Bow-wow theory

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The bow-wow theory refers to theories by various scholars, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Johann Gottfried Herder, on the origins of human language.[1]

Bow-wow theories suggest that the first human languages developed as onomatopoeia, imitations of natural sounds.[2] The name "bow-wow theory" was coined by Max Müller, a philologist who was critical of the notion.[3] The bow-wow theory is largely discredited as an account of the origin of language,[2] though some contemporary theories suggest that general imitative abilities may have played an important role in the evolution of language.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Moran, John; Gode, Alexander (1986). On the origin of language. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-73012-3. 
  2. ^ a b Thorndike, E.L. (2 July 1943). "The origin of language" (PDF). Science. New series. 98 (2531): 1–6. doi:10.1126/science.98.2531.1. PMID 17747316. 
  3. ^ Sprinker, Michael (January–March 1980). "Gerard Manley Hopkins on the origin of language". Journal of the History of Ideas. 41 (1): 113–128. doi:10.2307/2709105. JSTOR 2709105. 
  4. ^ Malle, Bertram F. (2002). "The relation between language and theory of mind in development and evolution". In T. Givon & B.F. Malle. The Evolution of Language out of Pre-language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. ISSN 0167-7373.