Explore how six college students use the language of physical anthropology to study the human origins of language.

05 April 2011

Ding-Dong, Pooh-Pooh, Bow-Wow and Ta-Ta: An Overview of Different Theories on Language Origins

Some believe that language is a divine gift given to humans by God, while others argue that language is simply the product of many years of natural selection. Either way, at some point in evolution, humans developed the ability to speak. But how did it all start? How did humans first discover their ability to speak and begin to formulate the first language? Conceived by linguists, a number of “invention hypotheses” explain the possible ways in which language first originated in humans. The following are explanations of a few examples of hypotheses:


From the desk of Western Washington University professor Edward Vadja: “Linguistics 201: The Origin of Language”:
Four Imitation Hypotheses:
1. DING-DONG: The “ding-dong” hypothesis bases the origins of language on onomatopoeia. This idea states that language began when humans started naming objects after a relevant sound that was already involved in their everyday life. Examples include words such as “boom,” “crash,” and “oink.”

These represent the sounds of certain objects, but it is unclear how to provide onomatopoeia for silent objects such as a rock. It also does not consider abstract ideas like love or justice, as there are no sounds for these words. Also, this hypothesis does not supply words for grammar or abstract items in the English language, so it is not hard to imagine that these types of words are unusual and rare in most languages. Onomatopoeia is such a small part of linguistics and varies greatly from language to language.  Because of these limitations it is considered a limited hypothesis.

2. POOH-POOH: The basis for the “pooh-pooh” hypothesis holds true to the involuntary nature of human speech. Through emotional response, language and speech would have developed in tandem with human interaction and primitive emotional reactions. Such sounds as “wa wa wa” or “ha ha ha,” commonly used to denoted crying or pain and happiness or laughter, respectively, would then develop into a more unique and case-specific series of sounds in association with other emotions and interactions (Vadja).

The problem with this hypothesis, however, is that exclamations, such as the emotional responses that one might associate with these “pooh-pooh” phrases, are in fact dependent on language instead of a basis through which language can be created. For instance, the essence of emotional response for pain is “ouch” in English, “oi” in Russian and “eee” in Cherokee (Vadja). If there was a generalized emotional response that all people made independently of each other, then perhaps there would be some legitimacy to the argument. But those noises that we all do make based on the stimuli of sneezes or hiccups cannot demonstrate a common linguistic nature between peoples.

3. BOW-WOW: The “bow wow” hypothesis is the most popular but perhaps the most far-fetched hypothesis of them all. Basically, it is the idea that human language and vocabulary originated as a form of imitation. It is said that language came from the imitation of animal sounds.

The problem that arises in this hypothesis is that a lot of words that describe animal sounds in different languages are similiar. For instance, in English a pig makes the sound “oink-oink.” In Russian the sound is translated as “hyru-hyru” and in Chinese the sound is translated as “oh-ee-oh-ee.” As one can see, these words represent the sound of a single animal in different languages. The sound and pronunciation of these words are not similar. The overall idea is that one’s language determines how one interprets a sound, and since we have may languages, one cannot prove that human vocabulary comes from them.

4. TA-TA: As commonly seen in primates, hand gestures and body movement are important aspects of interaction and cooperation within societies. Originally hypothesized by Charles Darwin, though not necessarily supported by him, the “ta-ta” hypothesis states that language and the development of sound was generated to support the hand gestures and movements of the individual. So as to better demonstrate the meaning behind the gestures, these sounds progressed into more and more distinct words or combinations of sounds inevitably leading to speech patterns.

Although plausible like many of the other hypothesis, the cultural roots of varying hand gestures suggests that this is most likely not the reason behind language. Where in some places nodding means “yes,” in others nodding means the opposite. Such distinct cultural differences implies that this is not a sound hypothesis.
-- 


From the desk of Princeton linguistics professor Maggie Browning: “What is generative grammar?”
First theorized by Noam Chomsky, generative grammar is a field of linguistics that involves the functioning of rules and laws of grammar. The four sub-fields that comprise generative grammar include: phonology (the study of how languages sound), morphology (the study of how words are formed and what they mean), syntax (the study of the structure of sentences), and semantics (the study of linguistic meaning). This theory holds that a “language faculty” has run throughout humankind, and that every human is born with the ability to learn or create a language, which therefore points to similarities in all human language forms.

This theory allows linguists to separate the inherited aspects of grammar from the ones influenced by culture, surroundings or other outside factors. By observing all of the commonalities within the various languages across the world, anthropologists gain a unique insight into the interplay of language and the way cultures evolve.
-- 


From YouTube: “Chomsky LAD”:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdonf-4nkeE
This video explains Chomsky’s idea of the Language Acquisition Device (LAD), which proposes that all humans are born with an innate ability to learn and understand the structures of language.
-- 


Relevant Links:
“The Origins of Language”: http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/langorigins.html 
     Dr. C. George Boeree’s list of 10 differing theories on the origins of language
“Overview of modern theories of language origins”:
http://www.mcgregor.continuumbooks.net/media/10/modern_theories.pdf 
     Includes “yakkety-yak,” “noddy” and “looky-look” theories
-- 


Sources:
What is generative grammar?” (Maggie Browning)

46 comments:

  1. thanks for uyour information it is very useful to the ENGLISH LITERATURE student.

    ReplyDelete
  2. thank you sooooooooooooo much i really appericiate your help

    ReplyDelete
  3. Really helpful for my seminar...thankyou

    ReplyDelete
  4. THANK YOU . you help me a lot i m proud of that

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks so very much... this is helping for realz...

    ReplyDelete
  6. This blog awesome and i learn a lot about programming from here.The best thing about this blog is that you doing from beginning to experts level.

    Love from

    ReplyDelete
  7. very much useful for our type of people

    ReplyDelete
  8. There are rather different views on the origin of the language, but I think mostly it is due to the fast development of the phonetics. Follow the link to read more http://skywritingservice.com/blog/guide-how-to-learn-various-languages-simultaneously

    ReplyDelete
  9. Its useful for literature students. Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks a lot...this will be of much help during my seminar..thanks again

    ReplyDelete
  11. thanks alot .. its very usefull and massive effort the students are much needed

    ReplyDelete
  12. Please tell me about the tounge tie theoru of language tommorow is my seminar for this topic

    ReplyDelete
  13. Both “bow wow” and “ding dong” appear in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” as noises made by the Spirits in Act I, Scene ii. Shakespeare may have invented one or both of those terms himself.

    ReplyDelete

  14. I absolutely love your site.. Pleasant colors & theme. Did you make this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as I'm looking scr888 hack credit to create my very own website and would love to find out where you got this from or just what the theme is named. Many thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thanks a lot. You helped me out

    ReplyDelete

  16. If you wish for to obtain a great deal from this article then you have to apply these methods to your won website. The Gaming Club bears a license from the management of Gibraltar, and claims to be one of a pick few casinos that have a license from the Gibraltar government. A zealot of the Interactive Gaming Council (IGC), The Gaming Club follows every the guidelines laid next to by the organization, something that has later a long showing off in it innate certified as a good place to gamble online.

    Everything virtually The Gaming Club magnum 4d live feels good; be it the promotions, the big number of games, the multipart banking options on offer, the unprejudiced security measures, or the fair and responsible gaming practices the casino adopts.

    The Gaming Club motors along upon software developed by one of the giants of online gaming software progress Microgaming. The software it uses is avant-garde and has a range of features intended to adjoin your online gambling experience and create you want to come encourage after every round of gambling you realize here.

    Another hallmark of a good casino is the mood of its customer retain team, and The Gaming Club does not disappoint upon this front.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Fokas brain Cognitive Support – Do you end up experiencing difficulty focusing on the things around you? Do you have issues maintaining center around TV or daily papers? It can be disappointing to need to backpedal over and over to rehash or rewatch something you missed the main, second, or third time. What's more, in case you're examining, it can be much all the more disappointing. In the long run, you simply wind up concentrating on whether you're centering or not, and you're not engrossing any longer. In case you're experiencing difficulty with focus, it may be a smart thought to attempt a nootropic.
    The brain is the most important part of the body, because it controls every single function that occurs in it. However, even though it is easy to take part in brain teasers and puzzles, the brain starts to deteriorate at a slow but steady pace pretty early. This difficulty makes it hard to process certain functions, even as small as remembering certain details. While there are many foods that can inhibit the brain, the use of Fokas may help it.
    Nootropics are ending up increasingly prevalent in current society. The explanations behind that incorporate they don't have an indistinguishable symptoms from caffeine, and they're non-solution. Another nootropic accessible is Fokas Cognitive Support. It claims it can expand your vitality and your intellectual capacity. However, we'll disclose to you more about how nootropics function down underneath. The organization guarantees that Fokas Cognitive Support fixings are all-characteristic and free from destructive chemicals, fillers, and covers. In case you're stressed over Fokas Cognitive Support symptoms, counsel your specialist. In the event that you would prefer not to peruse any more about Fokas Cognitive Support, we comprehend your chance is important. You can tap the catch beneath to look at our most mainstream nootropic. https://slimssupplement.com/fokas-brain/

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thank you for helping me in simple way of this definition

    ReplyDelete