The Origin Of Language
[In the final Part 2 of the series, we look at how languages originated.]
Have you wondered how languages might have originated and evolved over centuries? Unlike writing, spoken words do not leave a trail that tell us about their past. There are over 6,900 languages in the world today, many of which are either disappearing or are dead.
There are many stories of how languages came to be. We were fascinated as we explored these theories.
Language historians have tried to study current and dying languages and have come of up with some interesting theories on how languages developed. They even have unique nicknames for them.
- The Bow-Wow Theory - This idea suggests that speech arose from people imitating the sounds that things make: Bow-wow, moo, baa, etc. However, few things we talk about today have sounds associated with them, and very few of our words sound anything at all like what they mean. Could be that language moved away from how it all began!
- The Pooh-Pooh Theory - This theory believes that speech comes from the automatic vocal responses to pain, fear, surprise, or other emotions: a laugh, a shriek, a gasp. The curious thing is that plenty of animals make these kinds of sounds too, and they didn't end up with language!
- The Ding-Ding Theory - suggests that speech reflects some mystical resonance or harmony connected with things in the world.
- The Yo-he-ho Theory - believes that speech started with the rhythmic chants and grunts people used to coordinate their physical actions when they worked together.
- The Ta-Ta Theory - suggests that language came from the use of tongue and mouth gestures to mimic manual gestures. For example, saying ta-ta is like waving goodbye with your tongue.
- The La-La Theory - is an idea that speech emerged from the sounds of inspired playfulness, love, poetic sensibility, and song.
While certainly no one theory dominates over another, all of them could have played an important part in the evolution of languages and words we use today.
The power of speech is probably the single most distinguishing characteristic that differentiates us from animals. The larynx or voice box in humans evolved some 350,000 years. Since that time, considering the variety of languages, dialects sounds and syllables that are spoken today, one can only imagine that the evolution of languages must have had a fascinating history.
Here is a video that traces the similarity of languages across the world. Amazing how similar words have been modified depending on where in the world you are...
Courtesy: About.com, others