Early Theories in Language Origination

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Early Theories in Language Origination

There are a number of theories from the past that try to account for the origins of human language. These theories used to be accredited theories, but now are no longer taken seriously. Three of these early theories are the sound mimic theory, the interjection theory, and the gesture theory. These theories are all inadequate in various ways in trying to explain the origin of human language.

The sound mimic theory is probably best known as the "bow-wow theory," or the "onomatopoeia theory." This theory states that human speech originated when early man started to imitate the sounds he heard in nature. Most important were animal sounds because it allowed a hunter to lure the animal he was hunting. These sounds have been translated into words and are called onomatopoetic. For example, growl, splash, and chirp, are all onomatopoetic because they describe the sound that is made.

Unfortunately this theory is not very adequate in explaining the origin of language. It does not account for languages that don't normally use onomatopoetic words. Many of those languages have only recently acquired the use of onomatopoeia, and they are phonetically based in that language.

The interjection theory, or "pooh-pooh theory," proposed that human language originated from involuntary sounds made by early man. They were sounds that were expressed when man reacted to pain, pleasure, surprise, anger, and so on. For example, in the English language "oh!," "ow!," and "huh?" are generally involuntary expressions made when reacting to something. The theory goes on to propose that these sounds actually evolved into the names of the actions that caused the sounds to be expressed. However, this theory is inadequate as well because it only makes use of a very small amount of reactions to events. Not everything...