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Saturday, April 16, 2011

When Eve talked to Adam

All languages traced back to Stone Age Africa

From the Mail Online

David Derbyshire reports on a study that traces 500 languages back to the Stone Age.  It also postulates that the further away from Africa a language is spoken, the fewer distinct sounds (phonemes) it holds.

English has about 46 sounds, whie the San bushmen of South Africa can make 200 distinctly different noises during speech.

This means that the first man was somewhere in Africa when he spoke those first words "at least 100,000 years ago."

I wonder what he communicated.  Was it a warning?  A shout of joy?  Or a battle cry?

The man who has developed this study is Dr Quentin Atkinson, an evolutionary biologist at New Zealand's Auckland University.  After analyzing 500+ languages with the use of a computer program, published a paper in the distinguished journal Science, relating that he had found compelling evidence that all of them could be traced back to those long-forgotten first words.

The mother language is known as Khoisan, and is in the family of the Kalahari Bushmen click language.

According to him, it also indicates that the further away from Africa people migrated, the less complicated speech became, encompassing fewer phonemes.

It would be interesting if he had a look at Polynesian languages, and linked the loss or retention of sounds like "L", "K" or the glottal stop to their wide-ranging voyages, as those magnificent navigators explored and settled the far reaches of the Pacific.  In fact, as he is a Kiwi, it seems odd that he hasn't done so. 

If he was worried about creating controversy, it has happened anyway.

According to Marika Hill, who has published a story in today's Dominion Post, his method of research has stirred up a storm of academic criticism.  New Scientist was told by Stanford University (California) linguist Merrit Ruhlen that it was not usually accepted that languages could be traced back that far:  "There is a lot of anger and tension surrounding that kind of analysis."

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