Sunday, December 12, 2010
Why we can’t have a unifying base Language For Mankind ?
Language is such a complex and diverse system of communication that no one actually knows when it started and how it started. A language like the mother of all languages is a highly debatable issue. It is a significant development that happened to human history of evolution, yet one can’t conclusively trace the history of it or be sure to say where actually language originated from. Spoken language requires speech from vocal tracts of human body. So how humans started producing sound for speech?
Researchers claim that our first sign were primitive gestures and sounds developed much later. Around 50,000 years ago humans were supposed to have developed the behavioural modernity .That modernity laid the foundation stone for the evolution of language. Currently it is estimated that around 6000 to 7000 languages are spoken in the world. The first thing that anyone discovers while learning a foreign language is the diversity as the primary characteristics of human language. A language can never evolve if the contact between person to person is more than enough to communicate. There can’t be a unifying base language for humans as some sentence structures have no basis at all in some culture, so automatically the concept of universal grammar dies.
Recently , a linguist researcher named Daniel Everett contradicted what Noam Chomsky, the most important linguist of our times proposed. Back in 1957 Chomsky proposed the idea of universal grammar. He believed that power of language is biologically given and all sentences spoken at any moment all over the world follow the same rules of processing done by our organ of speech. Everett researched on a Brazilian tribe named Piraha who formulate sentences without using any subordinate or dependent clauses. A dependent clause begins with a subordinate conjunctions like ‘after’, ‘as’, ‘once’ etc. or a relative pronoun like ‘that’, ‘who’, ‘whom’ etc. and will contain a subject and a verb. This combination of words will not form a complete sentence. It will instead make a reader want additional information to finish the thought. According to the grammatical rules of almost all the languages in the world we need to use dependent clauses to complete the thought of a sentence while structuring it but the Piraha tribe doesn’t need them at all to formulate the sentence which is indeed quite shocking and contradicting as well to what linguist researcher Chomsky believed in. The language of Piraha has a simple sound system which includes three vowels and seven consonants for women and eight for men. So, this research really contradicts the universal grammar concept moved forward by Chomsky and about the inborn ability of all people to structure their speech using certain grammatical rules. The paucity of the language that Piraha tribe use is what makes them special. Even the way they count is entirely a different concept.Suppose you put three apples infront of them , then they will bring another three to show the exact numerical figure of apples. But they won’t retain the exact number in their heads for long and that happens because the abstract concept of ‘three’ is non existent for them.This again contradicts Noam Chomsky and his followers who believe that counting numerically is an innate quality of human beings. To Everett it is more of a cultural invention and a kind of storing technology. Dan Everett has been there with the tribe for almost 30 years learning and researching on their language. Paoxaisi is the name by which the Piraha know Dan Everett.
Well, more the research goes on, the more we come out with new, unexplored and never known facts. No one can possibly provide a one thumb rule regarding the diversity of languages here and how it is related to the inborn quality of human beings towards the language. Almost all languages run on the basis of grammatical rules but the language of Piraha doesn’t follow grammar at all in structuring their sentences. Ultimately, humans are too complex a phenomenon to have some certain rules regarding languages set to them and followed thereafter. The debate continues to rage on forever from where and how language originated and evolved. The sheer beauty and diversity of various languages makes it a complicated phenomenon to understand.
So, the final conclusive words on it’s birth, evolution and development seems never ending and highly debatable. Of course there can be one language which majority can speak up and understand but it is impossible to have a common language which everyone will understand and speak.