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Interesting Theories on the Origins of Language

Interesting Theories on the Origins of Language
on July, 23 2013

Here is a question for the ages: When did language begin? For that matter, where did it begin, and more importantly, how? Many linguists take say that they do not know. Language was way ahead of writing, and so there are no documents detailing the history of language for scholars to study. This does not stop the learned from trying to figure out the origins of languages nonetheless.

There are few interesting theories on the origins of language based largely on speculation. The learned have decided to scoff (even ban) the discussion of these origins. Let’s take a take a brief look at some of these theories that have been given equally interesting nicknames that they are now known for. The learned have dismissed these theories as seriously flawed, but they still provide interesting insights on a question that we still do not have a conclusive answer to.

Imitating natural sounds
The Bow-Wow Theory explains that language originated when our ancestors tried to imitate the sounds they heard around them, specifically sounds from the natural world. However, there are very few words used in any language today that sound like what they represent. There are many holes to this theory, one of which is that the words used to represent one thing vary from one language to another. The barking of a dog is represented by very different words from one country to another.

The Ding-Dong Theory on the other hand states that language developed as a response to the “essential qualities of objects.” The first sounds that people made were in harmony with the world. The first words were signs the forms of which were an exact image of their meanings (e.g. thunder, boom). However, it may not be possible to establish firmly that there is a connection between meaning and sound.

Involuntary and spontaneous exclamations
The Pooh-Pooh Theory claims that the first speech originated from involuntary and spontaneous cries of surprise, dislike, pain, hunger and other emotions. However, animals make interjections too and yet they did not develop language, and of the many languages in existence, the interjections are limited and they are also language specific.

“Work Song”
The Yo-He-Ho Theory proposes that language and speech started with grunts and groans as well as chants, and rhythmic sounds that the earliest peoples use to coordinate their movements as they work together to accomplish a formidable task. In effect, this theory claims that language originated from the cooperative efforts of human beings as exemplified by marching chants and working songs. This theory is quite effective at explaining the rhythmic features of human speech however the origin of words is in no way explained by the theory.

Scholars are currently trying to answer the question that we have presented here by conducting research on factors that may have contributed to language development. Some of the factors identified are cognitive, physical, and social factors. The available evidence regarding the origins of language is quite inconclusive despite the fact that language is perhaps one of the most important cultural phenomena the world has ever seen.

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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