The Birth of Language



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  • I watched your film on the development of language. You seem to say in the beginning that spoken language began about 50,000 years ago. I would be greatly surprised if spoken language arose so late in human history. Let alone the fact that the film refers to “spoken language,” which is the human version of language. So by definition, spoken language is limited to humans. I have seen a film about prairie dog communication. They make different sounds to represent different threats to warn other prairie dogs. This includes different sounds for different birds of prey, different predator animals, and even included different sound for people coming depending on the color of clothes they wear. By any definition of symbolic thought, this qualifies as symbolic thought. Certainly we cannot get the higher primates to speak our language – but we are incapable of speaking, for instance, prairie dog language. Humans are unique only in the level of development of language and symbolic thought, not in its existence.