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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
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?
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What is Language?
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Language is one of
the best means by
which humans
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Importance of 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
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
Sound 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
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.

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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

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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!

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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!

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Natural Natural cries

Sound Source of emotion

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

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Human physical features that help
• 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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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
• The language capacity is genetically hard-
wired in born babies.

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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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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).

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
ِ ‫ل‬
ٍ ‫و‬‫س‬ُ ‫ر‬
َ ْ
‫ن‬ ‫م‬
ِ ‫َا‬ ‫ن‬‫ل‬ْ َ ‫• َو َما أ َ ْر‬

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

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Thank you very ‫زؤر سوثاس بؤ‬
much for your
presence ‫ئامادةبوونتان‬


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