Berlitz Blog

Published : Tue, Jun 23, 2020 4:00 PM GMT

How language originated

Language learners spend a lot of time talking about their target languages, but not so much time talking about language, itself.

The evolution of languages is full of twists and turns, and wars and conquests. People have been banned from speaking some languages, and ordered to speak others.

But, one thing very few people, including experts, agree on is how languages developed.

The origin of language

Many experts think primitive language dates back 5 to 6 million years ago. Depending which theory you pick, language started taking a more modern turn about 100,000 years ago.

People could basically talk and listen, but it’s not the same modern language we know today.

Linguists believe speaking was much slower, their vocabularies were relatively small and grammar was used sparingly. It may not be a coincidence that precious artifacts and art were dated from this period.

There’s even more disagreement how spoken words actually developed, and each theory has been advanced by a recognized expert.

  • One of the most common thoughts is that modern languages evolved over the course of million years, fairly consistent with other theories of evolution.
  • Quentin Atkinson, a New Zealand professor, suggested (unlike some others) that language started, in one place, in southwest Africa, and spread as people roamed parts of Europe and Asia.
  • Another theory is that about 100,000 years ago language emerged with a mutation of one person.

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