A Grand Question: How Did Language Evolve?

We still do not know how this most exceptional of human qualities arose. It has never happened before and there is so much unanswered still.

I close with the most complex sentence uttered by Nim Chimpsky, the ape raised as a human:

Give orange me give eat orange me eat orange give me eat orange give me you.

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Wait, apes (apart from humans) have a (limited?) speaking ability?

Some of Nim Chimpsky’s political views are even harder to follow.

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See here:

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I see what you did there, lol!

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@swamidass,

You do realize your article the difference between humans and chimps could have been published by the discovery Institutute right? There is common ground in this regard.

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It didn’t evolve! Adam spoke instantly.
The language question is not mysterious, even for a evolutionist.
Its nothing more then sounds used in combinations/so memorized by a intelligent being.
Thats the point. thats the problem with evolutionist ideas.
They have to have a evolving intelligence and then a evolving speech. They can’t have either one predate the other.
We simply have great thinking ability and its a trivial operation to put our thoughts into sounds. in fact birds do it quite fine.
i speculate adams language was a instat combination of thought and spirit. he made up his language on the spot.
by the way music reveals the spirit part of language. music is spirit trumping thoughts and so sounds are more stressed in particular unlike speaking.

What language? And to whom?

You would certainly enjoy this book:

Interesting book. A lot of reviewers liked the book although there were some criticisms that also sounded reasonable. The idea that language goes back to H. erectus (rather than the capacity for language being the result of a recent mutation) is intriguing. It sounds more natural and plausible, although I am not qualified to judge. Another book I’ll have to get.

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I actually spent 1/3 of coffee hr after church today talking with a friend over whether language evolved gradually or suddenly. He essentially took Everett’s position and I took Chomsky’s. :slight_smile:

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That is boring. Seems like you missed a chance to engage the grand question for yourselves!

Robert, you have very unusual views on language.

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They are biblical boundaries based on genesis. Then intelligence, even common sense, makes things clear.
As i said evolutionists have a terrible problem in claims about evolving language in humans.
What is, good for, a half language?? is it just more memorized sounds then your pet dog?
Creationism easily sees language as a trivial expression of sounds that are used to for a gloriously intelligent human being. Its memorized sounds.
language is not innate. evolutionism forces strange wrong reasons.

Some things you, write are stranger, than others.

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I assume you are asking, “What good is a language with only a very few components?” ANSWER: A very simple language can be extremely valuable. Let’s look at some examples of of very useful languages which are far less than “half [of a] language.”

(1) Imagine a language consisting nothing but a few dozen nouns, with singular and plural modifiers, such as the following examples, which would be very useful, especially when combined with a pointing gesture:

“Rabbit”
“Wildebeest”
“Elk”
“Squirrel”
“Snake”
“Fish”
“Lion!”
“Elephants!”
“Mushrooms”
“Taro”
“Turnips”
“Berries”
“Fire”
“Knife”
“Basket”
“Grindingstones”

(2) How about a language of nothing but verbs like these:

“Hunt”
“Sleep”
“Eat”
“Find”
“Pick”
“Give”
“Take”
“Trap”
“Skin”
“Kill!” [Saying the word more loudly conveys urgency.]
“Spear!”
“Go”
“Walk”
“Run!”
“Make”
“Basket”

(3) Take another step up and imagine a very simple language (call it a small percentage of a “half language”, aka Robert Byers) which consists of the vocabularies above plus the NOUN + VERB sentence structure:

“Hunt elk.”
“Spear lion.”
“Skin wildebeest.”
“Kill snake!”
“Take basket.”
“Find mushrooms.”
“Make fire.”
“Pick berries.”
“Trap squirrel.”
“Go fish.” [This was the origin of the first prehistoric card game.]

Thus, in answer to the question, “What good is half of a language?”, even very “primitive” languages could be
conducive to survival because they promote communication, cooperation, and organization within the band or tribe.

@Robert_Byers, do you now agree that even far less than “half of a language” would be extremely useful to survival?

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Let’s consider the role of “sounds” in a language. Linguists call them phonemes. There are 44 phonemes in the English language. (Even so, we write them using just 26 letters. That’s a major reason why learning to read and write English can be extremely challenging, especially for the non-native speaker.)

What about languages with far fewer than 44 phonemes? Some claim that Pirahã has the fewest phonemes of any extant language. It uses just three vowel sounds and only seven or eight consonants. (Determining the number of phonemes in a language can be quite complicated, so there are disagreements among linguistics.) If one assumes that there are eight consonants in Pirahã, then it shares the “Fewest Phonemes in a Modern Day Language” title with Central Rotokas. A more familiar language (at least to Americans) with a small number of phonemes is Hawaiian: just five vowel sounds and eight consonant phonemes.

Are those language more “primitive”? No. Pirahã, for example, is a tonal language, so a speaker employs variations in pitch to further modulate those few phonemes. It is quite easy to imagine the evolution of languages where just a few phonemes grew not only in number but in tonal variations. It is not difficult at all to imagine step-by-step progressions in human language complexity.

I’m tempted to spin this off to a new topic… :slight_smile:

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“Go spin!” [said Grog to Mog—and thus evolved the first prehistoric Internet forum thread.]

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Here’s Fuz Rana’s recent article on this topic. He points out that three scientists who have studied the origin of languages problem see major issues with language having evolved.

https://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/the-cells-design/read/the-cells-design/2018/10/10/can-evolution-explain-the-origin-of-language

Now you added names… that’s adds a whole new dimension. :slight_smile:

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Names are nouns which happen to apply to specific people, places, and things. We capitalize them in English and call them proper nouns. Yes, the social dimension of this noun sub-class can be viewed as a profound phenomenon. Personal identity is involved. (It is interesting to consider that most people assume that their pets know their own names. Do they? When someone calls Fido, does Fido think, “That’s me!”, or does Fido think that the word means, “Come running now!” because something good is going to happen, whether that be food, greetings, or play?)

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