Language origin

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where or how did language come from ,ive been thinking about this for a long time i think it may have evolved ,very slowly like this maby many thousands of years ago a leader or head of a tribe might have used words or noises or grunts close to what we now know to get the attention of his tribe to alert them to a deer ,bear , fire what ever and just over time the words may have been passed down through generations and each word would have to be different for each item so as not to mix things up,is this how it is worked,,,,, our ancestors said that we should call that thing(wolve) a wolve ,maby its because it made a sound like its name,but that does not explain all the other words my lord it is impossible to get my head around ,,,what do you guys think ...........ps im only a tradesman steel fabricator , i just find these things very interesting
 
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  • #2
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come on anybody give us a little idea of what the best brains in the world think ,how bizzare
 
  • #3
Personally, I think whenever a living organism is born with such a complex set of muscles and windpipes, it really comes naturally to try it out. All animals have a communications system. Human language is simply the one that spurs out of the especially complex throat we have.

Birds and mammals don't have all that so they only grunt and hoot. Other animals have even less of a throat-mouth system.

Maybe biologists should team up with linguists and set up a long-term community of trained, talking parrots and see what happens. Parrots may be the only other species that have a the physiological assets to develop a complex language. But they won't do it on their own. They don't even need all that to survive. They need to have an incentive. Their life has to be dependent on it, like it's the case for most humans.
 
  • #4
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thats true for all we know their language could be just as advanced as ours for their brain power its just that we cant get inside their heads ,its also worth while thinking a lot of language is body language ,and i think as we became more out of tune with nature ie concrete jungle instead of the wild we loose a lot of our body language ,thats just my 2pence ,thanks for giving your input ,,,,,,,,,,,,,ive so many questions and this is the only place i can part of the answer from as my friends dont seem to think of such things,
 
  • #5
Ask away!

(BTW, you'll get more answers if you take care of punctuation and grammar and all that. I don't mind personally, but that's always how it is in these kinds of forums.)
 
  • #6
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thanks
 
  • #7
jim mcnamara
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Couple of points based on this -- Humans communicate:
1. non-verbally through posture changes, facial expressions, gestures, plus other ways
2. humans communicate via chemicals called pheromones.
3. humans communicate using language or sounds

Many other species communicate using one or more of the above, plus some other means like bioluminescence, lightning bugs for example.

Given all of this, it does not seem at all odd to me that a large brained terrestrial mammal would extend one of theabove means to an extreme. And gain a survival advantage over the humans who did not.

This is a sort of anthropomorphic way to look at it:

The reason for this is that intraspecies and interspecies communication can convey survival benefits. For example many North Amrican small seed eating woodland birds have a species-specific 'danger' call, meaning more-or-less 'watch out here comes a predator'. The interesting thing is that other unrelated bird species also respond to same call. In effect it is as if the birds 'learned' another language. The real effect is:

With more eyes looking for predators and your being able to understand and flee, means you don't become lunch as easily. You survive.

You outlive your cousin who never picked up other bird species calls. You live to pass on this trait either as a learned behavior or because of a genetic change. Or both.

http://beheco.oxfordjournals.org/content/18/5/944.abstract

So, if you as species, like us, that is on the menu for a lot of nasties out there can communicate better as a group and receive individual survival benefits, it means that the complex communication that conveys those benefits will have a better chance to gain ascendance when and if it arises.
 
  • #8
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do you think pheromones play a big part in communication now or are we loosing it as we evolve ,because there could be a lot of money made if we discovered what female a finds attractive in pheromones (one could have a bath in them before that important date )
 
  • #9
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I believe the early evolution of language is pretty much as you've described. Basic, more generalized pre-words (all our ancestors were capable of) which generally morphed into more specific and complicated sounds, which our physical evolution then accommodated by making us capable of more complex sounds, and our mental evolution accommodated the more complex thoughts involved.

Non-verbal communication(including pheromones, if that can be said to be communication) were likely more of a factor before we had words, and less of a factor as the language evolved. I keep hearing statistics that talk about how the majority of our but in light of the fact that so many of us spend so much time on the phone, internet, e-mail, etc. this isn't always the case.

Language continues to evolve, and old languages die out. "New" languages emerge in the sense that a language can evolve to the point where it might not be recognized by it's original speaker. I am fascinated by the evolution of language. It's really fun to look at language trees. Here's a few I found:

http://www.danshort.com/ie/iecentum.htm
http://www.danshort.com/ie/iesatem.htm

Nice big one: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4f/IndoEuropeanTree.svg

Those are just indo-european, and of course there are other trees. Unfortunately we can only trace language back as far as we have written records for, and anything else is speculated based on fossilized remains of our early ancestors and probably our observations of animals.

Lots of great blog entries on language by a linguist here: http://talktoyouniverse.blogspot.com/

-DaveKA
 
  • #10
Astronuc
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where or how did language come from ,ive been thinking about this for a long time i think it may have evolved ,very slowly like this maby many thousands of years ago a leader or head of a tribe might have used words or noises or grunts close to what we now know to get the attention of his tribe to alert them to a deer ,bear , fire what ever and just over time the words may have been passed down through generations and each word would have to be different for each item so as not to mix things up,is this how it is worked,,,,, our ancestors said that we should call that thing(wolve) a wolve ,maby its because it made a sound like its name,but that does not explain all the other words my lord it is impossible to get my head around ,,,what do you guys think ...........ps im only a tradesman steel fabricator , i just find these things very interesting
Language may go back tens of millenia. The indigenous peoples of Australia have verbal language and culture that is distinct from other peoples.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Indigenous_Australians

Isolated tribes in S. America have demonstrated unique languages.
 
  • #11
CRGreathouse
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Language may go back tens of millenia. The indigenous peoples of Australia have verbal language and culture that is distinct from other peoples.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Indigenous_Australians

Isolated tribes in S. America have demonstrated unique languages.
I'm not sure what you mean by "unique" here. If you pick two languages at random, chances are they aren't known to be related. Major language families (not known to be related) include Afroasiatic, Altaic, Indo-European, Balto-Slavic, Niger-Congo, Sino-Tibetan, and Uralic. Of course this excludes the languages of the Americas about which there is much controversy. And beyond these families there are several hundred isolates: languages not known to be related to any other language. Basque is perhaps the most famous example.
 
  • #12
CRGreathouse
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do you think pheromones play a big part in communication now or are we loosing it as we evolve
No and no, respectively.
 
  • #13
CRGreathouse
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Unfortunately we can only trace language back as far as we have written records for
I see no reason to stop there. Certainly Proto-Indo-European predates writing, but it has been fairly well reconstructed. Of course there are limitations, and I don't think we'll ever be able to trace back as far as "Proto-World" (even if such a language exists).
 
  • #14
Borek
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Personally, I think whenever a living organism is born with such a complex set of muscles and windpipes, it really comes naturally to try it out. All animals have a communications system. Human language is simply the one that spurs out of the especially complex throat we have.
This is a classical problem of what came first, an egg or a hen.

It is quite possible that complex articulation apparatus* evolved together with language, not before.

*direct translation from Polish - not sure if there exist similar term in English, but the meaning should be obvious.
 
  • #15
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I see no reason to stop there. Certainly Proto-Indo-European predates writing, but it has been fairly well reconstructed. Of course there are limitations, and I don't think we'll ever be able to trace back as far as "Proto-World" (even if such a language exists).
Yeah, I guess that's closer to what I meant to say. My language skills are questionable sometimes.

-DaveKA
 
  • #16
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I have read that the sloping forehead of neanderthals did not have enough space for the frontal lobe to be large enough to accommodate language
 
  • #17
CRGreathouse
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I have read that the sloping forehead of neanderthals did not have enough space for the frontal lobe to be large enough to accommodate language
That would surprise me.
 
  • #18
Borek
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Sounds speculative.
 
  • #19
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Language probably originated in gesturing, as a means to communicate during hunting and such.

Neanderthals were likely just as bright, if not brighter, than humans of 30K+ years ago. I state this based on brain size, which has a relatively strong correspondence with intelligence when primates are compared.
 
  • #20
Borek
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Language probably originated in gesturing, as a means to communicate during hunting and such.
Again, speculation. Besides, if that was the case, language would probably not make use of sound.
 

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