Have you ever wondered what it was like before language (as we know it today) existed? Did male Neanderthals grunt noisily at their female counterparts as these early accounts of the fairer sex pointed and wagged an index finger, while rolling their eyes in response to something done wrong? Okay, that might be a stereotypical view of our ancestors (if it is possible to typecast something we know so little about). But if what we know today is anything to go by, it’s probably not very hard to believe.
So how did language evolve? One theory is that language is the by-product of a growing brain. Another – a matter of necessity as we adapted to our surroundings for things like hunting and developing social rules. All very plausible. The latter even more so as I experienced firsthand during one night of a recent camping trip in windy (and sometimes rainy) Robe, South Australia.
Phrases like “Can you please make sure that the tent doesn’t blow away?” and
“Why should I? I put it up, didn’t I?” as a response, wouldn’t quite be possible without it.
“Fine, I’ll do it.” Just packs so much more in, than a pre-language grunt-like noise, wouldn’t you say?
Can you imagine the frustration of the first humans who had no vocabulary to speak of yet? Okay, I realise that language would have developed gradually. Still, they might have all wandered aimlessly with much to say and no real way of saying it for a while. Talk about frustration.
Whatever the reason or reasons for language, it does appear to have evolved in fascinating (al be it merely assumed) ways. Throw another language into the mix, and you have yourself a real treat.
When I first came to Australia, I was forever translating everything in my head and having a somewhat exhausting time expressing myself exactly the way I wanted. You see, few would ever admit to this, but I’ll wager that most people who have grown up with more than one language have the undeniable fear of being misunderstood.
But fear not, now that I have lived in this country for 12 years, I don’t translate anything in my head any longer (apart from arithmetic, which is natural), I sound almost completely like an Aussie, and I don’t ever feel that I can’t get my point across. In fact, I have difficulty speaking a language other than English. Though I still feel my way through it whenever I speak to family and friends who happen to be abroad.
I am very appreciative of language.
Without language, I would not be able to write. Unimaginable!
I would not be able to wish you all a ‘happy New Year!’ right now and ‘thank you so much for reading’!
As fun as a ‘woo-hoo’ (or something similar) and two palms raised to the sky in two quick upward movements is, it just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?