- Ensayos de Calidad, Tareas y Monografias

Theories about the origin of human speech

Enviado por   •  6 de Julio de 2011  •  1.305 Palabras (6 Páginas)  •  2.476 Visitas

Página 1 de 6

The Origins of Language (by Yule)

Jespersen proposes that human language originated while humans were enjoying themselves. (Speculation) However, we do not know how language originated. We do know that spoken language developed well before written language.

Because of this absence of direct physical evidence, there has been no shortage of speculation about the origins of human speech.


a) The Divine Source

b) The natural sound source

i. The “bow-wow” theory

ii. The “pooh-pooh” or interjectional theory

iii. The “yo-heave-ho” theory

c) The oral gesture source

d) Glossogenetics

a) The divine source

In most religions there appears to be divine source who provides humans with language. In an attempt to rediscover this original divine language, a few experiments were carried out. The basic hypothesis was that if infants were allow to grow up without hearing any language then they would spontaneously begin using the original God-given language.

(see the two experiments in the copy. Page 2)

- Genie

- Critical period of language learning:

A Critical Period?

It has been suggested that there is a critical period for children to acquire their first language and that this extends into late childhood and possibly until puberty.

Linguistic deprivation

The suggestion is, however, difficult to test directly. This is because cases of so-called linguistic deprivation during childhood are (fortunately) rare. A study by Grimshaw, Adelstein, Bryden and MacKinnon in 1998 presented the case of a young male who had been profoundly deaf since birth and who grew up in a rural area where he received no formal education. He also had no contact with the deaf community. At the age of 15 years, the youth was fitted with hearing aids that partially corrected his hearing loss and he began to learn (verbal) Spanish. His language development was subsequently monitored over a four-year period. The researchers concluded that, at age 19 years, he demonstrated severe deficits in verbal comprehension and expression. This study, therefore, goes some way to supporting the critical period hypothesis.


We know that as a child matures, the language functions of the brain become lateralized, i.e. the speech and language centers become localized (for most people) in the left hemisphere. It is hypothesized, therefore, that the so-called neural substrate required for learning language is no longer fully available after the closure of the critical period. The end of the critical period of language acquisition, therefore, entails a loss of access to the language learning faculty (the so-called Language Acquisition Device).


Children who have been discovered living in isolation tend not to confirm the results of these “divine source experiments”. Children living without access to human speech in their early years grow up with no language at all.

b) The natural-sound source

i. The “bow-wow” theory”

Basic idea: This view is based on the concept of natural sounds.

The suggestion is that primitive words could have been imitations of the natural sounds. When an object flew by, making a CAWCAW sound, the early human imitated the sound and used it to refer to the object associated with the sound. Those words with pronounciations which seem to echo naturally occurring sounds could be used to support this theory. (Eg. Splash, bang, boom rattle, hiss, bow-wow, etc)


- Although a number of words in any language are onomatopoeic (echoing natural sounds), it is hard to see how soundless, or abstract entities could have been referred to.

- This view assumes that a language is only a set of words which are used as “names”for entities.

- There are quite few onomatopeic words

ii. The “pooh-pooh” or interjectioinal theory

The original sonds of language came from natural cries of emotion, such as pain, anger and joy. By this route, presumably OUCH came to have its painful connotations.


- Interjections such as Ah!, Hey!, Wow!, Yuck! are NOT uttered via the consonants and vowels we use in trying to write them down.

- They are produced with sudden intakes of breath (the oppposite of ordinary talk)

iii. The “yo-heave-ho” theory

The sounds of


Descargar como (para miembros actualizados) txt (9 Kb) pdf (83 Kb) docx (13 Kb)
Leer 5 páginas más »
Disponible sólo en