There are many hypotheses about the origin of the language. However there so far is no agreement on any. Human is the only animal that has ability to speak. Without this gift human kind would have been in its primordial state even today. But what is origin of languages? There have been fierce disputes on this issue, so much so that in 1866 Linguistics Society of Paris had banned debate on this issue. Many have tried to search linguistic roots in remote mythologies, biblical is famous among others. Psychologists have suggested that the language is innate need of human being. But it doesn’t solve the question as to why this innate need emerged only in human being and not other animals? Some have tried to find its origin in human genetic structure. This is treated as hardest problem in science.
Without going in the various aspects of the debate and multiple theories, we will have an overview of this problem and try to find whether there can be any solution to this problem or not.
We have to agree with the supporters of Continuity theory that the languages didn’t originate all of sudden. It must have been a gradual process, from simple to complex. It is natural process and there is no reason to disagree with it. Some theories suggest that languages did not originate to establish dialogue with others but to express. Discontinuity theory suggests that the languages must have originated during the process of evolution as sudden event at some stage. Other theories relate origin of the languages with primordial utterances. Sounds are symbols and to understand that symbolism in any given language which forms or conveys certain meaning which is understood and reacted over in same sound symbolism is the language. But how human being achieved that ability to use sound symbols as a mean to convey remains as yet a mystery.
In human evolution, there are many stages. Some are missing links. It is not that it was unidirectional evolution. The process begins with hominids and halts with modern human species. It is suggested that Neanderthal man has an ability to create complex sounds. Also it is suggested that there could have been interbreeding between Neanderthal man and Homo-sapiens. Whether Neanderthal man extinguished from the face of the earth as he could not compete with Homo-Sapiens or whether they mingled with each other is a question that is not satisfactorily solved. If both the species had an ability to speak, we can infer, if they interbred, the gens of the language too got mixed to give way to the future linguistic structures.
The language is mostly spoken. It also is written in symbols to which certain sounds are denoted. But the first thing is sound. Human species have the larynx that has ability to produce complex sounds with the help of the tongue and mouth. We find no other animal have the larynx of such ability. Larynx too could have been evolved with the growing need of the human being.
Language always is in mind. When in mind it doesn’t have any symbol. It is constant flow of temporal feelings, thoughts and expressions. The language of mind could be far different, beyond our comprehension. They are later translated to us in the language we know. When needed we express it through the series of sounds, whether vocal or written. So this is basic process of the languages.
It is assumed that the processing of the language is interdependent between various centers in the brain. Not a single center is responsible for its origination and development. We can see that this doesn’t help us to solve the problem of origin.
We have to understand human being has an ability to give meaning to the visible world, sounds and psychological process, that is constant, symbolizes them. Let us also assume that the natural limitations to survive have been compensated with intellect. The primordial humans must have gone through the terrific conditions for survival. However we just cannot imagine now how he would have taken those circumstances to pave way through them to be able to control them. The explosion of linguistic qualities in human brain could be a sudden event that may have taken place at very early stage of evolution. It has been argued from fossil records that Neanderthal man had larynx that could produce sufficient sounds to make a speech. Cave paintings and artifacts shows that he was quite expressive. The argument he, Neanderthal man, must have some kind of primitive language.
Language couldn’t have emerged just out of imitation of babbling. The quality of human species is he has intense feelings and an urge to express. The similar expression patterns expressed through the sounds within a tribe could have made the first language. So thought and language could have the close relationship. The environment too has hand in the development of the language. I will show how the local geographies too are responsible for shaping up the language in different patterns. Early human being was nomad, true, but his roaming was in his known periphery of the geography. We have to understand the significance of geography with the language.
Language was not certainly innate need of the human being. Innate need to him was survival against all odds. He selected his way of survival by making bands and coordinated efforts. There also are bands of other animals like foxes, antelopes and monkeys. They too have rudimentary sound-languages. They use it to caution others when danger is imminent. They utter differently when lovemaking or just responding to others. They have language of some rudimentary kind that is not comprehended by us. But they lack in developed vocal chords and so the brain capable enough to process the sounds further. Human species have crossed these borders in the process of evolution for his imminent need of survival.
Thus language is product of human psychology. The psychology is related with how the mind functions and mind is solely dependent on our brain to which we yet to understand fully. However language is a fact and we have to proceed with this fact.
The major question here is, if human species is unique and same, why there are over six thousand languages in the world? Why people of certain region speak some language and different in adjoining region? Why some sounds are missing in some languages whereas they are most prominent in the languages spoken in adjoining regions? For example some languages have retroflex’s and some are devoid of them.
Why there is not a single universal language if human species have everything in common? Why there are so many groups of the languages and several hundred branches of each group?
We will have to deal with this question more elaborately because some theories wide in circulation have misused the fact for supremacist political reasons, though it is not a good science.
To conclude here, we have to check it up first that the psychology of human species that is instrumental in origination and control of the language. Psychology is overall functioning of the brain that is instrumental in deciding the priorities. And priorities of survival against all odds decide how to use the available integral resources causing further evolution through modifications. The evolution of the brain and associated organs must have been a process that must have taken toll of the millions in the rout to achieve the utmost possible qualities. It may have been continued process or discontinued or it could have been developed through interbreeding of the different human-like species of ancient times. We have no any concrete evidence as yet what did happen in those times, but the fact remains that we have language. Our psychology governs the language we speak. Our organs, such as larynx and jaws, decide how it would be uttered. With region to region we find these physical features do change along with others. Physical features are governed by the climate and geography of the people they live in over generations. Mexican accents would not be same as of the New Yorkers. The slightest difference in physiology would make noticeable difference in pronunciation patterns.
We have different languages classified in different families. We have the languages classified under one group and yet they are incomprehensible to the man who speaks the language belonging to the same group. In fact though there is universal man with all the similar characteristics there is no common language in the world.
We have to first account for such changes.
The fact is there are changes in the same languages with regions to regions, though they collectively are labeled as belonging to some language family. Every language for that matter is group of dialects. The group of the languages represents the languages those have some common morphological features. To be a part of any group of the languages geographical closeness is not warranted.
And it is prominently claimed that the spread of some language is because of the population movement in remote past. It is claimed that Proto-Indo-European language speakers were settled at some place and for reasons unknown migrated in different directions and wherever they reached PIE did spread. Though there is dispute over what the original homeland of PIE speakers was, there so far is no dispute over the spread of the language to form a distinct group.
Though I strongly object to this hypothesis on the scientific and logical grounds, for time being let us be with this theory taking it a fact for time being.
If some people, speaking some proto-language spread for reasons, wherever they went the basic structure of the languages spoken in the areas they settled must be the same. Linguistic biology is sometimes invoked while proposing this theory of IE group of the languages. If this considered true, I have following points:
1) The PIE languages, after spread, formed regional varieties. How the regional variety process would have taken place?
2) Though unknown is the basic structure of the PIE language the affinities in the group languages is striking in some cases whereas vague in many. They painfully have to establish the relationship with artificial reconstructions of the proto-language.
3) The differences are notable with region to region. Such as the IE’s spoken in European countries and in India in different regions.
4) There are intermediary blocks where unrelated to surrounding group languages are spoken. Brahui, Munda etc. are the examples those are surrounded by IE language speakers. Their so called isolation or migration from some place is not an answer to this vital problem. If PIE language spread across the globe with a process why the same couldn’t have been applicable to such odd cases?
To sum up, even if we accept the group of language theory we find there are regional varieties, somewhere very striking somewhere vague. Not that the group languages are intelligible to all those who are part of that so called group. And this doesn’t solve a question, why there are regional varieties of the same language and why it did take separate path?
I think this is the major question linguistic scientists should give more attention. A most probable answer offered is, wherever PIE speakers went they mingled with local populations, borrowed and improvised their vocabularies and the language grew thereafter unique and yet biologically related with PIE language. If we consider this too is true, we have to assume that wherever PIE speakers went and subjugated local languages. They borrowed from them but kept their basic structure of their own language undisturbed. Because of the local languages PIE bred with it became different and yet it could maintain its own superiority.
But we must understand here that in disguise of PIE language expansion theory nothing new is told to us than what Aryan race Theory was telling. In a way we are stalled here. They are telling us the same story in different words. It doesn’t talk of psychology of the language. Rather it believes that the languages can be imposed, so much so that the native languages can lose their original basic structure. But the fact about IE languages is that they too then have lost their original structure, whatsoever hypothetically it was!
We need to look in to the problem of the languages from different point of view. The need arises because the present postulations are lame in their arguments and proofs. Spread of some language speaking people to effect group of the languages across the territories is an easy answer to a complicated question. It does not take into the consideration linguistic psychology. It runs away from the basic question, how some language that was so powerful to influence others could have been originated and among whom and where? The geography of the PIE language is as yet uncertain and hypothetical. There cannot be the proof from material remains of the culture as to what languages the people were speaking in those times. The available proofs, the language of Avesta, Rig Veda and the treaty of Bogazkoi or Horse Manuel of Kikkuli tells us far less if not more. Language and contents of Avesta and Rig Veda tells us just their geography being close and that language of Rig Veda, though close to the Avesta, is significantly modified later. The language of Bogazkoy treaty tells us that some deities and demons and numerics from the east were known to them. We cannot take it as a solid proof of Aryan Language expansion theory. It doesn’t tell us why in certain close geographies IE could not spread! Geographically the Semitic language speakers and Dravidian language speakers are very close and they have interactions from millenniums and yet we find there is no remarkable influence of IE languages on them.
To conclude this chapter we can sum up as:
1) Language is psychological phenomenon supported by physical organs.
2) Though genetically human being is same (The variation amounts for just 0.50%) the languages show variety of differences. There are over 6000 languages in the world distributed in several families.
3) Local geological features govern the general psychology of the people that reflects in local culture and the language.