Origin of language: How did languages originate?

Today, we are going to address a difficult topic: the origin of language. Many of us, at some stage, have stopped to think about how our ancestors began to speak? Ultimately, if there is something that differentiates us from other animals, it is the human language and the moment we had to begin using it…

We will discuss the origin of language, yes, but if you are looking for more concrete answers, you’d be better off asking an esoterism expert. Scientifically there are only theories of the origin of language, no evidence! We’ll start with them.

How did languages originate?

It is impossible to give an exact date as to when languages began. Some of the most important dates to think about are the following:

  • 400,000 years ago, the Homo erectus had already developed the Broca and Wernicke regions of the brain, which are important for the production and comprehension of speech respectively. Although it could be said that they were used for different functions
  • There are theories that posit the origin of language with the Homo sapiens, that are believed to have begun walking 50,000 years ago in Africa, after severe glaciation.
  • Other authors pose a possible, more simple protolanguage, 100,000 years ago.

Does speech originate from one language or from many different languages?

This is one of the first questions you should ask yourself when thinking about the origin of language. When we imagine an initial state, where language was developed, there are two completely disputing theories of the origin of language:

  • The monogenists argue that language came from one of the first human groups in Africa. This supports the idea that there was only one original language, which was broken down into different languages much later.
  • The phylogenesists place the beginning of language much closer to the origin of Homo sapiens. According to this theory, language came about after human beings. And they argue that there were different languages in different areas, all across the planet.

The first question to resolve is:

Does the origin of language come from just one language, or a number of linguistically diverse languages?

Individual words or chunks of sounds that are separating?

This is the final big question when wondering about what the origin of language is. We believe that our ancestors began speaking with individual words (such as fire or water, for example), but not all theories agree on this. We usually associate ontogeny (the development of an organism) with phylogeny (the development of the species).

In other words, just as children begin to speak using simple words with a simple reference, we believe that the first humans did the same.

However, some authors differ from these beliefs. They believe that human speech developed through long groups of sounds that denoted concrete situations.

These are sentences. And from these sentences, according to this theory, language was fragmented and generated words and lexicons, etc.

What is the correct position? That is your decision, whichever one convinces you more!


The origin of language is a mystery

Ultimately, you can believe in one theory or another, but it is difficult to have a concrete answer to how did language originate?

In any case, this does not mean that studying this field will not be useful to us: searching for answers to such difficult questions will give us other partial answers.

By studying the history of language, we can predict its future. We can also understand our history through lexical changes that have occurred in a language. What about inventing a new common language for everyone to communicate? And what’s new about social media language?

The origin of language is a mystery: ultimately you can believe in one theory or another, but it is difficult to really know how and when language originated.

About the author

Oscar Nogueras

Es el CEO de Ontranslation y dedica algunos ratos libres a escribir en este blog para compartir sus conocimientos sobre internacionalización, cross-border ecommerce y Traducción SEO. No es para menos, ya que entre su formación cuenta con una licenciatura en filología inglesa, un máster en tradumática, un posgrado en elearning y un MBA. En definitiva, una declaración de intenciones donde la cultura y los idiomas se sirven mezclados, no agitados.

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