Essay on the origin of languages

Essay on the origin of language

essay on the origin of languages

Essay on the, origin of, languages - wikipedia

Vocal grooming then evolved gradually into vocal language—initially in the form of 'gossip'. 52 Dunbar's hypothesis seems to be supported by the fact that the structure of language shows adaptations to the function of narration in general. 53 Critics of this theory point out that the very efficiency of 'vocal grooming'—the fact that words are so cheap—would have undermined its capacity to signal commitment of the kind conveyed by time-consuming and costly manual grooming. 54 A further criticism is that the theory does nothing to explain the crucial transition from vocal grooming—the production of pleasing but meaningless sounds—to the cognitive complexities of syntactical speech. Ritual/speech coevolution edit The ritual/speech coevolution theory was originally proposed by social anthropologist roy rappaport 17 before being elaborated by anthropologists such as Chris Knight, 20 Jerome lewis, 55 Nick Enfield, 56 Camilla power 44 and Ian Watts. 29 Cognitive scientist and robotics engineer Luc Steels 57 is another prominent supporter of this general approach, as is biological anthropologist/neuroscientist Terrence deacon.

Johann Gottfried Herder: Essay on the, origin of, language

Ulbæk concludes that for language to evolve, society as a whole must have been subject to moral regulation. Critics point out that this theory fails to explain when, how, why or by whom 'obligatory reciprocal altruism' could possibly have been enforced. 21 Various proposals have been offered to remedy this defect. 21 A further criticism is that language doesn't work on the basis of reciprocal altruism anyway. Humans in conversational groups don't withhold information to all except listeners likely to offer valuable information in return. On the contrary, they seem to want to advertise to the world their access to socially relevant information, broadcasting that information without expectation of reciprocity to anyone who will listen. 51 The gossip and divergent grooming hypothesis edit gossip, according to robin Dunbar in his book grooming, gossip and the evolution of Language, does for group-living humans what manual grooming does for other primates—it allows individuals to service their relationships and so maintain their alliances. Dunbar argues that as humans began living in increasingly larger social groups, the task of manually grooming all one's friends and acquaintances became so time-consuming as to be unaffordable. 52 In response to this problem, humans developed 'a cheap and ultra-efficient form of grooming'— vocal grooming. To keep allies happy, one now needs only to 'groom' them with low-cost vocal sounds, servicing multiple allies simultaneously while keeping both hands free for other tasks.

So even if we accept Fitch's initial premises, the extension of the posited 'mother tongue' networks from close relatives to more distant relatives remains unexplained. 49 Fitch argues, however, that the extended period of physical immaturity of human infants and the postnatal growth of the human brain give the human-infant relationship a different and more extended period of intergenerational dependency than that found in any other species. 47 Another criticism of Fitch's theory is that language today is not predominantly used to communicate to kin. Although Fitch's theory can potentially explain the origin of human language, it cannot explain the evolution of modern language. 47 The 'obligatory reciprocal altruism' hypothesis edit Ib Ulbæk 5 invokes another standard resume Darwinian principle—' reciprocal altruism ' 50 —to explain the unusually high levels of intentional honesty necessary for language to evolve. 'reciprocal altruism' can be expressed as the principle that if you scratch my back, i'll scratch yours. In linguistic terms, it would mean that if you speak truthfully to me, i'll speak truthfully to you. Ordinary darwinian reciprocal altruism, Ulbæk points out, is a relationship established between frequently interacting individuals. For language to prevail across an entire community, however, the necessary reciprocity would have needed to be enforced universally instead of being left to individual choice.

essay on the origin of languages

Rousseau essay on the origin of language full text

46 The 'mother tongues' hypothesis edit The "mother tongues" hypothesis was proposed in 2004 as a possible solution to this problem. Tecumseh Fitch suggested that the darwinian principle of ' kin selection ' 48 —the convergence of genetic interests between relatives—might be part of the answer. Fitch suggests that languages biography were originally 'mother tongues'. If language evolved initially for communication between mothers and their own biological offspring, extending later to include adult relatives as well, the interests of speakers and listeners would have tended to coincide. Fitch argues that shared genetic interests would have led to sufficient trust and cooperation for intrinsically unreliable signals—words—to become accepted as trustworthy and so begin evolving for the first time. Critics of this theory point out that kin selection is not unique to humans. 49 Other primate mothers also share genes with their progeny, as do all other animals, so why is it only humans who speak? Furthermore, it is difficult to believe that early humans restricted linguistic communication to genetic kin: the incest taboo must have forced men and women to interact and communicate with more distant relatives.

Should they turn out to be lies, listeners will adapt by ignoring them in favor of hard-to-fake indices or cues. For language to work, then, listeners must be confident that those with whom they are on speaking terms are generally likely to be honest. 44 A peculiar feature of language is " displaced reference which means reference to topics outside the currently perceptible situation. This property prevents utterances from being corroborated in the immediate "here" and "now". For this reason, language presupposes relatively high levels of mutual trust in order to become established over time as an evolutionarily stable strategy. This stability is born of a longstanding mutual trust and is what grants language its authority. A theory of the origins of language must therefore explain why humans could begin trusting cheap signals in ways that other animals apparently cannot (see signalling theory ). It has been noted that both the biological and cultural aspects of language are bestowed with green beard recognition systems, 45 indicating a potential for rapid evolution once the ability to distinguish arbitrary sequences has evolved.

'The first Times in rousseaus

essay on the origin of languages

Essay on the, origin of Languages

Rather, it is the fact that symbols—arbitrary associations of sounds or other perceptible forms with corresponding meanings—are unreliable and may well be false. 39 As the saying goes, "words are cheap". 40 The problem of reliability was not recognized at all by darwin, müller or the other early evolutionary theorists. Animal vocal signals are, for the most part, intrinsically reliable. When a cat purrs, the signal constitutes direct evidence of the animal's contented state. We trust the signal, not because the cat is inclined to be honest, but because it just cannot fake that sound. Primate vocal calls may be slightly more manipulable, but they remain reliable for the same reason—because they are hard to fake.

41 Primate social intelligence is " Machiavellian "—self-serving and unconstrained by moral scruples. Monkeys and apes writers often attempt to deceive each other, while at the same time remaining constantly on guard against falling victim to deception themselves. 42 43 Paradoxically, it is theorized that primates' resistance to deception is what blocks the evolution of their signalling systems along language-like lines. Language is ruled out because the best way to guard against being deceived is to ignore all signals except those that are instantly verifiable. Words automatically fail this test. 20 Words are easy to fake.

— Charles Darwin, 1871. The descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to sex 34 In 1861, historical linguist Max Müller published a list of speculative theories concerning the origins of spoken language: 35 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. The pooh-pooh theory saw the first words as emotional interjections and exclamations triggered by pain, pleasure, surprise, etc. 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.


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. This did not feature in Max Müller's list, having been proposed in 1930 by sir Richard Paget. 36 According to the ta-ta theory, humans made the earliest words by tongue movements that mimicked manual gestures, rendering them audible. Most scholars today consider all such theories not so much wrong—they occasionally offer peripheral insights—as comically naïve and irrelevant. 37 38 The problem with these theories is that they are so narrowly mechanistic. Citation needed They assume that once our ancestors had stumbled upon the appropriate ingenious mechanism for linking sounds with meanings, language automatically evolved and changed. Problems of reliability and deception edit further information: Signalling theory From the perspective of modern science, the main obstacle to the evolution of language-like communication in nature is not a mechanistic one.

Upne toc: Essay on the Origin of Languages and Writings Related

Using statistical methods to estimate the time required to achieve the current spread and diversity in modern languages, johanna nichols —a linguist at the University of California, berkeley —argued in 1998 that vocal languages must have begun diversifying in our species at least 100,000 years. 31 A further study. Atkinson 12 suggests that successive essay population bottlenecks occurred as our African ancestors migrated to other areas, leading to a decrease in genetic and phenotypic diversity. Atkinson argues that these bottlenecks also affected culture and language, suggesting that the further away a particular language is from Africa, the fewer phonemes it contains. By way of evidence, atkinson claims that today's African languages tend to have relatively large numbers of phonemes, whereas languages from areas in Oceania (the last place to which humans migrated have relatively few. Relying heavily on Atkinson's work, a subsequent study has explored the rate at which phonemes develop naturally, comparing this rate to some of Africa's oldest languages. The results suggest that language first evolved around 350,000150,000 years ago, which is around the time when modern Homo sapiens evolved. 32 Estimates slogan of this kind are not universally accepted, but jointly considering genetic, archaeological, palaeontological and much other evidence indicates that language probably emerged somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa during the middle Stone Age, roughly contemporaneous with the speciation of Homo sapiens. 33 Language origin hypotheses edit early speculations edit i cannot doubt that language owes its origin to the imitation and modification, aided by signs and gestures, of various natural sounds, the voices of other animals, and man's own instinctive cries.

essay on the origin of languages

A very specific social structure—one capable of upholding unusually high levels of public accountability and trust—must have evolved before or concurrently with language to make reliance on "cheap signals" (words) an evolutionarily stable strategy. Because the emergence of language lies so far back in human prehistory, the relevant developments have left no direct historical traces; neither can comparable processes be observed today. Despite this, the emergence of new sign languages in modern times— nicaraguan Sign Language, for example—may potentially offer insights into the developmental stages and creative processes necessarily involved. 23 Another approach inspects early human fossils, looking for traces of physical adaptation to language use. 24 25 In some cases, when the dna of extinct humans can be recovered, the presence or absence of genes considered to be language-relevant — foxp2, for example—may prove informative. 26 Another approach, this time resume archaeological, involves invoking symbolic behavior (such as repeated ritual activity) that may leave an archaeological trace—such as mining and modifying ochre pigments for body-painting —while developing theoretical arguments to justify inferences from symbolism in general to language in particular. The time range for the evolution of language and/or its anatomical prerequisites extends, at least in principle, from the phylogenetic divergence of Homo (2.3.4 million years ago) from Pan (5 to 6 million years ago) to the emergence of full behavioral modernity some. Few dispute that Australopithecus probably lacked vocal communication significantly more sophisticated than that of great apes in general, 30 but scholarly opinions vary as to the developments since the appearance of Homo some.5 million years ago. Some scholars assume the development of primitive language-like systems ( proto-language ) as early as Homo habilis, while others place the development of symbolic communication only with Homo erectus (1.8 million years ago) or with Homo heidelbergensis (0.6 million years ago) and the development.

primates, stressing simply that the language faculty must have evolved in the usual gradual way. 8 Others in this intellectual camp—notably Ib Ulbæk 5 —hold that language evolved not from primate communication but from primate cognition, which is significantly more complex. Those who see language as a socially learned tool of communication, such as Michael Tomasello, see it developing from the cognitively controlled aspects of primate communication, these being mostly gestural as opposed to vocal. 9 10 Where vocal precursors are concerned, many continuity theorists envisage language evolving from early human capacities for song. Transcending the divide, some scholars view the emergence of language as the consequence of some kind of social transformation 16 that, by generating unprecedented levels of public trust, liberated a genetic potential for linguistic creativity that had previously lain dormant. "Ritual/speech coevolution theory" exemplifies this approach. 20 21 Scholars in this intellectual camp point to the fact that even chimpanzees and bonobos have latent symbolic capacities that they rarely—if ever—use in the wild. 22 Objecting to the sudden mutation idea, these authors argue that even if a chance mutation were to install a language organ in an evolving bipedal primate, it would be adaptively useless under all known primate social conditions.

1, today, there are various hypotheses about how, why, when, and where language might have emerged. 2, despite this, there is scarcely more agreement today than a hundred years ago, when. Charles Darwin 's theory of evolution by natural selection analysis provoked a rash of armchair speculation on the topic. 3, since the early 1990s, however, a number of linguists, archaeologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and others have attempted to address with new methods what some consider one of the hardest problems in science. 4, contents, approaches edit, one can sub-divide approaches to the origin of language according to some underlying assumptions: 5 "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. "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. Noam Chomsky, a prominent proponent of discontinuity theory, argues that a single chance mutation occurred in one individual in the order of 100,000 years ago, installing the language faculty (a component of the mindbrain ) in "perfect" or "near-perfect" form.

On the Origin of Language : jean-Jacques rousseau, johann Gottfried

This article is about the origin of natural languages. For the origin of programming languages, see. History of programming languages. The evolutionary emergence of language in the human species has been a subject of speculation for several centuries. 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 animals (particularly other. 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 spondylolisthesis of this connection. This shortage of empirical evidence has led many scholars to regard the entire topic as unsuitable for serious study. 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.


essay on the origin of languages
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The term "family" reflects the tree model of language origination in historical linguistics, which makes use of a metaphor comparing languages to people in a biological family tree. The link between clear, logical organization and effective communication is powerful, both for the "sender" and the "receiver." For the writer, a well organized outline of information serves as a blue print for action.

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