Friday, May 15, 2009

The first language from Marley

Hi (Word Spy)
This isn't really a question about the English language, but about language in general. You may remember I asked you about how thinking worked before language. Well now I have another. It's just I find language very interesting. What was the first official language,and was it written verbal or physical (like movements eg sign language)?

yours interestedly, Marley

Dear Marley,

You sure ask very interesting questions! This is something people have wondered about for a long time - philosophers, scientists, linguists - well, probably all of us in one way or another.

One thing we do know is that the first known form of written language is something called CUNIEFORM. This goes back to around 3-4000 BC, so that's pretty old. It came from the region where Iraq now is, and was a kind of writing made by pressing shapes into clay.

That's writing - but people must have been speaking for thousands of years before that. Some researchers believe that speech began 50,000 years ago - or longer. And it still seems to be one of the main things that makes people different to animals...(although there are arguments about that too of course!)

I'll have to do some more thinking...

yours, frowning in thought, The Word Spy

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