Friday, September 16

Where And When Did Language Begin?

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 - or you may believe it to be fact - but whatever, 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.'

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 it's 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. I'd say it's a combination of all of them.

  2. Pooh-pooh! Love that one! Interesting post, Mike.

  3. Refer to animals for their Precedents: dogs readily "pass on" info by symbolic actions, such as Marking territory, grimacing, growling and tail-wagging. Human Growl easily became a word, long after we "lost our tail"!