With all this talk of language, what with Tom Wolfe’s The Kingdom of Speech coming out, here’s an interesting new approach:
From Sarah Knapton at Telegraph:
The discovery challenges the fundamental principles of linguistics, which state that languages grow up independently of each other, with no intrinsic meaning in the noises which form words.
But research which looked into several thousand languages showed that for basic concepts, such as body parts, family relationships or aspects of the natural world, there are common sounds – as if concepts that are important to the human experience somehow trigger universal verbalisations.
The study found, that in most languages, the word for ‘nose’ is likely to include the sounds ‘neh’ or the ‘oo’ sound, as in ‘ooze.’More.
Of course that doesn’t mean all these languages are descended from an original language. It’s more like convergent evolution: Similarity does not demonstrate ancestry apart from other evidence. In this case, it appear more likely that the languages cluster around a common subject or experience to be described.
See also: Scientific American: Chomsky largely overturned
Tom Wolfe on how speech let humans rule planet. Yet no one has any idea how language started.
Can we talk? Language as the business end of consciousness
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