The History of Languages
A language is a structured system of communication.
It is a type of communication that involves the use of words.
What is a Language?
Apes and Whales communicate with each other.
Birds and Bees communicate with each other.
But only humans have developed a real Language.
No other species can express ideas using sentences constructed by a set of words (with verbs and nouns).
This skill is remarkable. And what is even more remarkable: Even children master this skill.
We are not sure of how old the spoken language is. The topic is difficult to study because of the lack of evidence.
We don't know how it started. But we have a clue.
The great African apes, Pan and Gorilla, are our closest living relatives. Why are they called "Apes"? Because they ape. Apes mime to get their message across.
It is assumed that the evolution of languages must have been a long process. Our ancestors might have started speaking a million years ago, but with fewer words, more miming, and no grammar.
According to Hauser, Chomsky, and Fitch (2002), there are six aspects of language development:
- Theory of Mind
- Understanding Vocal Signals
- Understanding Imitation
- Understanding Numbers
- Understanding Intentional Communication
- Understanding Non-linguistic Representations
Theory of Mind
Theory of Mind is a term from psychology about an individual's capacity for empathy and understanding of others.
This is an awareness of others being like yourself, with individual needs and intentions.
One of the abilities language users have, is to communicate about things that are not concrete, like needs, ideas, or concepts.
Simon Baron-Cohen, British psychologist and professor at the University of Cambridge, argues (1999) that "Theory of Mind" must have preceded languages, based on knowledge about early human activities:
- Building Shared Goals
- Building Shared Plans
- Intentional Communication
- Intentional Sharing of Topic
- Intentional Sharing of Focus
- Intentional Persuasion
- Intentional Pretending
- Intentional Deception
Egyptian and Sumerian are the earliest known written languages.
(The oldest written language, in use today, is Chinese)
|400 AC||Gothic (German)|