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How did human speech 'evolve'? <h1>Q: How did human speech &#39;evolve&#39;?</h1> <p>This is David.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>In terms of evolution, language is evolving at a break-neck pace. Remember when the term <em>break-neck</em> was in vogue? Today, it is an anachronism seldom used by anyone. It wasn’t so long ago that <em>gay</em>didn’t mean <em>homosexual</em>. And <em>bad</em> didn’t mean <em>good</em>. So in a sense, it is easy to say how language evolved as we are watching it happen even as we speak.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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. </p> <p>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. </p> <p>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.</p> <p>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. </p> <p>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.</p> <p>David</p>