Theories about the origins of language
1. The mama theory. Language began with the easiest syllables attached to the most significant objects. 2. The ta-ta theory. Sir Richard Paget, influenced by Darwin, believed that body movement preceded language. Language began as an unconscious vocal imitation of these movements -- like the way a child’s mouth will move when they use scissors, or a tongue sticks out when you try to play a guitar. 3. The bow-wow theory. Language began as imitations of natural sounds -- moo, choo - choo, crash, clang, buzz, bang, meow... This is more technically referred to as echoism. 4. The pooh-pooh theory. Language began with interjections, instinctive emotive cries, such as oh! for surprise and ouch! for pain. 5. The ding-dong theory. Some people, including the famous linguist Max Muller, have pointed out that there is a rather mysterious correspondence between sounds and meanings. Small, sharp, high things tend to have words with high front vowels in many languages, while big, round, low things tend to have round back vowels! Sound symbolisms are as follows: itsy bitsy teeny weeny with moon. 6. The yo-he-ho theory. Language began as rhythmic chants, perhaps ultimately from the grunts of heavy work (heave-ho!). The linguist D. S. Diamond suggests that these were perhaps calls for assistance or cooperation accompanied by appropriate gestures. This may relate yo-he-ho to the ding-dong theory, as in such words as cut, break, crush, strike... 7. The sing-song theory. Danish linguist Jesperson suggested that language comes out of play, laughter, cooing, courtship, emotional mutterings and the like. He even suggests that, contrary to other theories, perhaps some of our first words were actually long and musical, rather than the short grunts many assume we started with. 8. The hey you theory. A linguist by the name of Revesz suggested that we have always needed interpersonal contact, and that language began as sounds to signal both identity (here I am!) and belonging (I’m with you!). We may also cry out in fear, anger, or hurt (help me!). This is more commonly called the contact theory.
9. The hocus pocus theory. Language may have some roots in a sort of magical or religious aspect of our ancestors' lives. Perhaps it began by calling out to game animals with magical sounds, which became their names. 10. The eureka theory. Language was consciously invented. Perhaps some ancestor had the idea of assigning arbitrary sounds to mean certain things. Clearly, once the idea was had, it would catch on like wild-fire! ______________________________________________________________ _______________ Written by :Tariq Hayat Lashari in 2002.