Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Origins of Language

Where and when did human language originate? One way to tell is to analyze changing patterns in the number of phenomes – the distinct sounds that are used to form words - in languages around the world. According to recent research, the largest numbers of phenomes occur in languages in Africa, while the smallest are found in South America and Oceania. Coupled with knowledge of how and when human populations changed and migrated, the data are consistent with an African origin of language.

No surprise there, I guess. Modern humans originated in Africa, according to current thinking. This new data would imply that language developed before modern humans migrated from Africa more than 50,000 years ago. In fact the acquisition of language may have been what gave modern humans a distinct evolutionary advantage, ultimately allowing us to colonize the entire world.

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