should take a cross disciplinary direction in research to provide sufficient constraints on the theories subject to this study to make it a more legitimate scientific inquiry considering.
To understand the evolution of languages, one needs to know the defining concept of what language is. With a plethora of ideas on the subject, I fathom Language to be a complex sequence of ideas, turned to symbols, gesture or manual speech.