Talk:Origin of language/Archive 1

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Originally, this article was called "glottogony" and began with a definition and etymology of the term. 'Glottogony' doesn't appear in the OED or anywhere near the top of a google search except for mirrors of Wikipedia content. I conclude that it is, at best, too rare a term to justify inclusion.

Mark Foskey 18:34, 24 Oct 2004 (UTC)

There are 285 google hits, and 182 for "glottogonic". It's not the term's fault that the top 20 happen to be WP mirrors or spam. It's a specialist term, yes, but that's all the more reason to explain it. I was going to write a glottogony article, but then it was merged with this stuff. I am uncomfortable with this whole "tata, dingdong" business anyway, so I guess I'll just leave this article alone now. dab 19:06, 24 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Ho, ho, ho. Interesting early view of yours, Dieter. Currently I find that the the first sentence is really not very accurate. The topic is not the name of a "problem." So, I am beefing it up a little. Fools step in where angels fear to tread. It is nevertheless a legitimate topic with a legitimate pedigree dating from the 19th century so someone should say it right or else it goes down in mass culture as ridiculous and wrong. If anyone can do better, do so.Dave (talk) 14:49, 27 December 2009 (UTC)

Bilzingsleben homo erectus

The fossils of Bilzingsleben in Germany should be mentioned. It was 370.000 years ago that humans of the homo erectus-type already had primitive kinds of houses and hunted and butchered big animals such as mamooths and rhinoceros. Experts think the people from Bilzingsleben already developed a culture which makes it very likely that they had at least a primitive form of language. Probably human language is already 500.000 years old.

Source? Mlewan 20:42, 19 May 2007 (UTC)

Should this go in Feral child or Origin of language ?

"Deaf children invent a new sign language"

According to the article, these kids made up a new language from scratch.

This concerns deaf, not feral children. Garik 18:00, 7 May 2006 (BST)

"In Click Languages, an Echo of the Tongues of the Ancients." "Do some of today's languages still hold a whisper of the ancient mother tongue spoken by the first modern humans?"

Biblical account

The Biblical account cited (the Tower of Babel story) is not an account of the origin of language. It's an account of the origin of langauges -- the story starts saying everyone had the same language (and, indeed, the Bible has many instances before that story wherein people used words). So this doesn't belong here on this page.

The only thing from Genesis that I can think of as belonging here is the part (chapter 2?) where Adam names all the animals and Eve. That's not quite on point either, but is more so than the Tower of Babel story is.msh210]] 20:42, 27 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Also, can someone tell me why does the biblical account contain bold text? It seems to me that highlighting this paragraph is a POV on the biblical (mythic) explanation. Nova77 17:24, 24 May 2005 (UTC)
The Babel story should not really be here IMO. At most it should take up a sentence or two. As Msh210 says it is not an account of the origin of language. I've already added a passage to that effect. But really, if we are to have it is should be part of a section on legendary accounts of the origin of language. There's no good reason to give priority to the Biblical one - apart from the presence of Creationist contributors of course. Paul B 08:38 10 June 2005 (UTC)
but the "myth" also offers an expenation of to why all the langueges stream from an orginal language (see language trees), and rembemer myths usally start form an event that did happen and go from a molehill to a mountain as it's retold, but it simply tells how langwage was devided.
YEs, but this myth is farly more recent than the real creation of such languages. Languages split, if any, must occur before first migrations out of main group, is to say, prior the first fossils of Homo sapiens occur... and that was 10 times older as the biblican account. It must be quoted, but only as a little fact. -Theklan (talk) 15:47, 23 March 2009 (UTC)


How much of the structure of this article is taken from this page, or is it vice versa?

None of it looks like en masse verbatim quoting. I started this page, and made it mostly by rephrasing stuff from the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Languae (about the different named hypotheses), supplementing it from memory. I suspect that this web site used a similar reference. Only verbatim quotes can be copyvios. Smerdis of Tlön 16:56, 1 Nov 2004 (UTC)

"The psychedelic glossolalia hypothesis"

Has this ever been seriously advanced? If so could we have some references, as it seem implausible in the extreme, and if not, can we remove it. It does not seem in the least encyclopediac. --cfp 23:21, 6 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I find it interesting. Foant 11:48, 7 Mar 2005 (UTC)
A Google search for "psychedelic glossolalia" turns up 3 results, two of which are Wikipedia mirrors. Searching for it without the quotes turns up a ridiculous quantity of psycho-babble. The principal source for the theory seems to be this interview in high time's magazine. This should not be in an encyclcopedia and so I am deleting it. I hope you do not think this is unfair. Find me just one paper from a reputable journal on this and I'll glady reinstate it. --cfp 16:44, 7 Mar 2005 (UTC)
OK I'm feeling guilty about deleting without first getting consensus, so for now I'm moving it to the Non-Naturalistic section. (This is not to say I still don't think it should be deleted.) --cfp 16:49, 7 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Even if phychedelic induced glossolalia is not the 'source' of language, it should be mentioned in the article, since it is a relevant, existing and well documented phenomenon.

   Absence of evidence on Google is not evidence of absence. The hypothesis has made its appearance in print many times. Look for The Archaic Revival or Food of the Gods by Terence McKenna, and Pharmacophilia by Jonathan Ott.
   Moving it to the Non-Naturalistic section (when it's actually an ethnobotanical hypothesis, and thus about as naturalistic as these hypotheses come) and then creating a single, pejorative sub-category just for it, is totally POV, from any perspective.
  I'm moving it back. Among other things, you can't justify a sub-subheading for only one item. — Clarknova 01:35, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)
   P.S. As further evidence of bias, cfp tacked on the qualifying statement "How humans could have made the transition from random vocalization to symbolic language is not entirely clear", which could adorn any of the sing-song-grunt-grunt hypotheses on this list. It adds no new information, merely indicates the writer is casting a dubious eye.
I didn't add that qualifying statement, though I entirely agree with it. Look at the history if you don't believe me. As for POV there's a big difference between refusing to give pseudo science a platform and being POV. If someone's looking for a scientific article they don't expect to find this stuff. I'm gonna request comment on this because I really don't think its acceptable to even be on the page. Sorry. --cfp 12:24, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I draw your attention to the discussion of pseudoscience in the NPOV article. This suggests that though the "psychadelic glossalia" hypothesis should appear somewhere in Wikipedia, it should be clearly marked off as pseudoscience. Can we agree on this? --cfp 12:51, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

On what grounds should it be marked off? Because it is repugnant to you personally, or because it's repugnant to the scientific community? You're right, you didn't add that qualifying statement, but whether you agree with it is irrelevant. If sources need to be cited for its existence as a hypothesis, then sources disparaging it as pseudoscience should also be cited.
Quoting from the NOPV article: "the task is to represent the majority (scientific) view as the majority view and the minority (sometimes pseudoscientific) view as the minority view". There are many hypothesis on this subject and none could be said to corner a majority. The NPOV goes on to state "moreover, [the task is] to explain how scientists have received pseudoscientific theories.". Unless you're declaring yourself and the other wiki editor the scientific community, you haven't done this.
Personally speaking, I don't like the theory either. I think all of these are too reductionist. But what I feel is irrelevant in this context. This one is published, and sadly it's as good as any other. — Clarknova 18:10, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Yes its published but have you seen where? Being published counts for nothing unless its a reputable scientific journal, with an area or expertise that covers the central thesis of the paper. So that an article on language was published in journals on "shamanism" or psychadelics is rather meaningless. I challenge you to find a serious anthropologist/socio-linguist etc. who would not ridicule such a theory. --cfp 19:22, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

my gripe precisely, see below. The theories are at present presented not as they are seriously forwarded, but as they are presented in order to expose them as simplistic/reductionist. dab () 20:26, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

they are really called that

you mean, they have been called that, by someone, at some point. No reason for us to follow suit. I have been grumbling at these incomprehensible titles ever since my attempt at glottogony was merged here. By all means, mention their names. But not in the section titles, it really messes up the ToC. I get all confused with all the hum-pah and ta ta, and would really appreciate a more accessible approach. dab () 19:13, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)

oh, and how shall we incorporate other theories into the comic framework of your dictionary? For example the one you removed,

Frits Staal in Rules without meaning suggested that mantras predate language, and that semantics were applied retro-actively to existing complex grammars of ritual utterances.

should I just make up another silly name for it? the "om shanti" hypothesis? I would really like to put it back into the article, thank you. dab () 19:17, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)

These names, goofy as they are, are found in the academic literature. Here they are in a class handout for a linguistics class. (The handout seems to owe a great deal to the Wikipedia article, to be sure.) Otto Jespersen coined most of them, and he's a well known figure in linguistics. Not sure that there's a great deal that can be done to replace them at this time. Perhaps more solemn titles should be found; but they would be original research if we were to propose them ourselves, and moreover, substituting new names for the hypothesis is going to require a bigger edit than simply renaming the sections, since the intro text mentions the names that Jespersen coined. -- Smerdis of Tlön 20:01, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)
ok, I'll think about it. I'm not objecting to the names per se, mind you, I'm objecting to their appearence in the ToC. The present ToC seems to paralyze the article, since reorganization or addition of hypotheses are impossible without breaking its structure. I think it will be best to remove the subheaders for now, and list them all under "hypotheses". At the moment, I just want to get the Frits Staal reference back in, since I intend to start an article about him. In any case, we should say the names were coined by Jespersen, not just, "here are the hypotheses: tee-taa-huff-puff-watchthebirdie." dab () 20:37, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)
ok, sorry, I hadn't read the entire thing (I have now). Imho, the article's structure shouldn't be dictated by 19 century ideas, or by Jespersen (who was apparently making fun of the theories?). Most of these are very similar anyway, and there is no need to stash them away in different sections. Let's make a "19th century" section giving these names, after putting them in context. dab () 20:52, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)


btw, the "pseudoscientific" section seems a bit unfair. First of all, there is no reference as to how it is "pop-cultural", i.e. who came up with the idea? Then, it is certainly possible to posit in earnest that psychedelic substances played a role in glottogony, but the present section of course ridicules the idea. glossolalia would be impossible before a "language instinct" had already evolved, of course, but it is entirely possible that its evolution was interfering with use psychedelic substances. I don't have any references about this myself, though. dab () 20:41, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)

From RFD

The Linguistic Society of Paris was very wise in banning that topic. While I agree that the psychedelic glossolalia hypothesis is self-contradictory and more of a joke, the other ideas are also to varying extents. They are all more or less crude pseudoscientific hypotheses because they cannot be tested or confirmed. Just put them all under "Funny ideas". I'm sure there are more serious ideas in linguistics!? Cacycle 22:07, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Memes and language

Maybe somebody can add this hypothesis to the article: It is a hypotheses developed by Susan Blackmore in her book The meme machine as part of the meme theory and made some sense to me when I read that book.

Another somehow related hypotheses can be found here: Singing hypotheses. Maybe we could call it the "la la la hypothesis" ;-) Cacycle 22:36, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)


I have a problem with the sentence "How did humans invent this tool?" in the introduction, as it is not clear that it was invented, as such. In fact, Pinker's 'The Language Instinct' is listed as a reference for the article, and those of you who have read this or other works of Pinker/Chomsky will recall that they disagree with the idea of language genesis in the form of an ancient unsung genius who decided to create language. As evidence they point to, among other things, the famous sign language debaucles (I think this was mentioned earlier on this Talk page). Without going into too much detail (I encourage anyone interested to read Pinker's book on the subject, as it's a really fun read), the "invented" and "superior" sign language designed by well-meaning but misguided caregivers and linguists was promptly abandoned by students in favor of a spontaneously generated pidgin (anecdotally, developed on the bus ride home) that was much more useful and expressive than the artificial system, and developed into a fully formed language in the subsequent generation (as pidgins do).

So, can we lose the line?--demonburrito 12:48, 8 August 2005 (UTC)

the article needs an extensive rewrite. I consider the present organization unsuitable, see above. So, feel free to give it a good overhaul. dab () 12:50, 8 August 2005 (UTC)

Some major work

It seems as if the consensus here is that this article needs some work, if it is not completely useless as another has suggested. So, to everyone who has this one watched, I'd like to start the ball rolling on a low level overhaul. Starting from the beginning: Opening section okay, but I think we should consider completely getting rid of the 'Hypothesis' structure and compressing these down into a single level 3 heading in the interest of clarity. The la-la bow-wow stuff is unpleasant and is a too large near the beginning.--demonburrito 14:24, 8 August 2005 (UTC) Also... has anyone noticed how many articles link here? I think this articles deserves some attention.

the whole organization by "bru-wha-ha-whatever hypothesis" is flawed. These terms should be in a simple list under a "terminology" heading, and not affect article structure. this is a fair enough resource, but its structure should not be imposed here. also, we need a decent "History" section, tracing the concept of the confusion of tongues through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. dab () 14:37, 8 August 2005 (UTC)
Okay, step one complete. The entire 'hypotheses' structure has been collapsed into a simple list (and prettied up a bit). It's ready to be moved elsewhere.--demonburrito 17:25, 8 August 2005 (UTC)
After researching this one for a while, I'm coming to the conclusion that the focus of this article is a little pointless. There is no encyclopedic explanation on this one - there were no recordings, of course. I don't think that the idea of a spoken language 'invention' is still viable. I'm wondering if Dbachmann has hit on something with the confusion of tongues emphasis: Perhaps this article should have an historical focus. A section of mythological explanations (can we write 'mythological' and be npov? ;) ), and a section about the preoccupation with this holy grail by 19th century thinkers and modern fringe theorists. Perhaps things like 'theoretical linguistics' and 'Chomsky' could have a short section at the end with links to articles more appropriate to concepts like 'LAD' and 'universal grammar', being a more fruitful line of inquiry - they're not concerned with reconstructing a 'first language'. Also, it should be made clear that this article is about a spoken mother language, and not a written one: The latter does seem like an active area in linguistics.--demonburrito 17:58, 8 August 2005 (UTC)
The article is interesting and valuable, but at the same time I think it is deeply confused and definitely needs a major overhaul (as suggested above).

1. The bow-wow etc. stories are largely irrelevant. They lack explanatory power and cannot be called theories or even hypotheses in the scientific sense of those terms. I think this passage is very informative, but should constitute a separate article entry (e.g. Early views on the origins of language). 2. 'Monogenesis' is somewhat confused. It should be made clear that the protolanguage referred to here is something totally different from Bickerton's protolanguage mentioned earlier. Then, the time scope for historical linguistic research is up to ca 1000years, a few thousands at most for very bold and very dubious methods. This is nowhere near the time of origins of language. The 40.000y views are not generally accepted. This is partly because they would appeal to a catastrophic change (some macromutation that would suddenly enable language), which is unrealistic, and partly because the idea of '40k revolution' is being exposed as a myth, due to recent archaeological discoveries dating back to well before that time. The idea that Neanderthals were incapable of producing a reasonable spectrum of vowels comes from old work of Phil Lieberman, but has long been discredited. 3. There is not adequate coverage of gestural hypotheses in their various forms. Some gestural stage in the emergence of language is now hypothesised by most researchers in the field. Similarly, the question of within-society selective pressures on greater cognitive and communicative skills should be developed, with quotes of the work by Dunbar (grooming & gossip) and Byrne/Whiten (Machiavelian intelligence). This leads straight into the question of Theory of Mind (ToM), whose importance should not be neglected. Then, there are possible links to tool use, both in the sense that effective tool use and toolmaking is a cognitive advance in itself and possible exerts some further selective pressures, and in the sense of the common neural substrates for speech and sequential hand movements. I will try to write some draft sections addressing some of those points when I have some time. Regards, Ariosto 12:28, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

Sounds sensible. If you have citations for those assertions go ahead and make the changes. It sounds like you know what you're talking about anyway. --cfp 15:28, 7 August 2006 (UTC)
I love the fact that this article is about language, and it happens to be one of the worst-written pages I've seen on Wikipedia. Congrats, guys.

--EvilFred (talk) 01:37, 18 October 2012 (UTC)

Misquoting sources?

The child isolation paragraph in History notes two sources [1] and [2]. The first of these says "Egyptian king Psamtik I" while this article has Psamtik II. The second says "King James V of Scotland" while this article has James IV of Scotland. Either we should believe the sources, or we should consider not providing them to others (though the first does seem to have other elements which are in the article -so perhaps it should be at the end). --Henrygb 08:49, 16 October 2005 (UTC)

It seems that James V is the correct Scot. The Psamtik story is less clear, since Herodotus's account is characteristically garbled, and he does not specify which "Psamtik" he means. However the context seems to imply Psamtik I. Paul B 12:35, 16 October 2005 (UTC)

Non-christian "origin" myths

I've collected some here, will add either to this article or to a sub-article if I get time, otherwise please feel free to do so. - FrancisTyers 16:18, 18 April 2006 (UTC)

Ta ta

Concerning the Ta-ta hypothesis, whether or not it begs the question by presupposing sign language etc is in my view not a "difficulty" unless we overuse Occam's Razor.Rich 10:36, 11 July 2006 (UTC)

Psychadelic Glossalia (still)

I was just cleaning up my watch list and I rediscovered this page.

I'm still really not happy with the psychadelic glossalia hypothesis being in no way differentiated from the others.

I don't want to start another edit war, so I've not changed it, however, I have tagged the page as needing more references and expert attention.

Someone said before that they had a reference for the psychadelic glossalia hypothesis in a scholarly journal, if it exists, it should be there. I don't think you're going to find a reference saying why it shouldn't be there, because I assume at least that it would strike a linguistics expert as laughable.

However, this is just an assumption, so lets get some linguistics experts (or at least someone with a degree in it) to give their opinion on whether it deserves to be presented as as likely a theory as any of the others.

I perhaps went about things the wrong way before, and for that I am sorry.

Having vigorously defended Wikipedia to people, there is a rather high degree of personal embarassment about finding things like this, so perhaps my judgement was a little clouded by my seething rage... (Joking)

I'm sure there is a compromise solution we can all agree on, so lets find it.

--cfp 19:34, 18 July 2006 (UTC)

Still no reply to this. If I don't hear by the 25th (a week after my original post) I will edit the article. In the meantime I urge people to reread: WP:NPOV#Undue weight.
I've gone ahead and marked the whole section as needing to cite sources. Very unencylopedic IMO. JPotter 22:05, 23 July 2006 (UTC)
Yes. The psychedelic glossolalia hypothesis strikes me as rather speculative and likely OR. We've had evenings like that, but we didn't remember what we had said the morning after. I agree with its removal. Smerdis of Tlön 22:08, 23 July 2006 (UTC)
Roight, there have been no objections so I'm cutting it. If a reason is needed, see: WP:NPOV#Undue weight. --cfp 18:11, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

Cut section to facilitate its restoration should someone have a good reason for objecting:

Psychedelic Glossolalia Hypothesis

This theory states that speech was inspired by psychoactive fungi. The line of reasoning is thus: A common symptom of tryptamine intoxication is glossolalia, more commonly known as “speaking in tongues”. As the continent of Africa began to dry, grassland savannas opened, forcing humans out of the forests and into the plains where the dung of large herbivores was ubiquitous. Species of tryptamine-bearing fungi like Psilocybe, which live on animal dung, would have grown in large quantities and been very attractive to human populations seeking a new food source. Regular ingestion of the fungi could, over a long time, have stimulated complex vocalizations that eventually led to communicative speech. [citation needed]

I did think about replacing it with the following as an alternative to cutting it, but even including this much about it would be violating WP:NPOV#Undue weight), though at least the below makes it perfectly clear that this is not a tenable hypothesis.

This theory states that speech was developed as a result of the regular ingestion of psychoactive fungi some of which induce glossolalia (“speaking in tongues”).[citation needed] However, there would have been strong evolutionary pressure against the consumption of psychoactive substances.[citation needed] Furthermore, neurological research indicates tryptamine activates pre-existing pathways, suggesting speech is a precondition for tryptamine-induced glossolalia. This is backed up by linguistic research that suggests glossolalia is a learned behaviour.[1] Linguistic research has also shown that glossolalia lack the basic elements of language,[2]. Indeed, Samarin [3] states it is not even related to language.
  1. ^ Speaking in Tongues: A Cross-Cultural Study in Glossolalia by Felecitas D. Goodman, University of Chicago Press, 1972
  2. ^ (Nida: 196?) and (Wolfram:1966) mentioned in:
  3. ^ (William J. Samarin, "Variation and Variables in Religious Glossolalia," Language in Society, ed. Dell Haymes, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972 pgs. 121-130)

--cfp 19:20, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

Origin hypotheses

The only evidence I can see for the pooh-pooh stuff is a class outline that may have even used this article as a source. Can the author show some documentation that these are valid terms used by researchers in the field? This section will need to be reworked otherwise. Thanks. JPotter 00:59, 24 July 2006 (UTC)

If the complaint is with the several names, they are now for better or for worse traditional. The article itself credits them to Otto Jespersen, who coined them to mock the theories. They appear in the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, and here is another web page, independent of Wikipedia, that discusses them. This online source is unlikely to be deeply indebted to English Wikipedia, though it is gratifying to see the words théorie « ouah-ouah » up there. They do seem to be persistently and actively disliked by some, but the names are indeed what these theories are called. Smerdis of Tlön 19:08, 24 July 2006 (UTC)
OK, no worries then. Maybe an expand of the anthro section could make the complaints go away. JPotter 20:14, 24 July 2006 (UTC)
Otto Jespersen sure didn't mess around... it seems no power over a thing is greater than the power to name it for posterity:D. Otto Jespersen had, and has to this day, an incredibly wide influence, remember that when you cringe at the ta ta pooh pooh. I like the fact that this subject, so given to grandeur and pompousness, is so effectively pre-emptively deflated. It is in fact easier to stay focused on science when the glamour-factor is taken out of the study. --AkselGerner (talk) 22:05, 22 March 2008 (UTC)

The music hypothesis

The article doesn't describe an important hypothesis about the origin of language - that it evolved from music. Unfortunately I don't have the time to write it now, so here's one relevant source:

"Music, evolution and language" - Nobuo Masataka, Developmental Science 10:1 (2007), pp 35–39,

maybe someone else has the time. (Sorry for not being more helpful.) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Upsidown (talkcontribs) 15:09, 24 October 2007 (UTC)

That stuff is mentioned in the to-be merged pre-language article. Not that it makes any sense to me.--AkselGerner (talk) 22:07, 22 March 2008 (UTC)

Speciesist arrogance

When we say that: "Homo sapiens clearly have an inherent capability for language that is not present in any other species known today" and "The use of language is one of the most conspicuous and diagnostic traits that distinguish H. sapiens from other animals.", are we are using circular logic, ie that language is defined as human communication, so of course its human!, or are we ignoring the fact that humans are just one more animal that communicates in our focus on speech? Alexander Gross has this to sayHow tenable is the hypothesis that language (to a certain degree of grammatical sophistication) is specific to humans? Well, one can certainly say that nobody encounters a bird writing a poem, nor a monkey lecturing to fur-covered fellows, nor are there frequent meetings of the Whale Philosophical Society. It is important to notice, however, that there exists a common confusion between language and external symbolic storage (like words on paper)...One can have language without symbolic storage. Do we understand what dolphins are doing when they engage in those strange noisy exchanges? Their behaviors often suggest that they ought to be talking with each other, because one frequently catches them in some exquisite collaborative activities. These activities are typical of cooperation in communities of linguistically-oriented intelligent agents, and there are quite a number of computer models of spontaneous language emergence in such environments (see for instance Simon Kirby and Luc Steels).

Instead of patting ourselves on the back, we would do well to realise that communication goes far beyond what we as humans tend to focus on, that part of language devoted to "verbal meaning." The other common functions of language, which are all present to varying degrees in animal communication, are demonstrating status, venting emotions, establishing non-hostile intent, passing time, telling jokes and lying. As Gross puts it, The goals of both scent marking and spoken language have much in common: the defense of turf, the assertion of status, and both attracting and clearly identifying a mate.Brallan 01:13, 27 December 2006 (UTC)

To be sure, it is circular to a degree, because language, unlike e.g. the elephant's trunk, is not a kind of palpable object/organ, but needs to be defined. And human communication is so qualitatively different from anything we can see in the animal world that it deserves a different name (i.e. language). I'm sure Kirby and Steels would agree, since they belong to the "evolution of lanugage" circles, and these are largely agreed on this issue. Ariosto 19:48, 11 February 2007 (UTC)
how is this "arrogance"? you can focus on what language has in common with other means of communication in the animal kingdom, and you can focus on what makes it unique. You can also focus on what makes other things unique, but this is the article to focus on what makes language unique. That's an entirely level-headed and neutral enterprise. dab (𒁳) 20:28, 11 February 2007 (UTC)

Contemporary communication

Removed "An interesting way of looking at the development of language is to observe how two people, who each do not understand the others language, communicate. Usually this is done very similar to the early protolanguage, and this is why it is considered the pre-cursor to modern day language."

There is no reason to believe that two contemporary persons of different languages would use the same way of communicating as was used during an early "proto-language". If there is research that claims there is, a reference to it can be included however. Mlewan 01:47, 21 March 2007 (UTC)

Re: Contemporary communication
I did not state that contemporary persons would communicate in the same way as was used during the early "proto-language" but rather that their communication style would be similar.
I will try and find more evidence that supports this idea. Feroze17 20:37, 23 March 2007 (UTC)
When you are looking for the evidence, do not forget to check that whatever research you find can be considered valid. Let's say that someone notices that Finns and Englishmen who do not speak each other's languages use a lot of arm gestures, speak very loud and nod and shake their heads a lot. The researcher then ideally is able to motivate why for example arm gestures were likely parts of proto-language but nodding one's head was not. If that is what he thinks. Mlewan 13:09, 26 March 2007 (UTC)

Non-naturalistic hypotheses of the origin of language

"Some people use traditional narratives, myths, or legendary history in order to explain the origin of human language."
The header and sentence above are part of this article that I'm going to remove. This information could be interesting in an article on myths, but should not be part of an encyclopedic article on the origin of language. Lova Falk 09:15, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

citation needed

someone really went crazy with the "citation needed" tags. mainly in the "Linguistic hypotheses" section. example: "In addition, hand gestures are difficult if the hands are doing something else.[citation needed]" -really? you need someone to cite their sources on the claim that it's hard to do two completely different things with one set of hands at the same time? someone needs to remove the unnecessary ones. i'd do it, but i'm sure that i'd remove a few that some could argue were necessary, and then someone would bitch at me. 12:54, 27 May 2007 (UTC)

origin of language

"According to the Out of Africa hypothesis modern humans evolved in Africa some 200,000 years ago. Around 50,000 years ago a group of humans left Africa and proceeded to colonize the rest of the world. All human populations from the Australian aboriginals to the Fuegians living at the Southern tip of Argentina possess language. This includes populations such as the Tasmanian aboriginals or the Andamanese who may have been isolated from the old world continents by as long as 40,000 years. Thus scientists conclude that the modern human language must have evolved or have been invented in Africa prior to the dispersal of humans around the world"

this information is sourced from peer reviewed journals so it is relevant in understanding the origins of modern language. I am agreeable to reorganization but not simply removing recent scientific finds.Muntuwandi 11:31, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

The "scientific finds" you refer to are not specifically about the origin of language, which is the topic of this article. The content of the article concerns the hows, whys and whens of language's origin. The geographical location is not central to the content of the article. We cannot know whether some pre-Sapiens human species had language, and if they did, when it developed. So we cannot even say whether "Out of Africa" is even relevant here. Making this into one of those priority-claiming racial/nationalist debates ("we invented it"; "no we did") will surely not help this article. Paul B 11:47, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
The information is cited so it is reliable. I am open to reorganization of the article but the issue of recent scientific finds is not going to go away. Making it a racial thing occurs when we ignore language origins. It seems you have no problem mentioning the Cro-magnons as the first to use language but when I mention the out of Africa its racialization. That is the inherent bias.Muntuwandi 11:56, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
You are confusing separate issues by equating language origin with homo sapiens. It is not the topic of this article, and the sources you cite do not even assert that language originated in Africa. Don't get me wrong, Africa would be the most obvious place for language to have originated, but it is not an issue here. The article does not and (as far as I know) never has made claims that language started in Europe, India, China, Arabia or anywhere else. This sort of ethnic precedence seeking is simply irrelevant here, and introducing it will simply encourage pointless disputes that will not help the article. Paul B 12:02, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
The "cro-magnon" sentence actually has them at one end of a continuum (Estimates range from "forty thousand years ago, during the time of Cro-Magnon man, to about two million years ago, during the time of Homo habilis."). Again, no national or geographical location is even mentioned, and the concept of "race" becomes utterly meaningless since we are dealing with completely different species here. Paul B 12:05, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

Paul this is not a racial issue, key information regarding language origins that are discussed by mainstream scholars is missing. It is now not possible to discuss language origins without discussing human origins. these two are tied hand in hand. That is why this article has a cleanup tag because it is not in good shape. Here are some thoughts from scholars

The Origin of Language (by Edward Vajda)

Linguist Merritt Ruhlen believes that the first languages may have contained click sounds

Merrit Ruhlen et al

Muntuwandi 12:28, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

Muntuwandi, your edits are almost always about promoting African identity and an African-centred view of history, and your preoccupations here are clearly part of that. The article referred to human evolution in Africa before you came along. There is also already a whole section on the issue of Monogenesis. The click point is interesting, and may be worth adding, but its relevance is as a point about the process of language formation, not about geography. Your edit -as the lead to the article - contained no relevant information other than to promote the claim that language originated in Africa. Paul B 12:39, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

I am not promoting Africa. However whenever I find an article that is missing useful information regarding Africa, I do not hesitate to include it. In the case of language we cannot ignore human origins or models of human evolution. Neither can we ignore isolated tribal groups because they provide a window into the past that has been lost in the rest of the world. So it is not an African view because also mentioned are the Fuegians, the Andamanese and Tasmanian aboriginals. Muntuwandi 12:49, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

Yes, and the only reason you mention them is to conclude that language originated in Africa. Since all humans possess language it is arbitrary and redundant to list some but not other specific ethnic groups. Paul B 12:52, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

We do not know anything at all about the origin of language. All we can go on are different hypothesis. Considering that, I think Muntuwandi's additions are as good as much of what already is on the page. It was misplaced, and it needs rewriting (like much else in Wikipedia), but I cannot see any reason to delete it. And no, I do not see any African nationalism in these edits. Mlewan 12:54, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

Africa is mentioned four times in the paragraph, which contains content largely unrelated to the discussion in the article as a whole. Since we don't "know anything", as you put it, about this aspect of the topic it is wholly inapproporiate to place this in the lead isn't it? Paul B 13:34, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

I agree that it is perfectly reasonable to state that language likely originated before human phylogenetic separation, and hence evolved in Africa. The burden of establishing notability lies entirely with those who may wish to construct polygenetic scenarios. That's no reason to harp on "Africa, Africa", of course. This is about the Lower Paleolithic, and there simply were no non-African humans at the time. Obviously this has nothing to do with "African identity" at all. Muntuwandi's edits were justly reverted as they make the article shoot off in a completely tangential direction (and the "speech vs. langauge" bit is dodgy to say the least), but we might be able to include some of what he is wanting to do. Note the existence of Proto-World language btw, which has long had somewhat of a scope overlap problem wrt this article. dab (𒁳) 13:58, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

I see we already have a "Monogenesis" section. The Vajda and Ruhlen quotes would belong there. dab (𒁳) 14:13, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

In the past linguistics was treated as a separate discipline. However today this field is being integrated with archeology and genetics to investigate human origins. Hence it is not shooting off tangentially in a different direction. Cavalli-sforza's book is entitled Genes, peoples and languages for example. Hence if we are to update this article we need to include all the recent finds.

The issue of human origins should be included as well. For example the article currently does not possess a clear timeline for the suggested events in the evolution of language. This timeline is linked to human evolution, ie from the split with chimpanzees to homo habilis to modern humans. It will definitely improve readability to have some chronological description.Muntuwandi 20:39, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

It has no clear timeline because there is no clear timeline. If you have evidence to the contrary, please provide it. Paul B 22:55, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

"Out of origin" section

I have read the previous discussion regarding this section, but what I have to say doesn't exactly follow with the latter talk. In the section, it is written, "Until recently they may have remained genetically and culturally relatively isolated from other African populations. Their languages are unique in that they employ extensive use of the click consonant. Thus it is believed that click sounds may have been a component of the first languages."

The passive voice of the statement "Thus it is believed..." seems to point towards weasel words. Who believes this? This statement contradicts the statement in the Click consonant article, which seems to points towards a recent development.

Furthermore, "Have remained genetically and culturally relatively isolated..." wouldn't support either a greater or lesser extent of retention. Phonetics do not change based solely on interbreeding with other populations or contact from other populations; while sprachbunds do happen, they are not the only mechanism responsible. Isolation does not stunt language change, either; Hawaiian is no less conservative in respect to Proto-Polynesian than any other Polynesia language. Languages evolve based on frequency of contact between speakers also, something which would have to be held accountable for.

It's not that I trust either statement; there is as much probability that the first languages possessed clicks as much as they didn't. Neither statement is accountable by any linguistic source as far as I can tell, and seems either statement is a speculation held by the articles' respective contributors.

Echternacht 03:48, 17 July 2007 (UTC)

We can change "Thus it is believed..." "thus it has been suggested".Muntuwandi 03:53, 17 July 2007 (UTC)


this article is losing its focus. Instead of addressing the origin of language, it now loses itself in discusison of out of Africa and human evolution in general. Of course these topics have some impact on the question, but that doesn't mean they should be treated in any detail here. Please try to find back to a ToC that actually follows a discussion of the article topic. dab (𒁳) 07:12, 17 July 2007 (UTC)

Currently all studies involving the origin of language discuss human evolution. It is now a multidisciplinary approach as opposed to a linguistic one alone. It is for this reason that early linguists had given up on the study of language origins because language alone does not reveal much about its origins. The important aspect of evolution is that it does attach dates to important events in human history that may correspond with linguistic development.Muntuwandi 12:23, 17 July 2007 (UTC)
surely. But what is your point? I am just saying we should stay on topic, I didn't say these points shouldn't be mentioned. dab (𒁳) 13:00, 17 July 2007 (UTC)


There is definitely a problem with the section on Monogenesis. In fact, most linguists agree with the theory of monogenesis to some extent, but the article makes it seem as if Ruhlen and Greenberg's totally pseudoscientific Proto-World is the only thing out there about monogenesis. This is an absurd. Their Proto-world and the methods that led up to it are OBVIOUSLY flawed; these guys are outside mainstream linguistics and their "work" is not representative of the idea as -- (talk) 01:38, 9 March 2011 (UTC)a whole. I think this section badly needs a complete rewrite.KelilanK 21:51, 24 July 2007 (UTC)

I do not know about Greenberg being outside the mainstream. His classification of African languages was once rejected but it is now been accepted by most mainstream scholars. Surely he is regarded as one of the most significant linguists of the 20th century. The problem is that while many may agree with the theory of monogenesis in principle, their studies of it are not well known. If you know of any we could include their information as well. Currently Ruhlen and Greenberg are the two most high profile proponents of such a position.Muntuwandi 22:44, 24 July 2007 (UTC)
Just read the Joseph Greenberg article. It gives a fairly good view of what of his research is not mainstream and what is accepted. Mlewan 10:38, 25 July 2007 (UTC)
I don't think the article Joseph Greenberg is written from a neutral perspective. It needs some work as well.
Like all articles it needs some work, but I have read in several places that G's work on African languages generally is accepted, but most of his other work is not. I have read a few of his articles myself, any my personal opinion is that he can be a raving idiot. (On the other hand, sometimes most of us can be raving idiots of course.) Mlewan 21:47, 25 July 2007 (UTC)
Greenberg's work in Linguistic Universals and Linguistic Typology were groundbreaking, even if there were others before him in those fields. He's certainly no Otto Jespersen, but he's not a complete raving idiot either, he just had bad years and good years :p.--AkselGerner (talk) 21:11, 16 April 2008 (UTC)

the notion of linguistic monogenesis ('proto-world') should be kept cleanly separate from dubious attempts to actually reconstruct elements of "proto-world". The former is perfectly straightforward and largely uncontroversial, while the latter is patently fringy. dab (𒁳) 10:31, 25 July 2007 (UTC)

The reconstruction maybe speculative, but at least it is an attempt or an example that can be used. The truth is we may never know what the proto-world language was but it doesn't hurt for some scholars to try reconstruct it. If we are going to have a section on proto-world, we might as well have an example.Muntuwandi 12:40, 25 July 2007 (UTC)
Maybe so, but it needs to be made very clear in such a section just how far outside the mainstream Greenberg, Ruhlen, and others are. And I also feel like taking up that much of the section with just discussion of Proto-World theories is giving undue weight to them --Miskwito 13:19, 25 July 2007 (UTC)
Monogenesis isn't largely uncontroversial, it's largely "maybe so, maybe not". The fact is that most paleontological data suggests that the use of language gained it's deepest impact on human physiology only after the dispersal of the species. That would strongly suggest against linguistic monogenesis.--AkselGerner (talk) 21:11, 16 April 2008 (UTC)
"Next to Chomsky, you have to say Greenberg is clearly the most important linguist we have had over the last 50 years, in terms of the quality, quantity and scope of his work," [3]Muntuwandi 13:33, 25 July 2007 (UTC)
"said Dr. Paul Newman, a linguist at Indiana University". I'm not too fond of Chomsky either, but you have to hand it to him he knew how to cause a ripple. Now there is no problem with mentioning Greenberg here. Greenberg's method may or may not be useful to reconstruct aspects of languages of the neolithic or even mesolithic (say 15,000 BP), but that's an entire order of magnitude removed from what would be necessary to reconstruct 'Proto-World' (150,000 BP). There is no point whatsoever to go into reconstructions of Proto-World here. This can be done at Proto-World, and even there only with the necessary fringiness disclaimers. "it doesn't hurt for some scholars to try reconstruct it" isn't a useful statement. It doesn't hurt for scholars to try construct a time machine, or the warp drive, but as it happens no scholar with any credibility would attempt to build these since we don't even have the theoretical foundations for that. Consequently, we don't address time-travel or super-luminal travel in our travel article. dab (𒁳) 14:28, 25 July 2007 (UTC)

Dbachmann's edits

Dbachmann, if you disagree with some of the content please bring it to the talk page before removing large amounts of material. Muntuwandi 03:06, 1 September 2007 (UTC)

Did he actually remove that much? He moved different stuff around, and got rid of some irrelevant stuff (like that thing about the Soviet Union), and reworded parts to make them clearer. I didn't look in great detail, though, so maybe he did remove large sections, and I missed that. For what it's worth, I think his changed improved the article greatly. As it is now, it's disorganized, poorly-written, and rambling. --Miskwito 05:56, 1 September 2007 (UTC)
Okay, I've looked through his edits again, and again, I agree that his edits greatly improve the article. They don't remove very much information--they just shift information around into a more logical arrangement, and condense some stuff so it's not quite as long. The only times a lot of stuff is actually removed are: (1) a section on Greenberg's(?) comparisons of languages, which was moved to another article[4]; (2) Excessive detail on Ruhlen's reconstructions and claims[5], which I agree isn't necessary in the article, and just distracts the reader from the major facts about the idea of Proto-World; and (3) A short, off-topic paragraph about the Soviet Union[6]. None of those seem like particularly controversial removals to me. However, part of the problem may have been that Dbachmann used almost no edit summaries, which might have helped clarify what he was doing. So I'd suggest to him that in the future when making large-scale changes, to use edit summaries so other editors will know what you're up to. --Miskwito 06:15, 1 September 2007 (UTC)

yes, I cleaned up the article in the spirit of my last comments above, which remained without answer since July 25. This article still needs major cleanup before we can consider it "evolved". Getting this article into shape is a difficult enough task without needing to pacify known trolls like Muntuwandi while doing it. Muntuwandi, have you even read the version you are reveting to? All of it? Apart from the long offtopic tangents, it discusses the "behavioral modernity" thing twice over, in detail, once under "modern humans" and once under "the evolution of language" (which section title is in fact equivalent to the article title). This happens to unwatched articles where careless editors add stuff without reading what is there. That's a normal buildup phase for a neglected article, but at some point, the material needs to be actually arranged. I hope to get this article to "B" quality soon, so that further additions can be structured and balanced out. --dab (𒁳) 12:59, 1 September 2007 (UTC)

Dbachmann is referring to me as a troll, I think that is unjustified since all the information is cited from reliable sources. I think if you should clarify your deletions before proceeding. In principle I am not against cleaning up or rearranging, as long as important information is not omitted. Muntuwandi 17:38, 1 September 2007 (UTC)
For example dbachmann refers to Out of Africa at 80,000 years ago when the latest figure from last month is 55000 years ago[7]. Muntuwandi 17:43, 1 September 2007 (UTC)
I agree that it's not fair to call you a troll, and I don't believe you are. But if you agree with one small part of Dbachman's edits like changing 50,000 years bp to 80,000, you should just change that one part, not revert all of his changes, many or most of which I can't see how you'd have a problem with. Are there other specific aspects of his changes you object to? --Miskwito 22:10, 3 September 2007 (UTC)

Well I was trying to go through Dbachmanns edits to see whether we can incorporate any of his changes, However it was quite confusing particularly since they were no edit summaries or discussions on the talk page. If we can clarify some of the changes I have no problem in incorporating them as long as no useful information is omitted. Muntuwandi 22:36, 3 September 2007 (UTC)

Well, I already gave a very brief summary of the three removals of any significant amount of material above (I note you then did the Soviet quote removal again). Most his other edits, as far as I can see, were moving sections around. It's not that hard to see what his edits consisted of, though; just go through the history and look at the "difference between versions" sections, which I'll try to do now. --Miskwito 22:52, 3 September 2007 (UTC)

Specific edits

These are my summaries of what seem to be the main changes in each of Dbachmann's edits (and I've marked the one's I believe should be totally non-controversial):

  1. 1st edit - removing some stuff about Neanderthals and some other (in my opinion, superfluous) details about the Out of Africa theory, such as the stuff about tool use. Also the consolidation and shifting around of several paragraphs.
  2. 2nd edit - placing a fact tag on an unreferenced statement (totally non-controversial)
  3. 3rd edit - reordering of sections ("TOC" in the edit summary refers to "Table of Contents")
  4. 4th edit - moving section to another article (as I mentioned above)
  5. 5th edit - splitting "monogenesis" section into two paragraphs, and changing where the section begins
  6. 6th edit - shifting around of sections, and removal of some superfluous details on hominid evolution, vervet monkey vocalizations, etc.
  7. 7th edit - typo correction (totally non-controversial)
  8. 8th edit - restructuring of section
  9. 9th edit - removal of unnecessary detail on Ruhlen's proposals (as I mentioned above)
  10. 10th edit - minor improving of wording
  11. 11th edit - removal of superfluous information on the bottleneck theory associated with the Toba catastrophe
  12. 12th edit - disambiguation of a Wikilink (totally non-controversial)
  13. 13th edit - "intro cleanup"--moving of some info to new locations, minor rewordings, and removal of some redundant or superfluous statements (e.g. "All current human populations speak languages that are of equal complexity") and the unnecessary mention of writing
  14. 14th edit - minor rewording/change of dates
  15. 15th edit - insertion of word "either" (totally non-controversial)
  16. 16th edit - reordering of some stuff
  17. 17th edit - changing level of heading
  18. 18th edit - removal of unnecessary wording from heading
  19. 19th edit - reordering of some stuff, and addition of mention of rekindling of scholarly interest in the question of the origin of language
  20. 20th edit - fixing link (totally non-controversial)
  21. 21st edit - fixing typo (totally non-controversial)
  22. 22nd edit - removal of thing about Soviet Union (which Muntuwandi then did again, so the present version reflects this change)

--Miskwito 23:28, 3 September 2007 (UTC)

I'll go through them as well and see which changes I am agreeable to. Muntuwandi 23:31, 3 September 2007 (UTC)

the tool use may seem as irrelevant, but unfortunately that is the only material left from ancient humans that can be used to infer anything about ancient humans. Dbachmann also indicated 80,000 years ago for out of africa which is also innaccurate. Muntuwandi 23:22, 8 September 2007 (UTC)

The current version says 80,000 for out of africa, the latest version says 50,000 years[8], [9] We need to change that, nothing irresponsible about it. Muntuwandi 03:24, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
I believe we do not a separate sub-section for out of Africa, rather than a small mention of it. This is an important part of current hypothesis on the origin of language. Muntuwandi 18:47, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

Whoops, sorry about adding those two fact tags back in after you removed them, Muntuwandi. I had mistakenly edited the previous version of the page rather than the current one when I changed the parrot ref. My bad --Miskwito 04:38, 11 September 2007 (UTC)

I appreciate the work that went into analysing my edits, Miskwito, but your time would be better invested in further improving the article. It still has a long way to go. Once it is a stable text of at least "B" quality, it will be appropriate to monitor significant edits more suspiciously. dab (𒁳) 10:05, 12 September 2007 (UTC)
in fact, it doesn't look so bad now. The ToC is reasonably systematic, although I think the "Monogenesis" section should be h2, not subsection to "human evolution". I would give it a "B" at this point. --dab (𒁳) 10:11, 12 September 2007 (UTC)

18th C?

re this sentence: "Late 18th to early 19th century European scholarship assumed that the languages of the world reflected various stages in the development from primitive to advanced speech, culminating in the Indo European family seen as the most advanced." The reason I removed the 18th century ref is that I don't think we can reasonably speak of any 18th century writer claiming that language culminates in the "Indo-Eueropean family", since the very concept of the an Indo-European family is not really clearly defined until the early 19th century. Even Jones is rather confused on the subject (he includes ancient Egyptian) Paul B 18:05, 8 November 2007 (UTC)

merger proposal

Merger proposal: Pre-language article has an obscure title and is wholly within the scope of this article. It should be merged to here, although it is a stub even as a subsection of this article and still requires modification.--AkselGerner (talk) 22:53, 17 March 2008 (UTC)

So, apparently nobody gives a flying hoot about the pre-language article... not that I am surprised. It probably should just be deleted instead... can somebody please check if there's anything in it that can be used in this article?--AkselGerner (talk) 20:19, 27 March 2008 (UTC)
Ok, got pre-language deleted, nothing to see here.--AkselGerner (talk) 19:50, 19 May 2008 (UTC)

Evolution Disclaimer

To show intellectual honesty, I recommend that some kind of Evolution disclaimer be inserted wherever Darwinistic-evolution theories were used to draw conclusions. People should be made aware when conclusions are based upon a science whose foundation is a list of assumptions. I suggest the use of the following disclaimer (or something that captures its essence):

Based upon the assumptions which form the foundation of Darwinistic-based biological evolution, the following hypotheses have been derived.

The following sections require such a disclaimer:

  • Archaic hominids
  • Modern humans
  • Gestural theory

--Beleg Strongbow (talk) 18:03, 26 March 2008 (UTC)

Intellectual honesty apparently is a demand only for those who disagree with you, your own edits have no such virtue. It's apparent just who was the anonymous spammer, who all of a sudden has become very talkative. You should probably take up your bible and check out the part that reads "let he who is free of sin throw the first stone", and "do not judge lest you yourself be judged, and "turn the other cheek", and "blessed are the meek..." In other words, be more meek, less judgemental, throw less stones, and turn turn turn that other cheek.--AkselGerner (talk) 20:22, 26 March 2008 (UTC)
How about we stay on-target. Shall we? The point is, it is intellectually dishonest to call something a proven fact or to treat it as such, when it is not. Calling people names or attempting to discredit their intentions bears no relevance to whether or not their statements are accurate. -- Beleg Strongbow (talk) 12:22, 27 March 2008 (UTC)
Oh, I'm on-target alright. Unlike you I could say, and I quote: "Intellectual dishonesty is the advocacy of a position which the advocate knows or believes to be false". See? You're probably surprised to see that it doesn't say "Intellectual dishonesty is the advocacy of a position which Beleg Strongbow believes to be false", well, get over it. Extremists always try to use the rules of civil conduct to hide behind, you even try to suggest that other people violated 3RR when in fact it was you who forced the reverts with your own vandalist reposts. I must say that after reading your user page I personally feel that your beliefs have very little to do with Jesus of Nazareth, and everything to do with the Pharisees that orchestrated his demise. Jesus worked with the very dregs of society, not with the self-righteous know-it-alls who believed they know what God really had in mind.--AkselGerner (talk) 20:29, 27 March 2008 (UTC)
Evolution is based on observation by reliable sources, not assumptions. Peter Grey (talk) 20:50, 26 March 2008 (UTC) Peter Grey (talk) 15:28, 27 March 2008 (UTC)
So, you have observed the hypotheses of natural selection? You have actually seen, with your own eyes, one species evolve into a totally different species? You have actually held, in your own hands, the fossilized remains of one of the countless (if we could only find them) missing-links? No, no, I didn't think so. -- Beleg Strongbow (talk) 12:22, 27 March 2008 (UTC)
So, you have observed the life of your Messiah first hand? You have actually seen with your own eyes the birth of Jesus? You have actually held in your own hands the thorn-crowned head of the crucified Christ? No, no, I didn't think so.
Arguments like that are very stupid. Please refrain from using them, for your own credibility's sake. --ざくら 21:00, 7 May 2008 (UTC)
We obviously have a disagreement here, and that's fine. The point is that the article needs to remain neutral, and right now it isn't. Right now it asserts assumptions as facts. All I ask is that there be some kind of acknowledgement of the source of those assumptions. Why are you opposed to this level of acknowledgement? Please give reasons, not just conclusions.
  • I, along with the millions of Creationists in this world, accept that Darwinistic Evolution is a model for the origin of life, a model which is based upon assumptions and ignores certain cornerstone theories of probability and laws of physics.
  • On the other hand, the millions of Evolutionists accept, as fact, the assumptions made by Darwin, his predecessors and his intellectual descendants, and they have molded these assumptions to fit to other discoveries and additional hypotheses that they have made.
  • We don't need to agree, but we will need to come to a compromise on the condition of this article, as I am determined to have those disclaimers present, and you are currently in violation of the 3RR.
-- Beleg Strongbow (talk) 12:22, 27 March 2008 (UTC)
This is not the place to debate evolution, though if you think it ignores probability and the laws of physics you are sadly misinformed (not that old Second law of thermoynamics canard again?). However, numerous surveys have shown that the vast majority of relevantly qualified scientists accept it as fact, and that what matters here. WP:fringe may well apply in this context. Paul B (talk) 12:29, 27 March 2008 (UTC)
Paul B, you are now joining Peter Grey in violating the 3RR. You can not just delete my inserts without legitimate discussion. The disclaimer does not say "Evolution is wrong!" It simply acknowledges that Evolution is the foundation upon which the tagged sections were based. Why do you have a problem with this acknowledgement? Your actions show disinterest in maintaining an NPOV. -- Beleg Strongbow (talk) 13:37, 27 March 2008 (UTC)
Such a statement would be WP:NPOV, since evolution is the uncontroversial mechanism to explain all changes to life and creationism is an unproven, unsubstantiated, non-reliably sourced empty critiqute of evolution. Such additions would amount to creationist apologetics and we aren't conservapedia. They're also original research, and bad wikilinking. And technically two people can't violate the 3RR unless the page has been reverted six times. YOU have reverted it seven times I believe. I'll head over to WP:AN3 and see about creating a report. WLU (talk) 14:05, 27 March 2008 (UTC)
A single editor can revert three times (though this is not an entitlement). If you have ten independent editors who are in agreement, they can revert 30 times. This is to ensure that one individual can't hold the majority to ransom. Paul B (talk) 14:18, 27 March 2008 (UTC)
And technically the 3RR doesn't apply to vandalism. I see the 'disclaimers' as creationism-inspired vandalism. Wikipedia is supposed to be NPOV, empty criticism of evolution based on a biblical literalism is not NPOV, which makes it vandalism in my mind. But we'll see what the 3RR posting results in. Getting quite messy over there [10]. WLU (talk) 14:38, 27 March 2008 (UTC)

A few points:

  • All the areas at the root of the debate appear to be independent of the Theory of Evolution, which simply science's best explanation of how things happened, not whether they happened (see Evolution as theory and fact‎).
  • Natural selection has been demonstrated both in the lab and in the field.
  • The Theory of Evolution is not "a model for the origin of life", it is an explanation of how life developed, after it came into existence (and specifically, after it reached the point of reproduction, which is necessary for all evolutionary mechanisms). The highly speculative field of determining possible ways in which life might have come into existence is Abiogenesis, a field that while it borders on evolutionary biology, but does not directly affect it.
  • Any disclaimer that throws doubt on the Theory of Evolution would be giving WP:UNDUE weight to a discredited viewpoint that isn't even WP:FRINGE within the scientific community.

HrafnTalkStalk 14:46, 27 March 2008 (UTC)

This falls under WP:UNDUE/WP:FRINGE. Wikipedia is built to reflect academic consensus, period. Opinions are given weight respective to the weight they carry in academia. Biological evolution (be it classical Darwinism or more recent models) carries a weight of something like 99.99%. No disclaimer needed. Dissenting opinions would need very solid references indeed, because exceptional claims require exceptional sources. Again, 'exceptional' refers to academic mainstream, and decidedly not to a Midwestern US opinion poll or similar. dab (𒁳) 14:47, 27 March 2008 (UTC)

It also occurs to me that WP:NPOVFAQ#Making necessary assumptions would be applicable to this as well. HrafnTalkStalk 15:05, 27 March 2008 (UTC)

Hello Mr. Strongbow, you are fighting the good fight and I can sympathize with that. Your fight isn't my fight, I happen to be an evolutionist and a Christian. But, Mr. Strongbow, we cannot expect everyone in the world to agree with us. This was already fought out in the courts and in the academic circles and in the churches. Most people are fairly aware of the controversy. Your point of view is available out there, just as are churches. In every town I can think of there are at least a dozen churches. If a man wants to go to church there is no lack of opportunity, but if he does not, there is no point at all in compelling his conscience. The witchcraft persecutions in my part of the country settled that issue for the country once and for all. They disestablished the puritan hierarchy and set Massachusetts on the path of free speech, later to become a part of the US Constitution. There is no point whatsoever in trying to bully-pulpit the good people into a return to a state religion. The scholars have called it as they saw it in good conscience and this entire topic depends on the theory of evolution. We already know everything you have to say from dozens of sources and frankly there is no need for us to hear it again from you. Unless God has personally asked you to preach on Wikipedia, I would say, you forget that we have freedom of religion and freedom of speech here. God, Christianity and Christians do not need you to do this and WP is expressly NPOV. Best wishes to you. If it's any consolation, I believe in angels but I don't feel compelled to preach that on WP. The latter is no different from any other textbook in any state in the union, so why do you expect it to be? Thanks for heeding me.Dave (talk) 01:39, 28 December 2009 (UTC)

Hierarchal systems theory

pasted from User talk:WLU It would appear that you have applied different criteria to the assessment of the entry regarding the Hierarchical Systems theory of language than those regarding Gestural theory, Pidgins and Creoles, Universal grammar, and Idiogossia. Idioglossia has no citations at all. Universal grammar has two citation. One is an article in the New York Times (which, since I last heard, was not a peer reviewed journal). The second, which is also the sole citation in the section entitled Pidgins and Creoles, does not substantiate the title heading at all, so is largely irrelevant. The citation in the section entitle Gestural theory also does not lend any credence to the validity or origins of the theory. Hierarchical Systems theory, has been reviewed by David Chalmers and Bourget for inclusion in the archive online database on papers on consciousness. Could you explain why the section on Hierarchical systems has been deleted whilst these other sections have not? Furthermore, why should not Hierarchical Systems Theory be included on the grounds that those wishing to explore the evolution of language would be equally interested in the Hierarchical Systems theory as to Gestural, and Universal grammar theories? (talk) 09:45, 25 May 2008 (UTC)

Actually, I hadn't applied any assessment to the other categories because I did not notice them being added in. I've since removed some sections. Hierarchical systems is one of them - if it's a real theory, source it to a journal or something besides an author's website which indicates interest from secondary, rather than self-published sources. Gestural theory is sourced to two textbooks and the NYT, which is a reliable secondary source. Pigdins and creoles both have their own main articles, as does universal grammar. Per WP:PROVEIT I have removed idioglossia. Provide a citation indicating that Hierarchical systems theory has received attention beyond just the author, and ideally a discussion in a reliable source, and it can stay. If you can't, if it's just a self-published source, it is considered a fringe topic and should not be on the page. Those wishing to explore HST can google it. Those wishing to promote HST should do so in venues other than wikipedia and should not seek to take advantage of its high priority on search engines. Wikipedia is not a place for original research or self-promotion; we report the unconventionally established, not the bleeding edge of unpublished research. Please let me know if you have any other concerns and I will do my best to address them. WLU (talk) 13:24, 25 May 2008 (UTC)

Where is old valuable content ?


For a long time this page displayed (perhaps outdated ?) but still very valuable information about theories like: The mama theory The ta-ta theory The yo-he-ho theory The bow-wow theory

on the origins of language. They have been replaced by a new section, and completely vanished. I am not in linguistics so may be there was a good reason for this but this information was really sound for me.

Could it be brought back ?

Thanks. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:13, 7 June 2008 (UTC)

According to WikiBlame, no such thing was present in the article since at least April 2004. If you can't link to a specific revision there's no way anyone here can tell you with any certainty why the material was removed. However, by the sound of it, someone just made them up, without any evidence backing it up. Note furthermore, that this information, or misinformation, cannot have been sound to you, or unsound for that matter, because you, as you state yourself, aren't into linguistics, neither professionally nor out of interest, and therefore have no way to judge the material. As for whether the material could be brought back or not, everything in Wikipedia needs to be cited in accordance with WP:V, so the answer is probably no. Shinobu (talk) 00:22, 6 October 2008 (UTC)
Personal criticism such as that immediately preceding is out of place in Wikipedia, even if the request being attacked were accurately understood, which it was not.
The terms "mama theory", "bow-wow theory", etc., are well known in the field. Shinobu is mistaken in the factual assertions. I hope to provide documentation shortly. Zaslav (talk) 05:46, 3 October 2011 (UTC)
Please don't add anything until you do find proper documentation. Otherwise, we have to assume that it is original research, as Shinobu said. Other editors have to be able to verify your material, and that's impossible without sources. Dominus Vobisdu (talk) 06:20, 3 October 2011 (UTC)
This material was indeed once there. See the section on "Linguistic hypotheses". The intentionally "silly" names derive from Otto Jespersen. It might be worth re-adding this stuff in summary form, which should not be difficult to cite. Paul B (talk) 08:32, 3 October 2011 (UTC)

Improvements for the Archaic hominids section

There are two paragraphs at the end of this section that solely define the terms "absolute proto-language" and "Hmmmmm" without tying into the rest of the article. The also read as a listing of a term and then a definition, which could be improved. I would change this myself but I am unsure of the arguments/explanations attempted to be made by adding introducing these terms. (talk) 15:27, 10 August 2008 (UTC) BAH!!! This is actually mePorco-esphino (talk) 15:28, 10 August 2008 (UTC)

history of language is called origin —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:34, 6 September 2008 (UTC)

No traces?

Unlike writing, spoken language leaves no trace. Hence linguists have to resort to indirect methods in trying to decipher the origins of language.

But spoken language does leave traces, in the form of writing, in the form of the sounds of descendant languages, and nowadays even recordings. So as it stands the sentence is wrong, even if we can sort of guess what the editor intended. It is also uncited. Shinobu (talk) 22:54, 5 October 2008 (UTC) I guess it is reference to tangible or physical traces.Shambalala (talk) 23:08, 5 October 2008 (UTC)


The lead was in terrible shape and looked like a talk page than an article. I restored content from an earlier version.Shambalala (talk) 23:08, 5 October 2008 (UTC)

Primate language

The following statement is patently false: "However, apes appear to lack the ability to learn grammar and syntax." On the contrary, apes have demonstrated the ability to understand syntax. I added a fact tag for now; I suspect this claim is based on old research, or old skepticism that predates current research. ThreeOfCups (talk) 05:17, 23 December 2008 (UTC)

I think this could help you a bit: Ape hand gestures reveal where humans evolved language. Thank the Max Planck Institute. Komitsuki (talk) 12:09, 19 November 2011 (UTC)


From the lede, "...and no child is born with a biological predisposition favoring any one language or type of language." Wouldn't Chomsky's theory of a universal grammar imply that children are born with a predisposition to certain types of languages, namely those that fit with this UG? If yes, then this should be changed. Phoenix1177 (talk) 06:29, 10 February 2009 (UTC)

I think that we can take it as given that this is limited to all varieties of human language. Paul B (talk) 11:44, 10 February 2009 (UTC)
Perhaps we should make that clear, say "...and no child is born...favoring any one natural language." My reason is this, "type" could be taken to allow for any arbitrary language; since natural language is a type of language; and, second, that this would fail to be true in the future if we adopted some constructed language the world over (perhaps the language would be constructed so there would be no bias, it doesn't really matter.) Phoenix1177 (talk) 10:44, 13 February 2009 (UTC)

164kya is not Upper Paleolithic

"Human language may have emerged by the transition to behavioral modernity, which occurred some 164,000 years ago at the latest, in the Upper Paleolithic."

This seems outright wrong, since the Upper Paleolithic is considered to begin around 50-40kya. nihil (talk) 05:27, 23 March 2009 (UTC)

that was a rather dubious edit[11], changing the the proper 50,000 we used to have. I think this editor confused "anatomically modern" with "behaviourally modern". --dab (𒁳) 22:08, 23 March 2009 (UTC)

change the citation--outdated/broken

citation #1 was last retrieved 2 years ago and has since died. Before anyone deletes it, someone should try and find a replacement. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:29, 12 May 2009 (UTC)

Oh, Mr., you're right, the link has perished. Someone however put another ref right next to it. We don't require a whole string of refs; one will suffice. Now, consider this - the link died, right? Old books never die, they just fade away. I think you can expect most links to die. I try not to put them in, except in the external links. I try to use books. I really don't think we need another link, do you? If you do still, let me remind you that you can find one yourself. Editing is open to everyone. This is a managed self-help type of thing. Find us a link; we will help you put it in if you can't figure it out.Dave (talk) 02:06, 28 December 2009 (UTC)

Hello there

How are things on campus in Virginia? I don't really mind your deletion. In an article such as this, which has been worked over and over, it is hard to know the proper thing to say. It is easier to know what NOT to say. I look for excellence, but naturally my judgement is not always excellent. Whose is? I don't know who you are and don't care or why you do not appear in a user page. Maybe that's the way you want it. I can work with anyone sincere. If you're a vandal the admins will sort you out eventually. This does not look like vandalism so far. If you are going to contribute regularly you might want a user page. If you'd rather wear the mask, fine. I'm going to edit through this article. My standard is, if the change is better, keep it. If not, do it some other way. The target is excellence. We aren't interested in partisan views or personal egotism. If it turns into that I will follow Dieter - but, I will be leaving templates in my trail. There is no rush on this - I'm editing a group of linguistics articles. I'm heavy on refs and I favor keeping what there is if refs can be found. I spend a lot of time on lookups. Join me if you can. I will take you seriously if you act in favor of excellence. Ciao, and welcome in advance to Wikipedia if that is how you want to go.Dave (talk) 20:46, 27 December 2009 (UTC)

Pay site links

Working on the referencing system I noticed that some links to pay sites are being being used; that is, you can only access the article if you join the organization offering it, or else pay a sometimes substantial fee. Stop me if I'm wrong, but I see this as in the same category as Amazon and other Internet booksellers. Amazon nowadays will give you sometimes substantial parts of the book, even where Google will not. But, they are selling these books, as are Alibris, Barnes & Noble and all the others and therefore are commercial sites. Google on the other hand offers many books or substantial parts of them for free, with links to the standard sellers and the publishers if you want to buy it. So, WP has not been allowing links to the sellers, such as Amazon. It does allow Google links. Now, Science magazine, pubmed and so on are SELLING not giving away these articles. I receive solicitations to subscribe all the time. So, they are in the same category as Amazon. I therefore am removing the links to those sites. We aren't plugging sellers, no matter how useful they might be. Ordinarily I do this without this long-winded explanation but these language article seem to be controversial and attract a lot of attention and opposition. If you have objections, take it up with the admin.Dave (talk) 11:59, 28 December 2009 (UTC)

Remove crap

I removed this:

Moreover, Everett claims that Pirahã is a language without recursion.[1] Both of these findings pose a challenge for the argument that recursion is the distinguishing feature between human language and non-human communication systems.

and the previous ridiculous claim that "Buffalo buffalo..." is an example of recursion.Likebox (talk) 20:44, 31 December 2009 (UTC)

I restored Everett's stuff, because it isn't nonsense. Sorry about that.Likebox (talk) 12:15, 1 January 2010 (UTC)

Starling grammar is pathetic

The starling experiments tried to train starlings to recognize short strings which match the regular expression (AB)*, then to match the "context free grammar" A^nB^n. This is a pathetic version of context free grammar, since it is so simple and the individual cases tested were so short (AABB and AAABBB).

It is not a good idea to test context freeness with parentheses matching, because a non-stack parser can match parenetheses by counting with only a logarithmic growth in the number of bits used to do the matching. If you want to check whether the parens are matched in an expression, you start a counter at "0", then you increment by one on every open paren, and decrement by one on every close paren.

This is not really context free in practice, because with no stack and an eight bit counter, you can correctly identify up to 255 nested parentheses. Simiarly with no stack and a 32 bit counter, you can effectively identify correctly nested parentheses without doing any real pushing or popping.

A good example of a context free grammar is two types of parentheses which must be correctly nested. Then you have to push the type of the parentheses onto a stack, and recover it in reverse order. To see that humans are pretty good at this, consider this real-world looking C function call:

froo( asbat[glob(froo(asbat[3])) + glue[trap]], crom(trop[asbat[7]]), plig[2])

It is pretty easy for a human to scan the parens left to right and see that they are matched. When stripped down to its elemental form, this expression is


Which is pretty deeply nested, and yet (I think) one-scan parsable by a human reader in its natural state. The two types of parentheses require a stack capable of storing one bit, and with a depth of at least 5 units.

This is a better test, because there is no system of counting which can fake-parse two parens. Unlike the single parens, you would need a number of bits equal to the depth to parse, not the log of the depth.

Since strings of the form A^nB^n are fake-parsable by simple counting, it is not a good test for grammar learning. Even if it were, the starlings were given such small instances that it is not reasonable to extrapolate that they learned the actual grammar from the small instances. So the starling claim is not very good, and should be balanced by a countersource.Likebox (talk) 03:54, 19 January 2010 (UTC)

Scenarios for language evolution

Doesn't paragraph 2 basically contradict itself? Verbal language has one origin, but sign language has had many origins. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:57, 9 June 2011 (UTC)

Magical Snowflake Hypothesis

Noam Chomsky recently gave a keynote talk at the Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (Boston, July 2011) where he discussed his view on language evolution. He made the distinction between the evolution of language versus the evolution of communication where he asserted that our capacity for language (as opposed to communication) happened relatively suddenly, perhaps over a single generation somewhere between 50 and 100 thousand years ago. His core claim was that some common ancestor of us all appeared one day as a 'magical snowflake' with the brain wiring needed for language (i.e. universal grammar). In some banter over dinner that evening a small group of us dubbed this: "The Magical Snowflake Hypothesis." In searching for 'Magical Snowflake Hypothesis' on the internet however, nothing turns up. Do some linguists call this hypothesis by another name? I can't find a video of the actual talk he gave, but I found a related talk he gave earlier this year here (watch from 50:30 to about 51:30):​ch?v=XbjVMq0k3uc

I am what Chomsky calls a 'non-existence theorist' (though I think a better term is non-believer). That is, I don't believe that a specialized language module suddenly appeared one day in the human brain (though I think Chomsky is correct - that if a specialized language module in the human brain is to be assumed, it could not have gradually evolved, that would be like trying to gradually evolve a Turing machine). This probably disqualifies me from writing an unbiased summary of the hypothesis. However, I think this hypothesis should be included here. Anyone have any comments or suggestions before I blunder forward and start a 'Magical Snowflake Hypothesis' section?

Mcbradaigh (talk) 00:52, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

sound distinction capability?

Isn't there some need, for oral language, for a rather sophisticated sound distinction capability, both for vowels & consonants, either physical, neural, or both? Denispir (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 19:38, 30 July 2011 (UTC).


Does idioglossia have any bearing on this article? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:19, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

On the origin of species

The above title is indeed the title of a new theory about the origin of language! This theory has been developped by the confrontation of observations in different fields of Biology, i.e. systematics and ethology, Psychology, i.e. the study of perception and Linguistics, i.e. the notion of sign. The conclusion is that language can be explained in continuity with other capacities observed in animals and needs no special "mutation" or "wiring" in humans, probably just a lengthening in their early childhood. Language emergence is seen as the manifestation of a new level of perceptual associations between sounds and concepts (such associations existed before). So this theory is a bit like the Bow-wow theory, " .. early words as imitations of the cries of beasts and birds", but with the stress on perception, not emission. In fact, if you can't extract a cry from the background, there are no cries. The same is true about "animals", if you can't differentiate the birds from the trees they are hiding in, there are no birds... So there are no cries and birds in our brains (then in the world)there are only p-cries (perceived cries) and p-birds... An other consequence of this theory is that the origin of languages (sign language also) is to be tracked down in the eyes and the ears of our ancestors, not in their pharynx, a flaw in the vision of many scholars, even several linguists. After all, babies understand words long before they can pronounce them! But a lot of people continue to mix up the origin of language and the origin of speech. Yes language is a domain where ontogenies certainely have to reconstruct what philogeny appear to have achieved (if something like philogeny really exists). Well, I don't want to restart the story here : the link to the paper : Oh yes by the way, it is written in french! People willing to tranlate it to english are welcome. S. JOURDAN — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:22, 10 December 2011 (UTC)


OK, I acted on this suggestion today. --Altg20April2nd (talk) 12:37, 1 January 2012 (UTC)

--Altg20April2nd (talk) 14:05, 29 December 2011 (UTC)

Synergetic approach

I think this whole section should be deleted. Would anyone object? The Azerbaijan Linguistic School? What on earth is that? The points about sound versus vision could in principle be retained, but surely not under this curious heading...

This nonsense has been repeatedly deleted and then readded by various 'new' editors. It has been discussed at WP:Fringe noticeboard and talk:Adverb. It should be completely removed. Paul B (talk) 22:18, 1 January 2012 (UTC)

Nicaraguan Sign Language

This section should be put under a different heading (it is now under history). Maybe something to the effect of "Empirical situations from which can be derived inferences about the origin of language". — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:53, 26 May 2012 (UTC)

Can the lack of recursion in Nicaraguan Sign Language be further explained? According to Michael Tomasello, they do support "referents" (meaning word's like "there" or "that") which I would think is a form of recursion, even if simplistic. Qed (talk) 16:49, 18 July 2012 (UTC)

Oromo language should we add something about that?

Oromo, also known as Afaan Oromo, Oromiffa(a) (and sometimes in other languages by variant spellings of these names; Oromic, Afan Oromo, etc.), is an Afro-Asiatic language. It is the most widely spoken tongue in the family's Cushitic branch. Forms of Oromo are spoken as a first language by more than 35 million Oromo and neighbouring peoples in Ethiopia and parts of northern Kenya.

The Omo remains are a collection of hominid bones discovered between 1967 and 1974 at the Omo Kibish sites near the Omo River, in Omo National Park in south-western Ethiopia.[2] The bones were recovered by a scientific team from the Kenya National Museums directed by Richard Leakey and others.[3] The remains from Kamoya's Hominid Site (KHS) were called Omo 1 and those from Paul's Hominid Site (PHS) Omo 2.[4]

Parts of the fossils are the earliest to have been classified by Richard Leakey as Homo sapiens. In 2004, the geologic layers around the fossils were dated, and the authors of the dating study concluded that the "preferred estimate of the age of the Kibish hominids is 195 ± 5 ka [thousand years ago]", which would make the fossils the oldest known Homo sapiens remains.[4] In a 2005 article on the Omo remains, Nature magazine said that, because of the fossils' age, Ethiopia is the current choice for the "cradle of Homo sapiens".[5]

HiIamstandingbehindyou (talk) 09:43, 23 November 2012 (UTC)

Human remains tell us nothing about language. There's nothing especially unusual about the Oromo language. As you say, it's part of a larger language group, not an isolate. The distant anestors of the Oromo, like all our ancestors, could have spoken any language completely unrelated to Oromo. Paul B (talk) 12:00, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
Yep. Oromo isn't named after the Omo, it's the Omotic languages which are. While these are generally considered Afro-Asiatic, it has also been argued that the evidence is not sufficient and that they are really isolated, but that would still have no bearing on early humans. Neither Omotic nor Afro-Asiatic existed 195,000 years ago, as proto-languages which can be reconstructed reach no more than several millennia back in time. We don't even know whether humans 195,000 years used something in the vein of modern spoken languages at all, and if there is continuity to any modern (or even recently extinct) spoken language.
The oldest linguistic layer in East Africa is probably represented by the Hadza language, which also happens to be spoken relatively closely nearby. Hadza is clearly an isolate. It belongs to the Khoisan-type, but that is only a general resemblance that doesn't have anything to do with relationship. There have been attempts to explain Khoisan-type languages in the southern part of Africa as particularly archaic somehow, even in Science (ah, of course, Atkinson again), but such attempts are not really convincing. If Sandawe is really related to Khoi, then there are suggestive indications that click consonants can really form out of consonant clusters, which has been suspected based on other evidence (allophonical clicks) and on theoretical grounds, as well, so even the suggestion that clicks are particularly archaic is doubtful. Historical linguistics has nothing to say on the origins of language, and whether typology has is questionable, too. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 01:17, 17 January 2013 (UTC)

Gestural theory

I do not have any sources at hand right now to check where this has been explained, but I read Gesture and the Nature of Language and attended a talk given by Michael Corballis many years ago, and the way I understand the gestural theory, it assumes several modes of communication: 1) vocal (involuntary not subject to conscious control), 2) postural, 3) manual, 4) facial and 5) oral/vocal (voluntary and subject to conscious control). A typical example of 1 are animal alarm calls and human reactions such as screaming or laughter, in response to basic human emotions such as fear or surprise; these are basically reflexes (compare the tickle reflex, which produces similar reactions), even though they can be faked using mode 5 – but faking them convincingly can be hard, which is why actors study these things. 5 is basically a specialisation of 4. Sign languages feature not only manual gestures, but also facial gestures ("gesture" is the overarching term, hence the name of the theory, which does not only refer to manual gestures, but also facial and oral/vocal gestures) and accompanying vocalisations (mouthing), all of which contribute meaning. Spoken language can therefore be considered an outgrowth or extension of facial expression. Lip rounding is actually a feature of both – a facial (visible) as well as oral (audible) gesture –, and is used in sign languages as an accompanying signal. Intonation/prosody is part of 5, but an additional layer on the segmental one, both in spoken and sign languages, and often considered "nonverbal" to some extent, as it is partially connected with emotion content (see emotional prosody). The difference between vocal and sign languages is therefore merely one of focus: in vocal languages, level 5 is primary, in sign languages, level 3, although this seems to reflect a convention more than anything else (possibly connected with the evolution of writing, which encodes only a small part of the spectrum of human communication). Such a (perceptual) shift of focus is considered to have brought about the transition to vocal language as it is familiar to the hearing, while, as cannot be stressed enough, all enumerated modes continue to be heavily employed; it is often claimed that the majority of content (and sometimes even the more important content, especially considering that language is primary the medium of social interaction, rather than conveyance or even machine-like transmission of verbal information) even in vocal language is not contributed by the words themselves, but the nonverbal components. Language is, and has always been, multimodal. The term "gesture first" is misleading because, as explained in Gesture ..., gestures are still used, and vocal language itself consists of gestures: phonetic gestures such as lip-rounding. The idea that (exclusively) vocal language evolved out of (exclusively) sign language is an invalid simplification of the theory, and attacking this simplification amounts to attacking a strawman.

I might add that it is conceivable that there are not only sign but also spoken languages where, for example, arching one's eyebrows can be analysed as having grammatical meaning, like prosody can mark otherwise unmarked relative clauses, just that nobody has thought of that idea yet. This may be compared to what has been analysed as a "pejorative/dubitative quotative" in German, which does not feature anything like segmental or prosodic clues, but a kind of advanced tongue root feature, where the quoted person is seemingly imitated, but really mocked because talking with your tongue half sticking out and your mouth distorted sounds weird and silly. Secondary articularisations such as palatalisation – a phonetic process which seems to have evolved out of that is actually used in Basque to form diminutives –, labialisation, retroflexion, pharyngealisation and even glottal states can be used to imitate voices, and phonation as well as prosody can be used to mark grammatical information in vocal language, showing that even supposedly nonverbal clues can be analysed as having strictly linguistic meaning, not as merely somehow "colouring" information. Moreover, it makes one wonder what kind of role nonverbal signals have in the language acquisition process of hearing children.

Interestingly, the origin of music has recently been investigated in the context of the origin of language, and it is remarkable how both language and music combine nonverbal and verbal symbolic material. Paget's ta-ta theory is also remarkable as an early precursor of "gesture theory", even though, as explained, the gestural theory does not mean that early humans were at some point silent, just that the modern idea of nonverbal signals being somehow secondary and immaterial additions to verbal language is misleading; rather, I think that "gesture theorists" will concur with McNeill that manual and vocal language evolved in tandem, or even as a coherent whole. It's just that the evolution of language, and especially grammar, according to gestural theories, cannot be explained with spoken words alone.

Let me note that many interesting ideas have been proposed in the context, including the one that language was first exploited for the purpose of sharing information on food resources (because language would have to be very useful in evolutionary terms to be successful, and initially to convey factual, reliable information, before it could start to be used for the purpose of deception), especially carcasses (because early humans are thought to have been scavengers initially, and finding carcasses before other scavengers and while still fresh was vital), that the nested structures of grammar was developped using the model of familial relationships, or in fact that the shift from primarily manual to primarily vocal signalling was precipitated by a changing environment featuring high grass, where vocal signals were more useful than visual signals, and not all of these are necessarily mutually exclusive. My impression is that gestural theories have informed the whole field and many researchers now accept that the role of nonverbal communication, manual signs in particular, had long been overlooked or at least neglected in language evolution, and that many researchers assume that nonverbal, especially manual, gestures must have played some major role, whatever their precise role may have been, so aspects of gestural theories may increasingly found incorporated to some extent into other approaches, even if perhaps not always understood in the sense gesture theorists do. (As a further aside, I can even see forms of the aquatic ape hypothesis as fitting gestural theories quite nicely, because an ape wading in rivers has their entire upper body at their disposal for communication but not their feet, which we still don't really use for communication purposes at all.) So my hunch is that many approaches have something useful to offer, and newer attempts will form syntheses of older ideas; that is, it's not merely about deciding in favour or against some approach, but to take several approaches and integrate them into a model, where they are assigned specific places. I for one doubt that any existing theory can explain the origin of language in isolation, and that many of them have great value in the attempt to find a coherent model, that addresses our questions satisfyingly, regardless of whether it can ever convincingly be demonstrated to be true, even by circumstantial evidence. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 00:11, 17 January 2013 (UTC)

The duplicitous or conspiratorial theory of language posits that the phenomenon of language as it is currently constituted developed in proximity to the durative emergence of ambivalent volitional psychological states—states, which it is hypothesized, conduced through what were at first solely aleatory predicamental events and strategies the sentient subject to seek out efficable and replicable disimulatory and occultatory strategies to conceal and disguise meaning and intentionality, rather than out of a purely Darwinian adaptation of biological functions in response to exogenous and environmental pressures from epistemological valuation of truth notions linked to greater behavioral efficacy or adaptability grounded and motivated expressivity and directed evolutionary refinement — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:53, 12 February 2013 (UTC)

Huh? Could you rephrase that in more simple terms and sentence structures? It reads like Sokal-type science/academic technobabble gibberish. I can't make heads nor tails of it.
I would like to point out that Mithen's Hmmmmm model does appear to combine and integrate features of musilanguage/musical protolanguage as well as gestural approaches (multimodality, holism, mimesis), although I did like – was it Pinker's point? – the argument that descriptive utterances would be more immediately useful and promising in evolutionary terms than manipulative utterances, contradicting Mithen in this respect. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 10:10, 13 August 2014 (UTC)

Language arises from Physical Dominance Avoidance?

Animals maintain dominance in ways that avoids fighting to the death, expending much energy. Cave man could have "demanded" oral responses from subordinants -- oral responses that avoided physical dominance. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:47, 18 June 2013 (UTC)

Continuity/Discontinuity and Cataclysms

There can't be a serious assay of Continuity versus Discontinuity hypothesis without taking in account cataclysms occurring in the surface of the Earth anywhere between 40.000 BC and 10.000 BC. People laugh at the French Academy but forget to remember there's an unspoken ban and tendency to discount Underwater Megaliths in Archaeology or Hopi oral history in Anthropology. (talk) 08:13, 9 March 2014 (UTC)

Huh?User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 22:46, 28 June 2014 (UTC)
Probably a reference to Catastrophism, global flood speculation and the Yonaguni Monument. Apparently a believer in flood geology and Young Earth Creationism. "People laugh at [...] but forget to remember there's an unspoken ban [...]" sounds like a combination of Galileo gambit and the old scientific censorship conspiracy theory. Megaliths and Hopi myths ... the IP ticks all the crackpot boxes. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 10:43, 13 August 2014 (UTC)

Linguists now agree that... Do they?

The article includes the categorical statement "Linguists now agree that, apart from such things as pidgins, there are no "primitive" languages: all modern human populations speak languages of comparable expressive power". Reading such a statement casts red flags in my mind as a reader on the objectivity of the article [I am myself a programmer not a linquist so do not have the background to edit or debate statements such as this - but do have the good sense to be suspicious]. At the least the statement should be modified to begin with 'The majority' or 'Most' else include something more solid than a second or third hand reference [Christiansen and Kirby said that Pinker said that ????]. The truth of statements such as this are the domain of meta analysis. Norlesh (talk) 06:08, 28 June 2014 (UTC)

Nothing suspicious about this that I can see. This has been a consensus view for the past 60 years at least.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 22:44, 28 June 2014 (UTC)