A couple interesting studies were published this past week. One study showed the location on Earth where language originated and the other looked to prove or disprove the existence of a “language organ” in humans.. is language instinctual for us?
The first study by Dr. Quentin Atkinson used phonemes to show where language originated. Phonemes are the smallest sounds which differentiate meaning, for example, the “th” in thin; replace it with an “f” sound or “s” sound and the result is a different word. It’s been known that the less widely spoken a language is, the fewer phonemes it has. Thus, the farther a group ventured from the source of language, the fewer phonemes that group would have in their language. Dr. Atkinson charted these phonemes and showed that language truly did originate in central/southern Africa.
The next study looks at Noam Chomsky’s theory that the human brain comes hard-wired with a universal grammar – a language instinct. I WISH my brain was hard-wired for grammar.. perhaps those tests would have been easier for me! Dr. Dunn looked at the four large language families: Indo-European, Bantu, Austronesian (from South-East Asia and the Pacific) and Uto-Aztecan (the native vernaculars of the Americas) that account for >1/3 of the 7000 languages spoken in the world today and found NO correlations between them, thus disproving Chomsky’s theory of instinctual grammar.
Perhaps these talking babies hold the clue to the origin of language?Tweet