here have been numerous amounts of evidence showing that we as humans all originate from Africa and at some point, in prehistoric times, our ancestors were made up of a small civilization. We think that speech is something quite modern but professor Quentin Atkinson from Auckland University has conducted a study which specifies that the oldest language could be at least 100,000 years old.
This was done through the analyses of other 504 languages including some ancient dialects that have gone extinct. What he found was a correlation between most of these languages that show origins of older dialects from ancient African tribes.
The idea behind the research was to show that the slow expansion from an original civilization to the evolution of our ancestors migrating to different parts of the world led to the diversification of the original language.
Another important factor is the evolution from one generation to another which picks up new dialects as well as creates new words based on different discoveries or innovations.
This sort of theory has even been presented much earlier by Professor Daniel Everett from the Department of Advanced Science at Bentley University in Massachusetts, who presumed that the first language could have been as old as over one million years ago, however, the research conducted by him is based very much on possible assumptions rather than a precise use of the methodology.
The idea is that it all kind of makes sense, without speech our ancestors would have found it very difficult to survive the migration to different parts of the world as well as adapt to new environments. I speak in more detail about this perspective in this article entitled “How Language Helped Humans Evolve“.
Atkinson tried to place the languages on a huge world map to see if there is a correlation between the similarities of languages and the distances between them as well as how close these are to the African continent.
For example, there were around 46 correlations with the English language based on the 504 languages used in the research. What is interesting is that the Xoo language spoken in Botswana and Namibia had 141 correlations, justifying the theory that most languages if not all originate from Africa.
Language has evolved a lot but the similarities between different languages that have similar routes are very close despite the transformation of traditional or cultural terminology to diversify the language.
When it comes to innovating we can see that English is globally used to define new inventions. Take the telephone, television, or the radio for example. Most languages use the same word or have a close pronunciation whilst a few wanted to keep to their complexity and invented new words for these inventions.
The literature states that the appearance of the modern human (Homo sapiens) took place around 200,000 years ago. This so-called “modern human” representing the Homo sapiens generation had the ability to talk. Although other historians also mention that Homo erectus (a 25 million-year-old generation) was also able to speak.
Now do not imagine this ancient language to be very sophisticated, it was very simplistic and at the beginning, it took generations to actually develop this language. We need to assume that with the intelligence of our ancient ancestors they didn’t use a systematic way of naming certain things. It was most probably pointing at something, naming it, and setting it in stone.
We are talking already about too many years in the past for us to actually define set-in-stone evidence of this original language, but with time and technological advancements maybe we will be able to do so one day.
MIT as well as other organizations are already working towards deciphering old languages, you can read more about it in this article.
Hopefully, one day technology will evolve enough to make sense of all of this and put all the dots together for us to understand human evolution.