There are many hypotheses about the origin of the language. However, there so far is no agreement on any. Human is the only animal that has an ability to speak. Without this gift even today the mankind would have been in its primordial state. But what is the origin of languages? There have been fierce disputes on this issue, so much so that in 1866 Linguistics Society of Paris had banned debate on this issue. Many have tried to search linguistic roots in remote mythologies, biblical is famous among others. Psychologists have suggested that the language is an innate need of the human being. But it doesn’t solve the question as to why this innate need and quality to emerged only in human being and not in other animals? Some have tried to find its origin in human genetic structure. This is treated as the hardest problem in science.
Without going into the various aspects of the debate and multiple theories, we will have an overview of this problem and try to find whether there can be any solution to this problem or not.
We have to agree with the supporters of Continuity theory that the languages didn’t originate all of sudden. It must have been a gradual process, from simple to complex. It is a natural process and there is no reason to disagree with it. Some theories suggest that languages did not originate to establish the dialogue with others but to express the self. Discontinuity theory suggests that the languages must have originated during the process of evolution as a sudden event at some stage. Other theories relate the origin of the languages with primordial utterances. Sounds are symbols and to understand that symbolism in any given language which forms or conveys the certain meaning which is understood and reacted over in same sound symbolism is the language. But how human being achieved that ability to use sound symbols as a mean to convey remains as yet a mystery.
In human evolution, there are many stages. Some are missing links. It is not that it was unidirectional evolution. The process begins with hominids and halts with modern human species. It is suggested that Neanderthal man had an ability to create complex sounds. Also, it is suggested that there could have been interbreeding between Neanderthal man and the Homo sapiens. Whether Neanderthal man extinguished from the face of the earth because he could not compete with Homo-Sapiens or whether they mingled with each other is a question that is not as yet satisfactorily solved. If both the species had an ability to speak, we can infer, if they interbred, the genes of the language too got mixed to give way to the future linguistic structures.
The language is mostly spoken and also is written in symbols to which certain sounds are denoted. But the first thing is sound. Human species have the larynx that has the ability to produce complex sounds with the help of the tongue and mouth. We find no other animal have the larynx of such complex ability. Larynx too could have been evolved with the growing need of the human being.
Language always is in mind. When in mind it doesn’t have any symbol. The language remains abstract till the process of the thinking and an urge to express is created. Identifying the sound symbols sequencing them in the specific order, the process of the speech is completed. The mind is the constant flow of temporal feelings, thoughts and expressions those not necessarily intelligible to the human species. The language of mind could be far different, beyond our comprehension. They are later translated to us in the language we know. When needed we express it through the series of sounds, whether vocal or written. So this is the basic process of the languages.
It is assumed that the processing of the language is interdependent between various centers in the brain. Not a single center is responsible for its origination and development. We can see that this doesn’t help us to solve the problem of origin.
We have to understand human being has an ability to give meaning to the visible world, sounds and it is the psychological process that constantly symbolizes them. Let us also assume that the natural limitations to survive have been compensated with intellect. The primordial humans must have gone through the harsh and adverse conditions for survival. However, we just cannot imagine now how he would have taken those circumstances and finding ways to be able to control them.
The explosion of linguistic qualities in the human brain could be a sudden event that may have taken place at very early stage of evolution. It has been argued from fossil records that Neanderthal man had the larynx that could produce sufficient sounds to make a speech. Cave paintings and artifacts show that he was quite expressive. The argument is he, Neanderthal man, must have some kind of primitive language.
Language couldn’t have emerged just out of imitation of babbling. The quality of human species is, he has intense feelings and an urge to express. The certain expression patterns through the sounds that could indicate some certain object or event could have made the first language. So thought and language could have the close relationship. The environment too has hand in the development of the language. I will show how the local geographies too are responsible for shaping up the language in different patterns. Early human being was the nomad, true, but his roaming was mostly within the known boundaries. We have to understand the significance of geography with the language.
The language was not certainly an innate need of the human being. Innate need to him was survival against all odds. He selected his way of survival by making bands and coordinated efforts. There also are bands of other animals like foxes, antelopes and monkeys. They too have rudimentary sound-languages. They use it to caution others when danger is imminent. They utter differently when lovemaking or just responding to others. They have the language of some rudimentary kind that is not comprehended by us. But they lack in developed vocal chords and so the brain capable enough to process the sounds further. Human species have crossed these borders in the process of evolution for his imminent need of the survival.
Thus language is a product of human psychology. The psychology is related with the way mind functions and mind is solely dependent on our brain to which we have not yet understood fully. However, language is a fact and we have to proceed with this fact.
The major question here is, if human species is unique and same, why there are over six thousand languages in the world? Why people of certain region speak some language which is not exactly similar to the language of the people just located at bordering regions? Why some sounds are missing in some languages whereas they are most prominent in the languages spoken in the adjoining regions? For example, some languages have retroflexes and some are devoid of them.
Why there is not a single universal language if human species have everything in common? Why there are so many groups of the languages and several hundred branches of each group?
We will have to deal with this question more elaborately because some theories wide in circulation have deliberately misused the fact by misrepresenting for supremacist political reasons, though it is not a good science.
To conclude here, we have to check it up first with the psychology of human species that is instrumental in origination and control the process and expression of the language. Psychology is overall functioning of the brain that is instrumental in deciding the priorities for the body and mind. And priorities of survival against all odds decide how to use the available integral resources causing further evolution through the modifications and innovations. The evolution of the brain and associated organs must have been a process that must have taken toll of the millions in the route to attain the utmost possible qualities. It may have been continued process or discontinued or it could have been developed through interbreeding within the different human-like species of ancient times. We have not any concrete evidence as yet to inform us what exactly did happen in those times, but the fact remains that we have language and since known history, we can see the changes in the same language.
Our psychology governs the language we speak. Our organs, such as larynx and jaws, decide how it would be uttered. With region to region, we find these physical features do change. Some people utter a word differently or simply cannot utter. Physical features are governed by the climate and geography of the people they live in over generations. Mexican accents would not be same as of the New Yorkers. The slightest difference in physiology would make the noticeable difference in pronunciation patterns.
We have different languages classified in different families. We have the languages classified under one group and yet they are incomprehensible to the man who speaks the language belonging to the same language group. In fact, though there is the universal man with all the similar characteristics but there is no single common language in the world.
We have to first account for such changes.
The fact is there are changes in the same languages with region to region, though they collectively are labeled as belonging to the same language family. Every language for that matter is a group of dialects. The group of the languages represents the languages those have some common morphological features. To be a part of any group of the languages geographical closeness is not warranted.
And it is prominently claimed that the spread of some language is because of the population movement in remote past. It is claimed that Proto-Indo-European language speakers were settled at some hypothetical place and for unknown reasons migrated to different directions and wherever they reached PIE did spread. Though there is a dispute over what the original homeland of PIE speakers was, there so far is no dispute over the spread of the language to form a distinct group.
Though I strongly object to this hypothesis on the scientific and logical grounds, for time being let us be with this theory for time being.
If some people, speaking some proto-language spread for reasons, wherever they went the basic structure of the languages spoken in the areas they settled must be the same. Linguistic biology is sometimes invoked while proposing this theory of IE group of the languages. Even if this considered being true, I have following points:
1) The PIE languages, after spread, formed regional varieties. How this process would have taken place?
2) Though unknown is the basic structure of the PIE language, the affinities in the group languages is striking in some cases whereas vague in many. They painfully have to establish the relationship with artificial reconstructions of the proto-language.
3) The differences are noticeable with region to region, such as the IE’s spoken in European countries and in India in different regions.
4) There are intermediary blocks where unrelated to surrounding group languages are spoken. Brahui, Munda, etc. are the examples those are surrounded by IE language speakers. Their so called isolation or migration from some place to other is not an answer to this vital problem. If PIE language spread across the globe with a process why the same couldn’t have been applicable to such odd cases?
To sum up, even if we accept the group of language theory we find there are regional varieties, somewhere very striking somewhere vague. Not that the group languages are intelligible to all to those who are part of that so called group. And this doesn’t solve a question, why there are regional varieties of the same language and why it did take separate path?
I think, this is the major question linguistic scientists should give more attention at. A most probable answer offered is, wherever PIE speakers went they mingled with local populations, borrowed and improvised their vocabularies and the language grew thereafter unique and yet biologically related with PIE language. If we consider this also to be true, we have to assume that wherever PIE speakers went, subjugated or overwhelmed the local populations thus subduing the local languages. They borrowed from them but kept their basic structure of their own language undisturbed. Because of the local languages PIE bred with became different and yet it could maintain its own superiority.
But we must understand here that in disguise of PIE language expansion theory nothing new is told to us than what Aryan race Theory was telling. In a way we are stalled here. They are telling us the same story in different words. It doesn’t talk of the psychology of the language. Rather it believes that the languages can be imposed, so much so that the native languages can lose their original basic structure except leaving some traces of the vocabulary. But the fact about IE languages is that they too then have lost their original structure, whatsoever hypothetically it was in its origin!
We need to look into the problem of the languages from the different point of view. The need arises because the present postulations are lame in their arguments and proofs. The Spread of some language speaking people to produce a group of the languages across the territories is an easy answer to a complicated question. It does not take into the consideration linguistic psychology.
It eludes the basic question, how some language that was so powerful to influence others could have been originated and among whom and where?
The geography of the PIE language is as yet uncertain and hypothetical. There cannot be the proof from material remains of the culture as to what languages the people were speaking in those times. The available proofs, the language of Avesta, Rig Veda and the treaty of Bogazkoy or Horse Manuel of Kikkuli tells us far less if not more. Language and contents of Avesta and Rig Veda tells us just their geography being close and that language of Rig Veda, though close to the Avesta, is significantly modification of later times. The language of Bogazkoy treaty tells us that some deities and demons and numeric from the east were known to them. We cannot take it as a solid proof of Aryan Language expansion theory. It doesn’t tell us why in certain close geographies IE could not spread! Geographically the Semitic language speakers and Dravidian language speakers are very close to the so called IE speakers and they have interactions from millenniums and yet we find there is no remarkable influence of IE languages on them.
It could not do so just because the influence of the human psychology on the languages they develop and speak is highly matters than anything else. Learning a different language is a different issue. What we are discussing here is why the languages are different in different regions.
To conclude this chapter we can sum up as:
1) Language is psychological phenomenon supported by the physical organs.
2) Though genetically human being is same (The variation amounts for just 0.50%) the languages show the variety of differences. There are over 6000 languages in the world distributed in several families.
3) Local geological features do govern the general psychology of the people that reflects in local culture and the language.