From monkey like action recognizing individuals to abstract polyglot lying humans - this is how one could summarize the complex and unique evolution of the cognitive ability known as language. All species communicate and yet the existing of spoken and signed languages is arguably our most defining and mysterious characteristic (Munn,1955), but when and why did they emerge? To what extent can animals use language? What is language and are we using its final forms today? Sadly evolutionarily early forms of this important ability don’t have fossil remains and a single definite reason for its existence cannot be pointed out.
Studies, exploring the question “what was first-a language or the cognitive capacity for it?“, are confident that they have found the answer – the cognitive capacity was there, but only when introduced to a language it became active. (Kirby,2007) This is partially motivated by the fact that modern babies are born with no actual language, in their first months-with no physical capability of speech, and start learning a language only after they are introduced to one. (Pinker,1994)
The main purpose of the existing of language that is going to be examined in this paper is that it made the survival of our ancestors easier, got them closer to each other. (Laland & Brown,2002) Those, who were able to communicate and understand better than others, had more chances to reproduce and live safer lives, which is why more and more were motivated to learn language and presumably their inheritors were born with greater capacity for language.
Using language to prevent death or find a mate is only small part of the modern human picture. In fact people who haven’t developed language skills today are uncommon and present a great interest for science. Social isolation and retardation are some of the reasons for the lack of language. .(Hymphrey,2002)
In order to examine if and why only our specie uses language and if any other is capable of learning one, for many years scientists work with different animals. It might not be a surprise that apes responded best to a language training, dogs were good at responding to spoken commands and parrots were capable of generating meaningful utterances, but no specie got really close to learning our complex cognitive ability(Pearce,2008).
Language, arguably the most important cultural invention, is a biologically unprecedented event(Pinker, 1994) and a form of communication that includes certain gestures as well as written and spoken symbols. A gesture can be accepted as linguistic if it represents something other than itself-to function as language it should convey a meaning to others.(Munn,1955) In fact the most remarkable function of language is namely its ability to transfer information. (Pinker & Jackendoff, 2005) Humans can shape events in each other's brains with exquisite precision. Written symbols and speech have the same power. Speech is more flexible and also has the advantage to function at a distance (it doesn’t have to be in the visual range) (Munn,1955) By using language humans are able to live together in large social groups, teach it to their children, it helps them express out feeling and thoughts, and also create art works such as novels or music with lyrics.(Macphail,1982) Written words make the knowledge acquired by others over a period of over 2500 years accessible (Pinker,1994).
Since the early nineties, questions surrounding the origins and evolution of language have met a huge interest. Language evolution can be described as the transition from something that isn’t language to something that is language and that had developed and expanded itself. Corballis (2004) divided the process of language emerge into four main stages: 6-7 million years ago hominids diverged from other great apes and didn’t possess any unique communication ability; 5 million years ago bipedal (moving on two legs) hominids…