domingo, 2 de diciembre de 2007


The problem about the origin of man is a matter of such interest and investigation as the origin of language. The process by which anthropoids developed until being transformed in thinking and speaking beings, worthy of being called men, contains many stages and Scientifics are still carrying out researches with the aim of finding out a coherent and accurate explanation.
And, to a great extent, it also concerns Linguists, since what separate man from animals, among many other features, is mainly speech. This capacity is the intellectual evolution basis. It was used as an instrument for the whole superior mental capacity and made possible that it passed from the individual experience into the species. So the mystery about the origin of language is, at the same time, the mystery of humanization.
The possibilities that linguistics have the key to solve the problem of the origin of language and its oldest stages are very few since ancient times. Among animal voices and sounds and human language there is an enormous abyss. Scientifics have being devoted to languages of primitive people expecting to find out the original stages. But in most cases they have met very developed linguistic systems, usually extraordinarily complex, which constituted the trace from prehistory to here and now.
One of the first people who established a solid and scientific basis on this venture was Danish Linguist Otto Jespersen. In his research he concludes by saying that “the origins of language must no be found in the prosaic side of life, but rather in its poetry, speech didn’t emerge as a result of seriousness, but as a result of a happy day, of a falling in love stage”. What he wanted to explain by this statement was the fact that the beginning of language might be thought as a set of complex sounds, preferred in some specific situations from which it would have taken meaning. According to Jespersen, it might not exist a clear difference between speech and song, being both of them two shows of feeling which were getting into that what we know today as a linguistic character.
Other theories, such as “the natural sound hypothesis” which Bertil Malmberg gathers in his work “Language and Man”, argues that in its origins language was an imitation of the natural sounds men and women were exposed to. It makes sure that language is composed by onomatopoeic sounds. Jespersen refused this theory showing that words which were undoubtedly onomatopoeic in our language are, most of them, made up recently. Sapir also argued that there is a lack of onomatopoeic words in primitive languages.
Another important theory is that called “the theory of body language”. This theory is of a special relevance in this matter, and in the teaching foreign languages field since gestures and miming complete the act of communication filling the possible gaps they may occur in a communicative performance. Dutch Linguist van Ginneken argues that many primitive groups have a very developed language based on gestures and by means of them, they communicate with other neighbouring groups whose languages are unknown among the different tribes. Experts of some American Indian tribes tell that their members can spend days and nights talking, telling short stories, tales and events with the only help of gestures with hands, feet and head.
In some cases, it deals with a familiar language used as a means of communication among people simply because it is the only way to get in touch. Therefore, van Ginneken considers it as a very ancient phenomenon born and formed before the spoken word and kept until our days in some regions together with the spoken language. He also states that the speaking fact is not for these people something as evident and necessary for the mutual comprehension as it is for us.
We would like to mention as well one theory which points out the physiological and genetic evolution of our physical and, more specifically, our vocal tract which would be essential in the emergence of language. However, once again, we find some contradictions since, as Ginneken pointed out, the articulated language is not an essential condition for language itself. Braille writing and the telegraphic code, as any other kind of sign system, are means of communication in the same way as the articulated language and we do not need the phonic system to use them. This systems only need to be formed by conventional signs with the aim of being used by a group of people who constitute the linguistic unity.
The latest and more modern theory on the origin of language comes from Hungarian Psychologist G. Révész. He talks about the social origin of language. Language makes possible to get in touch with other social groups; a family, a tribe, a cultural circle, etc. He sees in the social field the primitive instinct which is fundamental for a language to be born, the need of getting in touch with the environment, which is, in the end, what leads the child to acquire the language of such environment. However, trying to solve the question about how language appears without having defined the concept of language itself is an impossible task, first of all we should know what is going to be solved.

2 comentarios:

Jesus el Rocker dijo...


Anabel dijo...

The earth was emptiness, but by a word spoken. That was what you meant, wasn't it?
A bear hug