The Creation of Languages

Communication is recognised throughout the animal kingdom, whether it be through sounds, movements, body language or even vocalisation and hand gestures in primates. But no form of communication comes close to human’s spoken language. The ability to convey even the most complex thoughts and emotions is one of the many things that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom, but how did it come to be this way? The first appearance of language between homo sapiens is thought to be between 30,000 and 100,000 years ago, and while the truth of how spoken language was born is still a mystery, there are some prevailing theories as to how it’s come about.



The first is of course Darwinism; that natural selection would mean that ancient humans who used better forms of communication would be more successful in what they did, such as hunting. The other theory is that as we evolved to deal with the likes of tool making or learning the rules of the world, our brains grew larger and our cognitive function increased and therefore our ability to create and understand more complex forms of talking to one another grew as well. What is likely is that it was a cross between the two, in that the capacity for language was already there, but natural selection refined the process, as a more advanced communicator would have an advantage to his grunting cousin.

Eventually these advanced grunts would morph into what we know now as the modern languages around the world, otherwise known as natural language. When a language is planned or artificial, it is called a constructed language. Normally this means that certain aspects are picked from different languages and put together, such as interlingua which uses a host of western European languages as its base and is comprehensible to those who speak the Romance Languages. Another example is the artistic constructed languages such as ‘Elvish’, a language created by J. R. R. Tolkien, which was based on Finnish, or ‘Klingon’, an almost completely made up language created by a producer of the Star Trek series; these languages are made to add a sense of realism to science-fiction/fantasy worlds.

From the grunting at each other thousands of years ago, there are now over 7,900 different living languages. We’ve come a long way.