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Origins of Language

Prepared by
Ismail Abdulrahman Perdawdy,
MA in English Language &Linguistics, Lecturer
Department of Translation Techniques,
Erbil Administrative Technical Institute
Erbil Polytechnic University
2017
In this seminar, we will to try answer
the following questions
1.What is language?
2.How did language originate?
3.What are the reasons behind
the diversity of languages in
our present day?
Origins of Language 2
What is Language?
Origins of Language 3
Language is one of
the best means by
which humans
communicate.
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Importance of language
Language:
 Is everywhere
 permeates our thoughts
 Mediates our relations with others
 Creeps into our dreams
And in it,
 Human knowledge and culture is stored and
transmitted.
So, without it, all the above points are IMPOSSIBLE!

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How and when did
language originate?

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Most of the Western Linguists &
Philosophers believe
There was a time when people didn’t
have the ability to talk.
Humans developed language between
100,000 and 50,000 years ago (but, written language
appeared 5000 years ).

There is no physical evidence about when


and how of language in humans emerged.
All what is said in this regard is a matter
of speculation. Origins of Language 7
Some of these speculations are from
four different sources
Physical
Natural
Adaptation
Sound Source
Source

Genetic Divine
Source Source

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Natural Sound Source
The suggestion of this source is:
 Primitive words could have been imitations of
natural sounds which early men heard around
them.
CAW-CAW sound of flying objects
COO-COO sound of a flying creature.
 People started to imitate the sounds and named
the objects and creatures with these sounds.

Origins of Language 9
In addition to cuckoo
 Splash
 Bang
 Boom
 Rattle
 Buzz
 Hiss
 Roar
This is known as bow-wow theory
Onomatopoetic words

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The problem of ‘bow-wow’ theory
How reference was made to the:
o Soundless words
o Abstract concepts

Origins of Language 11
Natural cries of emotion
• Pain: Ouch!
• Anger: Ah!
• disgust: yuck!

These are produced with intakes of breath!


But normal spoken language is produced when
air is exhaled rather than inhaled!

Origins of Language 12
Yo-he-ho theory
Sounds made due to physical effort involving
several people could be the source of our language:
• Grunts
• Groans
• Curses
This theory is based on the social and cultural
cooperation found among early men.
However, apes have grunts but they do not have
a language like ours!

Origins of Language 13
Bow-wow
theory

Natural Natural cries


Sound Source of emotion

Yo-he-ho
theory
Origins of Language 14
Physical
Adaptation
Source

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Physical Adaptation Source
This source depends on the physical
features humans possess, especially
those that are distinct from other
creatures

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Human physical features that help
language
• Human teeth are upright / f, v/
• The lips are made of intricate muscles /p, b/
• The tongue is also helpful.
• Human larynx (voice box: containing vocal cords)
pharynx (resonator).
• Human brain: left hemisphere, in most of the people is
responsible for controlling the above organs of speech.

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Genetic
Source
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The Genetic Source
• The reason why physical adaptation takes
place in humans & why deaf and dumb can be
fluent sign language users is answered by
supporters of innateness hypothesis (human
offspring are born with a special capacity for
language).
• The language capacity is genetically hard-
wired in born babies.

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Divine
Source
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Divine Sources
In most of the worlds religions
language is regarded as a gift from
gods to the humans:
Hinduism: Saraswati (Sarasvati),
Brahma’s wife, has given language to
humans as a gift.
In Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
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Quran

And He taught Adam the names of all


things; then He placed them before the
angels, and said: "Tell me the names of
these if ye are right."

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He has taught him [man] speech
(and intelligence).

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Origins of Language
Some experiments

Psammetichus 2500 years ago King James IV, 1500

Bekos: bread in Phrygian Hebrew

Other experiments resulted in speechless children!

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Why do people speak different
languages if they first had one language

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Christianity: Language diversity is a
curse to humanity!

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Quran: Language diversity is one sign
of God’s Supreme Power

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... ۖ ‫ان قَ ْو ِم ِه ِليُبَ ِي َن لَ ُه ْم‬
ِ ‫س‬
َ ‫ل‬
ِ ‫ب‬
ِ ‫ا‬
‫َّل‬‫إ‬
ِ ‫ل‬
ٍ ‫و‬‫س‬ُ ‫ر‬
َ ْ
‫ن‬ ‫م‬
ِ ‫َا‬ ‫ن‬‫ل‬ْ َ ‫• َو َما أ َ ْر‬
‫س‬

We sent not a messenger


except (to teach) in the
language of his (own)
people, in order to make
(things) clear to them
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Every one of you will talk to your Lord while there is no interpreter
between you and Him! (the translation of the meanings)

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The End

Origins of Language 30
Thank you very ‫زؤر سوثاس بؤ‬
much for your
presence ‫ئامادةبوونتان‬

‫شكرا‬
‫على‬
‫الحضور‬

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