common ancestor

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by science man, Jun 30, 2011.


Do all languages of the world have a common ancestor

Poll closed Oct 8, 2011.
  1. yes

    6 vote(s)
  2. no

    3 vote(s)
  1. I bet I know what the results of this poll are going to be but I want to see if I'm correct.
  2. skaught The field its covered in blood Valued Senior Member

    We'll never know.
  3. I disagree. I hope that we will.
  4. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    I'd think that sign language would be one of the very first "languages" that developed.
  5. That's probably right, but then how did verbal languages develop?
  6. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    As they were using the sign language they were also making some kind of guttural sounds or noises as they were signing and from those grunts and sounds they slowly developed formation of some sort of words to use in conjunction with the things they were signing about. :shrug:
  7. MacGyver1968 Fixin' Shit that Ain't Broke Valued Senior Member

    We all have a common term for stubbing our toe....AHHHHHHH!
  8. John99 Banned Banned

    Well...i would say that usre they have a common ancestor in that they came from least as far as i can tell.
  9. Asguard Kiss my dark side Valued Senior Member

    A lot of pack preditors used vocal sounds to.coordinate attacks and other pack activities
  10. hmm I guess that does make sense. By the way, I forgot to ask before, if sign language was the first sign language, then how do you explain the different dialects. (e.g. American Sign Language is one dialect)
  11. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    If you follow the way humans migrated out of Africa and where they moved to, you'd see they were moving all over the Earth. I'd think that wherever those humans finally ended up and settled in , that would be where the differences come from. Each area picked up those sounds and noises differently and interpreted them in different ways as well. So the sounds for tree would be made by one group of humans who settled in China would be different from those who settled in Denmark since there was no interconnection between those groups for thousands of years.:shrug:
  12. So you're saying that their sign language broke into dialects because of the new sights and sounds that they experienced when they migrated around the world? If so, I find that hard believe. Why would the sights and sounds of nature and animals change their language?
  13. skaught The field its covered in blood Valued Senior Member

    It will never happen. How do you think it could possibly ever happen?

    The Dené-Yeniseian split shows that spoken language goes back at least 15,000 years. Languages have only been written down for maybe 6000 years. Without any earlier languages being written, we will never know them, without the aid of time travel. Even if we were to somehow try to reconstruct this language, the margin of error would be too high, so high in fact that it wouldn't even be considered. It would have to be reconstructed from reconstructions that were reconstructed from reconstructions.

    And not only that, but languages completely flip roughly every 10,000 years.

    Early languages were probably a combination of words, grunts, click sounds, and quite possibly hand gestures. Modern languages do not have grunts or hand gestures (except sign language, which does not count because it didn't descend from earlier hand-gesture languages, it was constructed), we can never know what these hand gestures, or grunts were. We can speculate hand gestures, i.e. a hand gesture that involves an open palm raised to the face and moved to the side of the body "may have" meant "sunset" in early language, but that is pure speculation.

    There is a small handful of click languages in southern and eastern Africa. One of which is the language of the San Bushmen in Southern Africa, who are most likely the direct ancestors of the first tribe that left Africa. But considering that humans left Africa roughly 60,000 years ago, we can't even assume that their language is anything like the first language(s) that might have been spoken by those people. Even if their language is a direct descendant of this language, it has most likely completely turned over, and probably more than a few times.

    The question of "will we ever know this language" is futile. We don't even know if there is a single common ancestor, and if there was, there is no way we will ever know it. We will never have answers to that.

    Like I said above, the Dené-Yeniseian split happened about 15,000 years ago. It is unlikely that we will find connections to language families any earlier than this. Because of the margin of error in reconstructing languages, we wouldn't be able to compare two early reconstructed languages, say Proto-Indo European, and proto Dené-Yeniseian (that is, if we even had a reconstructed proto Dené-Yeniseian).

    My opinion, and this is purely my opinion based on limited knowledge of the subject, is that early humans in Africa probably had a simple language that had limited uses. It was probably a language that was used to convey pertinent information such as "There are antelope over the hill, let us hunt them." It probably wasn't a language you could use to convey complex or abstract ideas. It wasn't until we started migrating out of Africa that we had need to convey such ideas. Such as planning ahead or talking about the past. As we continued to migrate, we encountered more things in nature, new landscapes, new animals, and new climates... and language progressed from there. As tribes split and went in different directions, they took this early language with them and as time passed, their languages changed to a point where two roaming tribes would not even be able to communicate. Now imagine these languages continuing to branch off and split for 60,000 years. No imagine that we don't even begin writing these languages down until 54,000 years later. Thats a lot of time for language to change, and grow.

    Just because you want to know what this first language was, doesn't mean we are ever going to find it. I'd like to know this language too. But i don't even waste my time or mental energy hoping that it will happen.
  14. Fraggle Rocker Moderator

    Deaf people have been inventing sign languages since at least 500BCE, but in general each one is developed independently. ASL was invented quite recently and is not a "dialect" of anything else. Australia, the UK and other anglophone countries have their own sign languages which are related to each other, but not to ASL.

    Sign languages are not derived from the spoken languages of the surrounding community. The syntax of ASL is more like that of Japanese than English.

    There is a gestural hypothesis that humans first developed sophisticated sign languages and then changed them into spoken language, but it's controversial. The main criticism seems to be that since other primates have fairly rich repertoires of vocal communication, it's hard to understand why our ancestors would have given that up, switched to hand signals, and then switched back later. One explanation offered is that as our Stone Age technology became more sophisticated, our hands were busy doing too many other things and could not be used for communication.
  15. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    I meant that when humans settled into an area, like China, those living there were just making their sounds that went along with the sign language which then were slowly modified into actual language. So every area that humans were living and not moving from created their own interpretations of the sounds they were using. As I said before I'm only speculating about this so perhaps some other way was used but since no one is around today and there are no writings that can factually tell us anything its all up to supposition and speculation on anyones part.
  16. Ok I suppose you're right. Ha I wonder how much success linguist-historians have on a weekly (or even monthly) basis.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 2, 2011

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