Wednesday, June 8

The First Language Ever Spoken On Earth

Psamtik I
Psamtik I
So, how come Adam and Eve could talk to each other or understand the words of God?

Okay, you may say that it's just a story, or perhaps a myth but language must have started somewhere.

The origin of speech, however, is a bit of a mystery. There are theories, of course, most with strange names such as bow-wow, yo-he-ho, la-la and pooh-pooh - yes, really.

The bow-wow theory claims that the first human language was made up by imitating animal sounds; you-he-ho states that it all began with rhythmic chanting while working together; the la-la theory says that language originated in sounds connected with romance and music and finally pooh-pooh suggests that the first words were instinctive noises brought about by strong emotions such as anger, pain and the like.

We may not know the answer to the beginnings of language but the Basques, in Spain, also have a theory.

Basque has no known relationship with any other language, so it's unique. Their folk lore, however, has the solution: it was what was spoken by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It was brought to the area by Tubal, who was the fifth son of Noah's son, Japheth. Well, it's as good an answer as some of the other theories, and there is sometimes an element of truth in myths and legends, if we can see through the symbolism.

Old fragments of documents show that Basque appears to be unchanged from the 10th Century at least. It's a difficult language for English speakers and Europeans to learn because of unfamiliar pronunciation and grammar. It has a lot of 'z' and 'tz' sounds. The Basque's call their language Euskara which means 'clear-speaking.'

I've got an interest in the beginnings of language, at the moment, as I have a 10 month old grandson and it's interesting to observe how he expresses himself prior to saying any full words. He will eventually, though, copy his mum and dad.

It's said that in the 7th Century Psamtik I, the Egyptian king at the time, took two new born babies and gave them to a shepherd for safe keeping and to be brought up in complete isolation. Psamtik wanted to discover what language the children would speak if they were left to their own devices. He thought that whatever it was would be the original language of the human race.

After the babies were two years old they were heard to pronounce a word that sounded like becos. This was identified as meaning 'bread' in central Turkey by the Phrygians.

The conclusion was that the Phrygian language must have been the first ever spoken. But not really that convincing, is it? But no one has come up with a much better solution, other than the Basques.

Nowadays scientists would probably say that language first started about 40,000 years ago - but with no written proof, it's still a mystery. And I just can't imagine it's pooh-pooh!

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  1. Anonymous17:46

    Bow-wow and pooh-pooh? Interesting stuff on your blog.

  2. Lots to think about and consider in this post. I do wonder about it though...and have since my granddaughter was born...she has a language all her own that seems to be understood quite well by other children...but I remain hard pressed to figure out what she is saying. We anxiously wait for her first words...she's 28 months old...kinda late. But she does seem to get her point across!!
    Hope your little young'n is doing well.

  3. cool post. The basque theory is as good as any other!

  4. Anonymous04:30

    I've heard a slightly different story about the Egyptian king; apparently the children weren't given any interraction apart for their needs being cared for and died due to their isolation. Biblically speaking, the isolation of Basque is a null point: Babel confused the language of the various people's, so that would mean the original language was in essence the root of those languages, and rather than lacking a relationship to any other language would actually relate to each and everyone one of those ancient tongues. Then, again, maybe God replaced the original language with completely new ones, in which case we'd be looking for a language that hadn't survived to the days of writing and thus would be undecernable, apart from potential references written in other languages.

  5. 40000 is a very long time to go back! as far as I know the Indian language Tamil has proof of existence for the last 20000 years!!


  6. The term is to be recognized from unknown dialect; etymologist Eric Lenneberg uses second language in his basic period theory to mean a language deliberately learned or utilized by its speaker after pubescence. Widely Spoken Languages In The World