Every human language evolved from 'single prehistoric African mother tongue
No replies to this topic
Posted 16 April 2011 - 07:27 AM
Every language in the world - from English to Mandarin - evolved from a prehistoric 'mother tongue' first spoken in Africa tens of thousands of years ago, a new study reveals. After analysing more than 500 languages, Dr Quentin Atkinson found compelling evidence that they can be traced back to a long-forgotten dialect spoken by our Stone Age ancestors. The findings don't just pinpoint the origin of language to Africa - they also show that speech evolved at least 100,000 years ago, far earlier than previously thought.
British evolutionary scientists last night welcomed the study and said it shed light on one of the most important moments in human evolution. There is now compelling evidence that the first modern humans evolved in Africa around 200,000 to 150,000 years ago. Around 70,000 years ago, these early humans began to migrate from the continent, eventually spreading around the rest of the world.
Although most scientists agree with this 'Out of Africa' theory, they are less sure when our ancestors began to talk. Some have argued that language evolved independently in different parts of the world, while others say it evolved just once, and that all languages are descended from a single ancestral mother tongue.
Dr Atkinson, of Auckland University, has now come up with fascinating evidence for a single African origin of language. In a paper published today in Science, he counted the number of distinct sounds, or phonemes, used in 504 languages from around the world and charted them on a map. The number of sounds varies hugely from language to language. English, for instance has around 46 sounds, some languages in South America have fewer than 15, while the San bushmen of South Africa use a staggering 200. Dr Atkinson found that the number of distinct sounds in a language tends to increase the closer it is to sub-Saharan Africa.
0 user(s) are reading this topic
0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users