Create New

Question Answer
How did human speech 'evolve'?

Q: How did human speech 'evolve'?

This is David.

Thanks for the question. It’s a good one, and one that I think about from time to time, though perhaps from a different angle. As a writer, I have observed the myriad of hard and fast rules of grammar I learned in grade school that have changed since I started writing professionally. There were words that were not considered words then, but today, can be found in dictionaries. That is the evolution of language.

In terms of evolution, language is evolving at a break-neck pace. Remember when the term break-neck was in vogue? Today, it is an anachronism seldom used by anyone. It wasn’t so long ago that gaydidn’t mean homosexual. And bad didn’t mean good. So in a sense, it is easy to say how language evolved as we are watching it happen even as we speak.

So dramatic is that evolution, that if we were to pick up a text book from the 50s, we would have a hard time reading it. And people from that time would have a hard time understanding us. And we are talking about the same language, at least nominally.

Now it is possible that you are asking how language began to evolve. While it is harder to picture the beginning of something, I think the process was much the same as it is today. A sound became associated with objects in nature, and eventually, emotions, then whole thoughts and ideas.

We refine those sounds and combine them to form sentences, then presidential speeches. Two people on a deserted island that don’t speak the same language may evolve a completely different language than the one either of them spoke.

It might help to consider different types of languages. Gestural languages have been around for a long time. And there are many of them. I suspect they start with pointing, then mimicking natural objects with gestures. Some one picks it up, refines it, and adds something to it.

My best friend in high school and I developed our own rudimentary language. It got more complex as time went on. I suppose you could say it evolved as well.

There are likely more scientific answers an anthropologist could provide. If you like, I can pass the question along to some of our more scientifically accomplished writers. But that is the best I can do. Hope it helps.