Emergence and Evolution of Language

Communication is a core component of any society, and language is an important aspect of that.

The mechanism of human speech is stunningly complex. It involves the brain, neural, throat, mouth, lung, and muscle anatomy. Also, the grammar and syntax of the various human languages are highly variable.

Furthermore, exposure to a given language in early ages is an important factor for the ability to distinguish various sounds and sound combinations of that language because the brain seemingly comes with the capability to “easily learn” to distinguish sound combinations and tones, this ability is forgotten after a certain age, which makes learning to distinguish them harder.

Word Cloud with Communication related tags
Complexity of Language

Using people’s grammar scores and information about their learning of languages, the researchers developed models to predict the best age to start learning a language and the duration of achieving fluency. The result of the research was that the ability to grammatically learn a new language strongest until the age of 18 after it declines. However, to become completely fluent in tonation as well as grammar, learning should start before the age of 10.

Main ideas as to why language-learning ability declines after the age of 18 are:

  • Social changes: At 18, kids typically graduate high school and go on to start college or enter the workforce full-time. They may no longer have the time, or the opportunity to study a second language as they did when they were younger.
  • Interference from primary language: After one masters a first language, its rules interfere with the ability to learn a second.

Progressing brain development: Changes in the brain that continue during the late teens and early 20s may somehow make learning harder.

Emergence of Language

The short answer to how languages started is we don’t know, however, we are not totally clueless.

Some researchers claim that the ability to develop languages came in a single leap, creating through one mutation the system in the brain by which humans express complex meanings. These researchers also tend to claim that few aspects of the language are not already present in animals.

Other researchers suspect that language evolved over some millions of years, through the hominid line succession.

In the beginning, sounds would have been used to name objects and actions in the environment. such as “cuckoo”, “hiccup”, “miaow”, and “splash”. Then individuals would be able to invent new vocabulary items to talk about new things. 

In order to achieve a large vocabulary, an important advance would have been the ability to construct consonants and vowels rather than unstructured calls. This would not be possible without changes in the way how the brain interprets auditory signals.

Conclusion

Although we have hypotheses on how and when language started perhaps, we will never know it for sure. However, what we certainly, know is that language is one of the most factors that affected our change from an ape-like to a man-like organism.

Language is the tool we employ to express our feelings and thoughts.

Language is the storehouse of culture, lifeways, and knowledge.

Language is what makes us human.

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Tamer Aydogdu