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Free «Evolution of Language» Essay Sample

Darwin tried to explain the origin of human life and language through his evolution Theory. He stated that both plants and animals have a common ancestry. According to Darwin, These simple forms of life underwent evolution and formed more complex organisms. Biological changes took place and psychological advancement set in (Arbib & Bota, 2003). Charles Darwin suggested that human beings evolved from simple forms to apes, and then finally became man with complex brains. These complex creatures advanced language development.

Development of complex creatures led to advanced methods of communication. This gave birth to the evolution of language. Language can be defined as the use of complex structures such as words, symbols and gestures to pass information from one person to the other. It is a complex system that has been used over a period of time and has undergone evolution (Finlay & Syal, 2010).Darwin suggests that early forms of human life used grunts, clicks and gestures to communicate. They did not have complex ways of communicating. The development of the brain and the complexity of the creatures resulted to the use of complex sentences. Darwin suggests that the evolution of man greatly attributed to the change in mode of communication. This led to the onset of language (Chomsky, 2011).



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The development of language revolves around three major areas; cultural transition, biological evolution and physiological changes. Culture has a way of instilling beliefs, values and attitudes in the lives of people. A person born to a particular culture grows up learning their way of life and adapting to the mode of communication that they are introduced to. Biological evolution mainly tries to explain the physiological changes that take place in the body of a human being that results to the changes in the development of language. Brain development increases the mental capacity and makes it more able to grasp and to come up with more complex modes of communication. These changes were mainly due to biological changes which were as a result of adaptation to the environment (Christiansen & Kirby 2003).

These physiological adaptations can also be related to the mirror neuron system. This is a system which triggers the mind to do what they observe. The mirror neuron is activated when one sees something and does the same thing in the exact manner in which it has been observed. This neuron allows people to interact I the society and one is able to share emotions such as empathy and happiness. This relationship can be used to show the why there is a silent rule on how nature connects people and makes them to behave in a manner that is almost similar. This system can be used to explain how language developed. One was able to imitate the manner in which actions and speech were communicated and as a result one could learn through imitation. This can be used to explain development of language through individual interaction(Craighero & Rizzolatti, 2004).

David Buss suggested that psychological traits such as memory, language and perception all have an evolutionary aspect. He tried to find a relationship between the psychological traits which have evolved as a result of adaptations. He found out that the mind has modular adaptations which perform different functions to the body, as result of this; he argued that human beings’ behavior can be based on these psychological adaptations. Buss found out that these traits are related to the cultural adaptations of human beings. They affect how people go about their day to day activities (Buss, 2011).

The development of the brain can be used to explain the biological aspect of evolution. A small brain will accumulate less vocabulary, think less and thus conceptualize the idea less. The Homo Habilis were the first group of early man who were capable of speech. The Homo erectus were straight and were able to stand in an erect posture, thus; they could grasp things well and could be able to draw signs as a mode of communication (Katie, Fedurek and Slocombe, 2005). They were followed by the Homo sapiens who had a larger brain capacity and had the ability to reason, to plan and to control his limbs. He had an advanced mode of communication and he was able to write. Modern man has a more complex brain and is able to think and to reason. He has an advanced speech and he is able to speak using complex sentences. This however was supported by environmental factors (Katie, Fedurek and Slocombe, 2005).

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Evolution suggests that organisms have a similar concept of language. The characteristic laughter, screams and shouts is familiar to both animals and human beings. This is referred to as” natures innate calling”; it tries to explain the relationship between living creatures on earth. It may explain the characteristic whistling of the trees and the why birds such as the parrots are able to imitate the human language. The differences can also be difference in the environmental set up (Chomsky, Fitch and Hauser, 2002).

Language is an art of communication that is taught. The environment where one lives affects the language they acquire (Debra, 2004). For example, a chimpanzee living among people will learn certain aspects of the language and thus will be able to respond to some of the terminologies used. The case of Nim Chimpensky was used to conduct these studies. Chimpensky was able to use most of the American signs while asking for things (Chomsky, 2011). The growth and language development of any living creature is largely affected by the environment they are exposed to (Cheney, Seyfarth and Thore, 2005). Nim could not take up all the characteristics of man. He picked only the few that his brain could accommodate but he was unable to speak, his physiological features are not adapted to form speech (Chomsky, 2011).

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The diversity of language has led to growth in development. The manner in which words are combined systematically to bring meaning is referred to as syntax. The early man may have developed the ability to communicate; however, tribute on the development of syntax is given to modern man. Modern man evolved language making it to be a series of complex words, phrases and clauses that have meaning (Jackendoff, 2002). This is due to the biological and physiological changes that took place during evolution, especially the brain. The brain has complex structures that aid in speech, destruction or injury of these structures result to impairment in speech (Jackendoff, 2002).

The Broca’s and Wernickle areas in the brain played a major role in the development of language. These areas of the brain aid in speech and language processing. Broca’s famous statement “we speak with the left hemisphere” led to the identification of the relationship between the brain and language. It was discovered the brain had a language center that was used to process all forms of language and speech. Wernicke discovered another part of the brain that was associated with understanding of the language. There are people who were found to have lesion on the posterior portion of the left temporal lobe. These people were often incoherent in speech and they made little sense in what they were saying (Arbib & Mota, 2003).

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The FOX2P gene is found on the human chromosomes and it is used to regulate the expression of genes. The mutations of this gene causes speech disorders, this also affect language. The gene is transferrable and may be expressed from one generation to the next. It was discovered during research studies that indicated individuals from three generations had severe speech and language disorder; this triggered these studies (Pinker, 2000). FOX2P gene is used to activate Broca’s region and therefore its interference results to poor speech. One is also not able to co-ordinate the activities of the body, this may cause development of autism. Since it is a gene disorder, little can be done to rectify it. People with this disorder learn to live with it and accept themselves just as they are. Chimps do not have these regions in their brains (Pinker, 2000).

Apart from difference in brain capacities, chimps have other physiological characteristics that affect their ability to speech. The difference in the size of tongue of the chimp and that of human beings largely affects the ability to make speech. Unlike human beings, chimps only vocalize when they discover food, while mating, while playing and when they are frightened. The larynx of chimps is higher than that of humans, the tongue of the chimps’ moves in and out while that of humans moves up and down. These anatomic differences affect the ability to produce speech (Lieberman & McCarthy, 1989).

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There are also other special characteristics in humans that make them advance in speech as opposed to chimps. This is the mother-child interaction. A child is considered to develop a special bonding with the mother. This bonding is referred to as the mother-child interaction. It aids in the development of language. Studies indicate that this interaction is fundamental in the developmental stages of life. This is the period where the child’s brain develops curiosity and starts to grasp the sounds and words that they hear repeatedly. This is the basis of language development and language competence later in the life of the child. The child learns from the environment and will learn to use the language. Neglect of this interaction results to poor social and communication skills. This interaction facilitated the growth of language as it was passed from one generation to the next (Christiansen & Kirby, 2003).

This interaction can be related to the critical hypothesis theory developed by Lenneberg talks about Genie’s life. The story of a girl who was nicknamed Genie is used to show the importance of interaction in a child’s life. Genie was a girl who was seclude by his parents for 13 years knowing little about interaction with the outside world. As a result of this, the girl was slow to speech and could barely make a complete sentence. Attempts to correct this bore little fruit since the basic components of the development of the human mind takes place in childhood; correcting such impairments during the adolescent years is futile (Rymer, 1993). Genie managed to gather a few words, but was not able to speak fluently like normal people. Chomsky suggests that the environment which she was raised in was a major contributor to this inability to make comprehensive sentences (Natalie, 1993).

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According to the early research that was done by famous historians, evidence of presence of different forms of communication can be traced. The caves of the early men had drawings of animals that they wanted to hunt down and how they were to do it. The use of symbols and signs can also be traced using archeological methods of research. This however cannot be used to develop language; however, it can be argued that they could have been using some form of speech to do this art (Christiansen & Kirby, 2003).

Some scholars suggest that there is no relationship between evolution and language, they argue that language developed on its own and cannot be traced in evolution. The fossils that were discovered are not evident enough to suggest that there was use of language. They argue that the fossils have no relationship with language development. However, this argument can be opposed. Fossils can be used to determine the brain capacity of early man. The space that was left for holding the brain can be determined and the brain size known brain size has a direct relation with one’s ability to develop language (Katie, Fedurek and Slocombe, 2005).

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In conclusion, one can tell there is a great relationship between the evolution of man and that of language. Language is a product of both external and internal forces that combine to enhance its development. The biological, physiological and human interaction played a major role in its growth. The development of the brain and other physiological features greatly contributed to its diversity and led to the development of syntax. The evolutionary relationship between living creatures can be traced and the differences in their ability to form speech can also be explained.

The difference in apes and human beings is mainly physiological and biological. Human beings have a higher brain and have structures that aid them to develop speech unlike apes. This aspect can be used to show that human language is a unique attribute only found in humans and cannot be transferred just as Pinker suggested. Little changes can occur if the environment of these mammals is changed, just like the case of Nim. In as much as the environment affects the ability to speech, the physiological and biological features in mammals plays a major role in its growth. Language is an interactive art that is learned but cannot be transferred from one species to the other. It has an evolutionary origin that is mainly related to the biological and physiological changes in the body.


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