Our translation agency Multilingual Office in Essen deals with languages from all over the world every day. We support our customers in communicating with each other. Language is so much more than mere spoken words. There are entire cultures behind it! This is something our interpreters and translators are certainly able to confirm. They are confronted daily with the nuances of the different languages, some of which are difficult to translate into another language. Therefore, the first question we have to ask ourselves is: how did the languages of our world come into being in the first place? We think this is such an interesting topic that we would like to share it with you here.
The reason why there are several theories regarding the origin of language
It is, of course, possible for linguists to decipher written and oral records. Since written records, and in particular audio records, do represent novel inventions, they will thus be unable to obtain ‘evidence’ of the true origin of the language. Since it was not documented either in writing or orally. We, therefore, need to find a different approach in order to get to the bottom of this issue. Below you can find the two most common theoretical approaches to the origin of language.
The Theories of Continuity
According to these theories, language must have evolved from prelingual systems due to its complexity. A pre-lingual system is, for example, the sounds of communication between animals. You will certainly agree with us when we say that animals can communicate with each other through sounds. For many years, biologists and linguists have been researching animal sounds and agree that this type of communication is not a language. It simply lacks complexity, including grammar and the ability to talk about eventualities.
The Theories of Discontinuity
Noam Chomsky is an advocate of discontinuity theories. The assumption here is that language had emerged all of a sudden and did not develop from prelingual systems, as assumed in the theories of continuity. Chomsky goes so far as to claim that 100,000 years ago a mutation in the brain of an individual triggered the ability to speak and understand language. Therefore, our languages would be a sudden whim of nature.
Which of these two theories do you consider more likely?