Why don''t humans all speak the same language? | Notes and Queries (2024)

Why don''t humans all speak the same language? | Notes and Queries (1)
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Why don't humans all speak the same language?

Kaneyasu Nagisa, Nagaoka, Japan

  • Misunderstandings run rampant even when humans speak the same language, so what difference does it make?

    Daniel Morgan, Boston, USA

  • It is supposed, but not proven, that all humans came originally from Africa. But no one knows for sure if language arose in just one group or simultaneously in several groups. Some languages are clearly related, others, such as the Basque language, seem to be entirely different from any other.We do know, however, that language ability is a genetic trait, even if they have different words and word orders, all languages have the same structure and parts of speech. Children in any culture naturally know how to form a past participle, for instance, English children initially saying "catched" until they are taught it is an irregular verb.But, regardless, of whether or not all languages originated from a single prototype language, we can see that groups of humans all over the world have been physicallly and culturally isolated for long periods throughout history. Look at China even now, we know little or nothing about what one sixth of the world population is doing. Moreover there are a few tribes even today in South America and New Guinea entirely isolated from the rest of the world.Taking the aborigines of Australia as an example, we know that, apart from a little trading across the Torres strait, they remained cut off from Asia 13000 years ago when rising sea level flooded the land bridges which had enabled them to get to Australia, only to be rediscovered a few hundred years ago. It would be pretty amazing if, after 13000 years of separation, they still spoke essentially the same language as the peoples of mainland Asia.Now that geographical separation is a thing of the past and cultural isolation very difficult to maintain we are going to see a trend towards a common language. There are between 5 and 6 thousand known languages but the top 30 account for half the world's population.

    Terence Hollingworth, Blagnac France

  • Language changes so quickly that by the time any two peoples have diverged their dialects have also diverged. This is because most of human language is not "hard-wired" into our genetic makeup, but is developed instinctively by language-learning mechanisms that are hard-wired.

    Primitive expressions of emotional or physical sensation (such as laughter) are programmed into our genes, but instead of having equivalent systems for higher language we are programmed to learn language in a certain structured way, allowing our language to adapt to suit our purposes.

    If language did not evolve in this way we would never have been able to build cities since we would have had no words to describe the concepts involved - and even if we had succeeded we would be at a loss to describe our experiences in a modern urban world with only words for "fire", "wolf", "eat", "sex" and so on.

    Peadar Mac Con Aonaigh, Brixton, London UK

  • If the Bible is to believed, man did once speak a common language. However, apparently God wasn't happy with this arrangement, and thus created chaos at the Tower of Babel, when suddenly everyone became unable to understand one another.

    Mike Fehle, Weehawken, USA

  • We did (once). All our European/Caucasian ancestors spoke Proto-Indo-European. Rational assumption would be that before that, the tribe we all come from communicated in the same language. More rational question would be - why do we all speak different languages now?

    Ken, Madrid, Spain

  • It's a great pity that Esperanto was not received with the enthusiasm such a wonderful and uniting concept deserved. Now it's too late and English seems to be well on the way towards establishing itself as the essential second language world wide. In another hundred years it could be the universal first language. English speakers today would probably not recognise it. Totally awesome ain't it.

    J.W.Perry, West Vancouver, B.C. Canada

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Why don''t humans all speak the same language? |  Notes and Queries (2024)
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