Did language originate in Africa?

Language originated 50,000 years ago, although some experts say it is at least 100,000 years old.

New research suggests that language originated in southern Africa and that it evolved into different families — each developed unique characteristics.

At the University of Auckland, Dr Quentin Atkinson discovered that the highest number of phonemes — smallest unit in a sound system — is found in Africa; the fewest are found in South America and the tropical islands of the Pacific Ocean. Using methods derived from evolutionary biology, Atkinson and his team found that language originated only once, in Africa. His research is consistent with the evidence from skulls and DNA that suggests that humans originated in that part of the world.

Simultaneously, another group of researchers at Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands used Bayesian phylogenetic methods to reconstruct the evolution of language.
Research professor Russell Gray and Dr Simon Greenhill, from the University of Auckland, along with Michael Dunn and Stephen Levinson at the Max Planck Institute analysed four language families (Austronesian, Bantu, Indo-European, Uto-Aztecan) and discovered that they had no universal correlations. As quoted on their press release: “The way in which languages change and develop seems to be most strongly constrained by the historical starting point. Evolutionary contingencies trump human cognitive-linguistic universals as the driving factor in the evolution of language structure.”

“When it comes to language evolution, culture trumps cognition,” said Gray. Seems that after years of research we finally have an answer: the 7,000 languages spoken today originated in southern Africa, cultural evolution made them unique.

Did you know?
According to the World Factbook in Australia 78.5% of the population speak English; 2.5%, Chinese; 1.6%, Italian; 1.3%, Greek; 1.2%, Arabic and 1%, Vietnamese.

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