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Memory and Imagination, Evolution of Language

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Qasim Dad Department of English Language and Literature University of Sargodha [email protected] com Daniyal Hassan Department of English Language and Literature University of Sargodha [email protected] com INTRODUCTION One of the mysteries is human existence. From where we came and to where shall we go? These are the questions always faced by mankind in every phase of its consciousness. Different people of different ages have tried to give answers of these questions that are in the form of different theories.

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Revealed books like Holy Quran and Bible give a simple, mythical and less confusing answer to the question of human existence. For centuries, mankind has been believing in the myth of creation of Adam and Eve till 19th century when Charles Darwin, in his book “Origin of Species,” proposed a new theory of Evolution. According to his theory, humans evolved from apes rather than exclusively created by the God. Archeological evidences also support this theory of evolution. But this theory of evolution answers only structural changes in human brain and body.

One of the remarkable characteristics of humans is the use of language for communication. Humans are unique in this quality of them. No other animal has language as a tool for communication and expression as humans do. Now, the problem with evolutionary theory is that it says that humans are descendants of apes but apes do not have a language like humans. If apes do not have a language, it means that language is also evolved in humans but through which process, evolutionary theory is unable to explain it. Several theories were proposed to tackle the question of evolution of language in humans.

Scientists, philosophers and linguists tried in their own way to solve the riddle of language evolution. Most of theories proposed by these people are simply based on conjectures without any scientific or logical evidences. Archeology, also, stands helpless at this stage. In 1866, discussions on this topic were banned by the Linguistics Society of Paris just after seven year after the publication of Darwin’s “Origin of Species. ” This was, somehow, an acknowledgement of defeat by the evolutionists in this field. Then in 1965, the linguists allowed the study of language evolution after 99 years.

One of the unique qualities of humans along with language is their strong memory. Human brain has a remarkable quality to store information for a long period and it can also recollect this information after a long time. Whatever was the process through which humans acquired language, their strong memory would have played a vital role in that process. Under the following study, different theories about evolution of language and criticism on these theories will be discussed. Then, by adding a new factor of humans’ memory, these theories will be reconsidered and answer of the question of language evolution will be tried to resolve.

The Animal Sound Theory According to some linguists and scientists language evolved from the sounds and noise made by the animals. Gradually, when human mind grew sharper, they created more sounds by themselves and these sounds eventually became words with meanings. Somehow, syntax was developed and gradually, the sounds became language. This theory seems reasonable to only some extent. Sounds created by our primates could have become words and developed meanings. The problem with this theory is that animals, very often, do not produce sounds for any kind of communication.

Most of animals have a set of sounds to communicate emotions; barking, growling, hissing, chirping, cackling etc (Trask, 1999). But these noises only express feelings, not ideas. Animals make sounds due to their instincts. When they do so, they do it involuntarily. For example, when a dog is angry, it barks. Barking of dog is not a voluntary sound production just like laughing and weeping sounds. Sounds produced due to emotions are not especially for any kind of communication rather it is a way of expression. These are involuntary sounds produced for the expression of feelings of pain and pleasure etc.

Let’s suppose that humans developed language by imitating animal’s sounds, the question is that why other animals could not do the same thing? There are some animals that can imitate sounds like sharks, parrots, macaws etc but why could not they develop their language? On this ground, it is considered highly unlikely that humans’ language evolved from sounds of animals. The Meme Theory Meme theory was proposed by Susan Blackmore in her book The Meme Machine. According to this theory, humans were able to develop language because of their ability to mimic or imitate.

Susan claims in her book that no other animal can mimic like man and that’s why he was able to develop language. This idea was known as the mimic theory and it got much popularity (Blackmore, 1999). Susan seems to claim that humans are only species that can imitate each other and also other animals. No other animal can do this. But if we observe monkeys, we find out that they can also imitate others. But their imitation is manual, not vocal. There are certain birds like parrots macaws and animals like sharks that have much intelligence to imitate sounds with a great precision.

Studies show that birds like cocktail, parrots and macaws etc can not only imitate sounds but also know what these sounds mean. In this way, not only man, but other animals and birds also have the ability to imitate vocal and manual actions. Man in this case, does not remain unique as for as ability to mimic is concerned. It means that the Meme theory does not answer the question of language evolution correctly. If man learned language through imitation, why other animals could not make their language while they also had this ability to mimic or imitate. The Human Intelligence Theory

According to this theory, human language is a product of human intelligence. Through evolutionary process, man grew more and more intelligent and finally, his intellect reached to an extent that enabled him to communicate through sounds. But there are also certain problems with this theory. Most of scientists have rejected this theory because according to them,” intelligence cannot be measured without language. ” Dwight Bollinger (1961) , a scientist and linguist who has worked with chimpanzees on language studies says: “We must ask why all life forms on earth had to wait a millions of years for homo to do it (develop language).

Was it because certain level of language has to be developed first? But how could that be, when intelligence seems so dependent on language? Language could be hardly a precondition for language. ” It cannot be said that language requires intelligence rather intelligence requires language. Experiments on chimpanzees show that they can use language for communication and even, they can use it to communicate with other chimpanzees. So, it can be said that it was not man’s superior intellect that made him capable of communicating through language. The Emergent Phenomenon Theory

This theory says that language was a phenomenon that suddenly emerged in humans. Language was already installed in human brain and he evolved, he discovered it and began to use it by developing words or signs to convey ideas and information. Some, who believe this theory say that “the building blocks of DNA shifted randomly as man evolved, eventually giving him the ability to communicate. “( Oller, 2002) It means that language and communication existed before man discovered it. That means, it happened just by chance and was not designed to be systematic.

But language is very systematic and logical. And secondly, why it was only discovered by humans? Why it did not appear in other animals? The emergent phenomenon theory, in this way, can only be considered as a possibility. It is based on conjectures. There are no logical reasons that prove it correct. The Sign Language Theory In the process of evolution, man developed signs so that he may get some benefits by using them. At first people did not intend to communicate anything, but simply did an action that was noticed by someone else who then copied it.

For example, one man is trying to push some item but is struggling, and another man sees him pushing and helps. Eventually, man learned all he had to do to receive help moving something was to make pushing motion. It was supposedly when signs began to be made for the express purpose of conveying meaning to someone else, and not to accomplish action, that they became true communication, and not ‘accidental’ communication. ( Englefield, 1977) The criticism on this theory is that how sounds were added to these signs. Bow- wow theory by Max Muller (1880) explains that it was through onomatopoeia.

For example, dog would have been referred as “bow-wow” or “ruff-ruff” at first. Similarly, different animals, birds and objects would have been given name by the sounds or noise they produced. But this could not be complete explanation of language phenomenon. How the words like sun, tree, etc would have been given names since they produce no sounds? Similarly, how abstracts like love, hate, anger etc would have been named? Creation of syntax by humans is also unexplained by this theory. One of the characteristics of human brain is its ability to store information for a long period.

Human brain can not only store information store through five senses for a longer time period but it can also recollect this information when needed. When a human being observes a phenomenon, it is unconsciously stored into his brain. If the same phenomenon reoccurs, human brain has a capability to relate it with the previous one in order to find out similarities or differences between these two phenomenons. It can recollect this stored information even if this phenomenon does not occur for the second time. The information stored in brain is collected by means of five preceptory senses. It stores the information sent through five senses.

Now, Human brain has another important characteristic. That is that it can not only store information but it can also create new information depending on already stored information. This characteristic is called imagination. Usually, imagination is self-created visual and auditory information that has no existence in the world of reality but has a certain existence in the world of mind. Now, there is major difference between human brain and animal brain. Human brain has a strong memory to store information in it and a power to imagine phenomenon that actually do not exist in the world of reality.

Animal brain does not have these two abilities. Animals may have sharp memory but lack of imagination makes this ability only instinctive for them. It seems quite reasonable that humans made themselves crown of creatures because of their unique power of imagination and their strong memory. These two qualities have played a vital role in the evolution of language. Humans’ appropriate physique along with their extra qualities of memory and imagination took them to the peaks where they are standing today. Their strong memory helped them in discoveries and their imagination made them innovative.

Now, there is a question. Do these two abilities played any role in the evolution of language? The answer is certainly, yes. Human memory and imagination had played a vital role in evolution of language. Was language a discovery or innovation? There are certain words in language that resembles the sounds produced by animals or objects. Words like hissing, buzzing, chirping etc are examples of this thing. Language in this case was a discovery. But words like sun, tree, man etc are words that are not onomatopoeia. It means that these words are innovations of man.

In animals communication is not same as it is in humans. In animals communication may be for the purpose of alarming, for food or mating etc but in humans communication is very unique and totally different from animals. Humans not only communicate emotions by the means of language but they also share ideas with each others. Now, emotions and ideas have a basic difference. Emotions are involuntary and instinctive but ideas are voluntary and conscious. Sound production in animals is due to emotions. Emotions are instinctively communicated. A dog barks when it is angry or feeling some kind of danger.

It growls in the pain. Humans have also some instincts. It is in our instincts that make us laugh or weep when we feel pain or pleasure. We do this involuntarily because of overflow of emotions. But, two persons discussing Newton’s Gravitational law are not doing so because of their instincts. Now, here is the answer that why human needed language. With evolution of brain and its increasing power of storing experiences and phenomenon, human felt a great excitement to express their ideas and experiences with others. They needed some medium to do this.

Emotions are instinctively communicated, so they did not need any medium. Humans would have used gestures or signs language to communicate their ideas first. They would have produced some sounds while gesturing to communicate their ideas as deaf and dumb persons do. The fundamental communication was through gestures or signs. Sounds were meaningless, being produced simultaneously with gestures in excitement of expression. By this time, humans started producing sounds other than sounds produced for the expresssion of emotions. In this way, they took their first step towards language.

But gestures were inadequate to fully express the experiences. There were certain expressions that were not possible to be expressed by the gestures or signs. So, there was a need to modify the prevailing system of communication. By the time humans started paying attention to the sounds as well. Their strong memory helped them to remember what sounds was being produced with what kind of gesture. In this way sounds got meanings. Now, sounds were also given importance in the communication since they were also associated with meanings now. With time, humans invented more sounds for new phenomenon and experiences.

More use of sound with signs and gestures would have become frequent. Through sounds, humans could have expressed themselves more effectively and more conveniently. Gradually, the use of signs and gestures would have become less frequent but it could not have been completely removed from language. Use of gestures is still present in language. It plays an important role to make language more communicative and effective. Acquisition of language by early humans was not a simple process and it did not happen only this way. There are a lot of factors involved in it.

Presence of sounds that resembles sounds of animals and objects of nature in language indicates that humans also facilitated themselves by their use. The syntax would also have been invented by humans later on. At first, they would have only depended on nouns. With the advancement of civilization, there would have been a need for much better communication. They would have to modify their present version of language. They would have to create grammatical components in language. As necessity is mother of invention, humans would have invented these things in language to make their language communicative.

Once the phenomenon of language occurred in humans, it flourished in them with time. The stimulus that initiated humans to develop a language was their longing to express their ideas and experience to others in a better way. Their God-gifted qualities of strong memory and imagination power of their mind made them discover and invent the way to do so and that way is language. Conclusion At end of discussion, it can be stated that it was the extreme wish of human being to express and share their experiences that made them to invent a way to communicate effectively.

They invented signs and used gestures for communication of their ideas and experiences. While gesturing and using signs they made certain sounds as well. These meaningless sounds, gradually, got meanings and were preserved in the minds of them. They invented new sounds and also used sounds prevailing in their environment for communication. By the time, humans started using sounds frequently and the use if signs and gesturing for communication became less frequent. With the advancement of civilization new things were added in the language to make it more communicative.

Syntax become part of language with time and at last it became what according to its definition is known as language. References Trask, R. L. , Key Concepts in Language and Linguistics, Routledge, New York, 1999. Blackmore, S. J. , The Meme Machine, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999. . Oller, J. W. Jr, Language and genes: can they be built up through random change and natural selection? Psychology and Theology, 2002. Englefield, F. R. H. , language: its Origin and its Relation to Thought,Wells, G. A and Oppenheimer, D. R. (Eds), Scribner, New York, 1977. Michelle French, The origins of language: an investigation of various theories, 2004.

Cite this Memory and Imagination, Evolution of Language

Memory and Imagination, Evolution of Language. (2017, Jan 31). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/memory-and-imagination-evolution-of-language/

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