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What was the first language?

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posted on Aug, 16 2006 @ 07:45 PM
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Originally posted by djohnsto77
it's simply presented as a German offshoot.

Thats a good catch. In biology, there are linegages, ancestors leading to descendants and what not, but there is also something called 'lateral transfer', which works, like a lateral on a football field, by moving things within the same level. Bacteria that are distantly realted swapping whole sets of genes, for example. In langauge, a similar process occurs, with English being 'descended' from the germanic languages, but having lots of 'loans' from other languages, like French, both in terms of structure and actual words.

Whats really interesting is that there can be structure to this. In English, for example, we have Cows, which are animals, this word is lineally descended from the german stock, something like 'coo'. But the word for the flesh of the cow is Beef, which is a loan from french, "beouf" of some such. What happens in english is that the words for many livestock are germanic, but the words for the culinary preparation of them are french, presumably this is because the upper classes who had the food prepared for them spoke french, whereas the peasants retained the names for these common animals.


captinofcats
I assume evil was around before Latin?

Any old learning would've been learned in latin, even after the latin language had 'died' as a spoken language. THe texts that people of learning used were in latin, this is why latin is an acadmic language now. Also, because many texts were only available in arabic, they had to be translated into something that was understandable, and the learned in europe would've done any academic writting in latin, irrepsective of their native language being vulgar french, italian, etc.


pepsi78
now the tracians migrated from asia, which puts a question, was the first languege spoken in africa or in asia?

I think everyone agrees that the earliest language was spoken in africa first. That language could've spread with man into asia, but language wouldn't've originated in asia.
Any indo-european language is a relatively 'modern' invention, with respect to the original language anyway.


the oldest homo sapien is found in an area of daco tracien presence

?
The oldest homo sapiens are from africa.


CX
what is the earliest language that i can learn?

Isn't it funny how we can feel like we've had some progress, simply because we have, after discussion, a more precise question!?

This certainly has been a stimulating thread, good job starting it!
I'd think that the earliest language that can be effectively learned has to be one that is a written language with a deciphered script, and a relatively large 'library' of texts at that. That'd've to be the ancient egyptian language or the sumerian language. Ironically, the sumerian language, while translated, is an isolate, iow, not necessarily related to any other known language (though I think its hypothsized as being part of a large group called the 'elamo-dravidic' languages).


Whatever one i learn, i'd like to think that some day i can put it into practice too.

I can't imagine that there'd be much practical use out of knowing ancient egyptian or sumerian, or rather, I don't think that there is much demand for workers that can read it.
What other languages do you speak and read besides english?
I'd think that there is still use for being able to read classical latin, that'd make an extremely wide array of texts available to you. Arabic would do much the same. Sanskrit would also make a large selection of religious/philosophical texts open to you. And this is all to say nothing of chinese. I don't know how it works with the chinese languages, I think that Mandarin is the most common spoken dialect, but that, in china, there are many dialects, but only one system of writting, a person from one city might not be able to understand what another person is saying, but could allways read what they write.
Chinese would probably have the biggest practical use, you could read, presumably, many ancient texts and important modern texts. I don't know how much the chinese writting system has changed from its earliest days, but I think that it was developed at the end of the bronze age. Thats a lot of history that'd be available to you, and the language isn't 'dead' like sanksrit, latin, or ancient greek.


Would you consider the terms "writing system" and "language" different?

Definitly. Just consider the above, the peopel of china have the same writting system, but, some of them can't understand what others are saying, thats basically a different language.
Or, consider that the sumerians used cuneiform writting. They spoke sumerian, an isolate. The akkadians, speaking a semitic language, adopted cuneiform writting, and the hittites, speaking an indo-european language, also used cuneiform writting. Thats, ostensibly, three different language families, one writting system (of course, there are differences I am sure). Or consider that we are speaking English, but are using a phonecian writting system (the alphabet).


sayswho
I was surprised to read that Cuneiform was spoken.

Cuneiform isn't spoken, cuneiform is the name of the method and result of writting, that is, 'wedges'. Spoken lanaguages, like Sumerian, Akkadian, Hittite, are written using the cuneiform system. Any system could be used. Sumerian cuneiform could be read by sumerians, but not akkadians, even though they both used a cuneiform style of writting. Writting records a spoken language.


casualone
The oldest "spoken" language is......Symbolism!

This is an interseting point. Certainly, even without language, quasi-intelligent pre-humans could've made scratches in the ground, or smeared mud and pigment on rocks, to depict 'antelope' 'man with spear' etc.


st udio
Go rent a video titled 'Clan of the Cave Bear',

OR, my recommendation, "The Quest for Fire". That movie is interesting in this repsect because it doesn't invovlve anything like an understandable language, whereas clan of the cave bear almost does, and I beleive it has narration (no?) which TQFF does not. The people creating TQFF actually tried to 'reconstruct' a proto-language too. Fire, the object of the movie, is called after as "atra", they figured that fire is the source of all art and technique (ala prometheus in the myths), arts=atra. Of course, the arts and technology aren't called anything like 'art' outside of teh indo-european langauges (nor even beyond a small subgrouping of it at that).
But still, the movie is excellent in showing man before language or on the cusp of it.




posted on Aug, 16 2006 @ 07:54 PM
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Didn't read the replies to this thread, just the top post. But the first language was the one before Babelon fell, where the people have since been scattered and spoke in different tongues.

That is theologicially speaking of course, as the source is a religious document. How ever what that language had been, was the single language all human spoke then.



posted on Aug, 16 2006 @ 07:55 PM
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The oldest homo sapiens are from africa.

I was refering to the oldest homo sapien in europe, I am aware that there are much older fosils discovered in africa.
But I can not agree with 100 precent that the first languege evolved in africa, it might be that it did evolve in africa, but no one can be sure, homosapiens started to migrate from africa before the neadertal became extinct, that would indicate that the languege may have developed in some other place.
There was no presence of civilisation at the time of the neadertal, but the homo sapien did migrate at that time which would indicate that the first languege might of sparked out anywhere.



posted on Aug, 16 2006 @ 11:16 PM
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I am just not seeing why we should think that there were homo sapiens without langauge. I'd think that language even pre-exists homo sapiens.



posted on Aug, 17 2006 @ 06:57 AM
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Originally posted by Nygdan
I am just not seeing why we should think that there were homo sapiens without langauge. I'd think that language even pre-exists homo sapiens.


It's a real mystery isn't it? Or, perhaps better put, we just don't know where language came from. Some of the explanations that have been offered are put forward themselves by professional linguists. Right now, we just don't have enough data to say, "aha, that's it!" But, between archaeology, work in genetics, cognitive science, and further work in historical linguistics, this part of our past is becoming a little more intelligible.

One possibility that I've always been intrigued by, is that language developed as part of rhythmic chants used by work crews in early human communities. People would chant to generate a rhythm for often laborious work, and this chanting kind of co-evolved both music and language. Different chants lead to different meanings, which lead to language. There is a scene in the movie Kundan that's always illustrated this well for me. The young Dalai Lama is looking out from his palace, and sees a work crew on a roof. The workmen using some sort of heavy device to stomp the roof flat. They are all singing a song to keep the rhythm of their work going. With this theory, language is thought to have only really developed with the first, settled, proto-agraian communities, where that sort of work would have been called for.

We know that homo sapiens engaged in symbolic activity for much of our history. But where does language fit in? Or is language necessary to engage in that symbolic activity? It would be great to have a time machine to figure all this out.



posted on Aug, 17 2006 @ 11:31 AM
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Interesting discussion on an interesting topic.

That said - and it's been touched on a bit - my thought would be that sign language was the first language.

Eventually sounds that meant the same thing as hand signals came into being.

Pretty simple - and an obvious statement - but I've always been fascinated that you could take 5-6 guys who spoke different languages, none of them having roots in the others language, forming up a hunting party and striking out after game.
Most times a leader would come to the fore pretty quickly, but the real interesting part is that none of the hunters would have any difficulty communicating with the others via simple hand signals that are probably the same ones used today.

Hunting, especially so in ancient times didn't really need or want any speaking going on which would disturb the game.

So with the men off hunting in a self-imposed silent mode, perhaps the women remaining behind deserve the credit for initiating spoken languages.
Even today, women are the better communicators, part due to their skill with language as well as their intuitive capabilities.

I do note that men have fairly well developed intuitations, but don't get credit for it like women do.
Perhaps male intuition is not as good as woman's intuition - and it's an arguable point - but note that even today, men work well together and speaking is not always required.
Especially so when both are fairly well versed in the particular project at hand whether it's hunting or simply building something.
Maybe it's male intuition, but more probably it's familiarity with the subject at hand.

A pair of males will work together on a project without speaking and if one is doing most of the tool use, the other will supply tools and parts as needed.

Women do somewhat the same, but they usually speak about things as they're going along even if both are equally skilled in the project at hand.

Once again, we find ourselves at Gender Gap, a for-real place and even if you know where you're at, you can still be lost....



posted on Aug, 18 2006 @ 09:12 PM
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I doubt if it will ever be known what the first spoken language was but I imagine it was spoken in Africa. 2 things had to happen for language to occur, a modern larynx had to develop and a cerebral evolution had to occur. We can date anatomically modern humans to roughly 100,00 years ago. So before this date language that we would consider modern (as opposed to a language resembling that of our primate ancestors , grunts chirps etc) may have been impossible. I think the latest date that we can say language developed would be around 35,000 to 40,000 BC coinciding with the flowering of art and shamanistic practices in human populations. So in my view that gives us about 30,000 years of language before we even start mentioning those languages that served as the forerunners for the first civilizations.
Someone may correct me but isn't sumerian the earliest written language we have?
In fact, the earliest literary tradition ( a writing tradition that goes beyond scribes inventorying granaries) is sumerian...Epic of Gilgamesh etc. So, IMO, as far as the evidence tells us we can only say the first language developed between 100,000 and 35,000 years ago, most likely in Africa,Europe,or southwest Asia. Is that vague enoguh



posted on Aug, 18 2006 @ 09:48 PM
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Originally posted by CX
Could someone please tell me what the earliest known speakable language was?



CX, I might have an answer for you...and I do believe it's out there for you to learn. The San (Khoisan) people of Africa could very well hold the key to the Proto language.

Material exists online about these people and their surviving 'Click' language...but it's likely a difficult lingo to take on. Great for hunting, though, as this link shows.


faculty.ed.umuc.edu...

In Click Languages, an Echo of the Tongues of the Ancients

March 18, 2003
By NICHOLAS WADE


Do some of today's languages still hold a whisper of the ancient mother tongue spoken by the first modern humans? Many linguists say language changes far too fast for that to be possible. But a new genetic study underlines the extreme antiquity of a special group of languages, raising the possibility that their distinctive feature was part of the ancestral human mother tongue.

-snip-

Dr. Knight suggested that clicks might have survived because in the savanna, where most click speakers live, the sounds allow hunters to coordinate activity without disturbing prey. Whispered speech that uses just clicks sounds more like branches creaking than human talk. Clicks make up more than 40 percent of the language and suffice for hunters to convey their meanings, Dr. Knight said.



Edit to include 'Khoisan'

[edit on 18-8-2006 by masqua]



posted on Aug, 18 2006 @ 09:57 PM
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Originally posted by Desert Dawg
Interesting discussion on an interesting topic.
Hunting, especially so in ancient times didn't really need or want any speaking going on which would disturb the game.

So with the men off hunting in a self-imposed silent mode, perhaps the women remaining behind deserve the credit for initiating spoken languages.
Even today, women are the better communicators, part due to their skill with language as well as their intuitive capabilities.


That reminds me...I'm I read somewhere a theory that women developed language so they could gossip about men. For example a mother could tell her daughter that her husband was screwing around with the neighbor woman when she was off to gather roots or get a pail of water or something...take it for what it's worth.



posted on Aug, 19 2006 @ 10:27 AM
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Originally posted by djohnsto77

Originally posted by Desert Dawg
Interesting discussion on an interesting topic.
Hunting, especially so in ancient times didn't really need or want any speaking going on which would disturb the game.

So with the men off hunting in a self-imposed silent mode, perhaps the women remaining behind deserve the credit for initiating spoken languages.
Even today, women are the better communicators, part due to their skill with language as well as their intuitive capabilities.


That reminds me...I'm I read somewhere a theory that women developed language so they could gossip about men. For example a mother could tell her daughter that her husband was screwing around with the neighbor woman when she was off to gather roots or get a pail of water or something...take it for what it's worth.


Perhaps our colleague Byrd can fill us in, but a written version of Chinese that has been primarily used by women has just began receiving attention relatively recently called Nu Shu.

en.wikipedia.org...

I don't think it's completely free of controversy in terms of how it's understood, and I don't know much about it myself. But, it certainly seems interesting.



posted on Aug, 19 2006 @ 11:11 AM
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Well it certainly seems possible that in ancient hunting and gathering cultures separate languages suited to the role of each sex could evolve within the same group of peopls with a more simple pigeon type language just used for communication between the sexes. With the advent of agriculture the languages would then likely merge into one.

[edit on 8/19/2006 by djohnsto77]



posted on Aug, 21 2006 @ 05:29 PM
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Hey Gents,

You guys got my brain churning so I thought I'd repay the favor. I did a little reading and came up with a couple of things:



William H Calvin: The Emergence of Intelligence

Which in turn lead me to the book store and the current Special Edition of Scientific American: Becoming Human.......(on selves until Sept. 19, 2006)

A couple other interesting reads in the mag:

Kate Wong- The Morning of the Modern Mind

Ian Tattersall- How we came to be Human Quick Info on Ian Tattersall

Happy Hunting!



posted on Aug, 21 2006 @ 06:12 PM
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we've seen a large variety of "origins" for the first language. So howbout this one:

Language arose from early man's desire to use profanity, but being unable to articulate the correct word for it.

In other words, the four-letter words came first.



posted on Sep, 1 2006 @ 10:46 AM
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Hi Guys all your posts made interesting reading,unfortunately "Tamil " the living classical language came up nowhere in the discussion. Hence i thought i would offer my insight in this scholarly discussion.

Tamil's origins are independent of Sanskrit (which is from the Indo-European language family and the ancestor of many Indian languages). The oldest available book on Tamil Grammar is Tolkaappiyam, which is said to be the world's oldest surviving grammar for any language, published c. 6th century BC.

The earliest records date from inscriptions from 200 BC. Other early works exist, which were preserved on manuscripts made by palm-leaf and through oral transmission. Part of this rich and varied literary output includes a Tamil indigenous grammatical tradition independent of that of the ancient Sanskrit grammarians. The earliest text which describes the language of the classical period is the Tolkappiyam (dating from around 200 BC); another dates from the year 1000 AD.

Three stages appear in the written records: ancient (200 BC to 700), medieval (700 - 1500) and modern (1500 to the present). Sometime between 800 AD and the turn of the millennium, Malayalam, a very closely related Dravidian language, split off and became a distinct language.

During the medieval period, Tamil absorbed many loan words from Sanskrit in the verbal system, but in the 1900s attempts were made to purge Tamil of its Sanskrit loans with the result that modern scientific and bureaucratic terminology is Tamil-based and not Sanskrit-based as in other Indic languages.

Quite significantly for its age, Tamil seems to have undergone minimal changes and adaptations over the years. Classical Tamil is quite comprehensible to speakers of the modern language. The ancient Tamil book Tirukkural is an example. The verses from the book are often taught to young students of the language at the primary level, and they pick up the lines in the ancient dialect with little difficulty.

Many English words including katamaran and ginger are originally from tamil (Kattu maram - logs tied together, Ingi).



posted on Sep, 1 2006 @ 11:18 AM
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With written evidence at 200 BC, you'd have to posit several millennia with no evidence . . .

We have Greek, Minoan from the ~1000 - 1400 BC

Egyptian Hieroglyphics from ~2000-2500 BC

Texts from Mohenjo Daro even older.

Generally, it seems that really ancient languages give rise to numerous "daughter" languages. Examples would be proto-indoeuropean, or the Mayan writings of Yucatan, which were used throughout the region, for related and later languages.

Notice that I'm not saying Tamil isn't just as old.


I'm only pointing out that there's no evidence of it.



posted on Sep, 1 2006 @ 01:18 PM
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the earliest dates from the script used at Mohenjo Daro (the indus) are from around 3200bce, and at that stage it was extremely primitive
Sumerian is attested from 3500bce
psd.museum.upenn.edu...
at which point it is already a fully formed language
proto sumerian script which developed into sumerian cuneiform dates from a thousand years earlier

but in any case
these are alphabets and not languages

the first language in any case doesn't belong to the human race
it belongs to Cetaceans who evolved millions of years before us and who's language in many cases is far more complex than our own to the point that we are only now with the aid of modern technology beginning to understand it
www.interspecies.com...



posted on Sep, 1 2006 @ 01:40 PM
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Originally posted by Marduk

the first language in any case doesn't belong to the human race
it belongs to Cetaceans who evolved millions of years before us and who's language in many cases is far more complex than our own to the point that we are only now with the aid of modern technology beginning to understand it
www.interspecies.com...



I'll see your mammal and raise you the thecodonts.

Birds are older than mammals, and the universality of vocalizations across the reptile and avian families argues persuasively for primordial vocal communication. Beats the mammals by a hundred million or so, right?

.



posted on Sep, 1 2006 @ 02:16 PM
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at some point we're going to need a definitive description for what constitutes a language
i don't think thecodonts count because theres no proof that they could utter a sound, unless you've been watching those lying documentaries with Nigel Marvin
Birds possibly but they only have five diferent noises

five categories of bird language include the following: songs, companion calls, intra-species conflict calls, begging calls, alarm calls

so theyre a bit limited discussion wise
cetaceans on the other hand even have regional accents
www.livescience.com...

anyway i'll see your thecodont and raise you an amoeba
www.sciencenetlinks.com...


Communication is so important that even the amoeba (an organism made up of a single cell) communicates with other amoebas by chemical discharge. By doing this, one amoeba attracts others to it for reproduction.


~~~~~~~~~
Mod Edit - 'ex' tags

[edit on 1-9-2006 by masqua]

[edit on 1-9-2006 by Marduk]



posted on Sep, 1 2006 @ 04:28 PM
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Nicely played.

You know, the level of background radiation, ostensibly from the big bang, is at the precise level it would be, if the universe were spontaneously generating matter as it expands . . .

Could that be the universe's way of communicating that we'll never know . . .

Nope. I know, sorry. It's just too much of a reach.

I think we're on a lot sounder footing with human language; and even there, we'll basically never know, since human speech naturally changes over time. . .



posted on Sep, 9 2006 @ 11:12 PM
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Linguists trace linguistic lineage by looking at commonalities between languages. A major commanility between indo-european tongues is that their names for trees appear to come from the same root. So were the speakers of the big-mother tongue forest dwellers?

Nostratic (the proto-language) is a supposition. There might not have been a proto-language. It's quite possible seperate groups of humans developed individual proto-languages independently. This makes sense when you consider that the human brain is hard-wired to produce language.

Saying that, one researcher arguing in favour of Nostratic has pointed out that a lot of languages begin interogatives with a K sound. Consider Japanese and French (I don't know japanese, but I read it's the case). English appears to be an exception (Wot?), but I believe that we originally used the K sound too. Then again, maybe it's a neural tendency to use K for interogatives.



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