Language refers to verbal, biological innate, physical, and vital form of communication to human beings. According to behaviorists, it is a learned behavior that involving a response and stimulus. Poynton suggested that language is a verbal behavior that includes body movements, gestures or sign language, and spoken words (15). Therefore, language is a crucial aspect of human life since people use language to express emotions, inner thoughts, make sense of abstract and complex thought, communicate with others, satisfy their needs and wants, as well as maintain their culture and establish rules. As a means of communication, language entails use of gestures or motions and symbols to enhance the communication process. All human languages have two major characteristics namely infinite generative and organizational rules. Language difference refers to a phenomenon that arises as a result of communication problem despite the speaker’s knowledge on other languages (Poynton 11). Language is not only bound to words but also to thinking, seeing, and defining the world. Language difference may result to communication problems that can be solved through accurate translations especially of abstract ideas. If language difference is a communication problem during conflict resolution process, it will be difficult to come to a consensus. As a result, chances for misunderstanding will be extremely high hence solving such conflicts is difficult (Anderson et Al. 7).
The Origin of Language and its Development
According to Masataka, language is about two million years old (21). Language origin and development is explained by the upper-age limit or maximum age of language and the lower age limits also known as the minimum age of language.
The Minimum Age of Language and its Characteristics
The minimum age of language or the lower limit is seen in historical reconstruction, writing, archaeology and oral tradition (Herschensohn 29). In many countries, language developed as a result of bone carvings and drawings especially during the archaeological period known as Upper Paleolithic in Asia and Europe. In Africa, the minimum age of language was referred to as Middle Stone Age. The period was between 35 000 and 10 000 before present. During this period, researchers interpreted these carvings and drawings as the earliest form of writing. These writings were dependent on the language in use. Ancient carvings and drawings could not have developed by human beings without linguistic skills. Writing is another form of language that started at around 5300 BP in Mesopotamia. During this period, the writing system was known as Cuneiform while Sumerian was the first language. About 300 years later, writing systems started in other parts of the world. According to Herschensohn, hieroglyphic writing system emerged in Egypt hence becoming the popular writing system in Africa continent (33). In the United States, Maya civilization was the first-writing system in use, which resulted to first documentation between 2200 and 2100 BP. Most languages used in the world were written in the 19th and 20th century since writing systems were not well developed. It is important to note that writing existed before human beings developed modern writing skills. This explains why there is no language documentation from an earlier date.
The second characteristic of the minimum age of literature is historical reconstruction. As suggested by Herschensohn, there are about 6900 languages spoken throughout the world (5). Particularly, there are about 2000 languages in Africa, 1000 in the Americas, About 220 in Europe, more than 2250 in Asia, and about 1500 in Pacific and Australia. In addition, these languages are categorized in various groups depending on their origin. There are about 100 language families in the worlds; each language family consists of languages with a common origin. Common origin was a single language known as proto-language spoken long time ago. After decades, proto-language broke into sub-languages known as dialects. Thurgood suggested that there was a noticeable difference in these dialects resulting to the emergence of different languages due to geographical distance (5). As a result, these languages developed unique dialectal characteristic, and the whole process was cyclic. The major world language families that developed are Afro-Asiatic, Indo- European, Austronesian, Sino-Tibetan, Niger-Congo, and Trans-New Guinea. In the modern world, linguists are developing reliable methods aiming at reconstructing proto-language.
The fourth Discussion explaining the minimum age of language is an oral tradition. During the onset of writing systems, it was possible to store text messages, and pass information across generations, centuries, and millennia (Dixon 29). This was made possible by oral tradition that plays an important role in language development across generations. In addition, through oral tradition, myths have been developed tracing the origin of language and reasons behind language difference. For example, Girugar myth explains how names of mountains, lakes, and islands came into being. In the myth, a legendary man is said to have come from south giving the above geographical features names. This myth is one of the oldest evidence explaining the language existence (Dixon 31).
Lastly, archeology is another factor that explains the minimum age of human literature. Archaeology reveals why language could not have developed before ancestors acquired anatomical characteristic. Anatomical features include a mouth, throat, and a minimum brain size. Many scholars believe that the language developed as a result of anatomical development in modern human beings. In Archeology, language may arise several times (polygenesis) or once (monogenesis). Monogenesis study of language development states that all ancient languages claim a common origin.
Maximum Age of Language and its Characteristics
On the other hand, it is important to discuss the maximum period of language in order to understand language development and origin. The maximum period of literal growth is dominated by human anatomy. Here, the size of the brain suitable for making language possible is considered whether large, small or complex (Comrie et al. 6). Claims have been made suggesting that Homo sapiens have a language center located in their brains. These claims were confirmed as realistic after American psychologists attempted to teach chimpanzees in the human language. The attempt was unsuccessful since chimpanzees lack developed articular organs, ability to perceive and articulate sounds, and developed brain. In addition, chimpanzees were successful when using their hands, arms, and eyes instead of mouths and ears. This experiment shows that only human beings have ability to use spoken language (Comrie et al. 9). Modern human beings have lowered larynx that acts as a speech prerequisite. The lowered larynx is one of the human evolutionary adaptive features essential for language development. This feature is in male adults since female adults and children have the same ability to use spoken language. According to Comrie et al., lowered larynx is an evolutionary trait that develops in males after puberty to give males a unique voice that frightens competitors and potential attackers. Language developed gradually. For example, Neanderthals did not reach the stage of language development as the modern humans. Though Neanderthal people used tools, built shelter, painted pictures in caves and even carried out ritual to bury their dead, they lacked speech capability and features such as vocal tracts. Hence, it was difficult for them to use language. About 28 000 years ago, Neanderthal people disappeared leaving the modern man as the only species processing language and speech capabilities. Additionally, human beings possess anatomical features essential for language learning. According to linguists, modern man possesses language due to his innate language capacity and cognitive capacities that surpass those of other human species.
Modern man is said to have speech capabilities and capacities due to the following features. First, the modern man’s vocal tract is well fitted to articulate sounds due to exaptation: meaning a substantial change in function is a result of a change in structure. This makes modern human’s vocal tract evolutionary adapted to the language. According to American linguists, ability to understand and speak natural languages is a result of biological structures found in the human brain. According to Sampson, there are three innate language faculties that explain why human being can speak and understand natural language (216). First, the speed of acquisition which states language is learned in a short period enhanced by innate language faculty. Poverty data is the second innate language faculty that determine human’s capacity to understand and speak natural languages. For example, the grammar acquired by children is more complex compared to language data that children may acquire from people around them. Language universal is the third innate language faculty that determines One’s ability to speak and understand a particular language. Under this faculty, all languages resembl each other in terms of structure and development. A structure in this context refers to grammatical structure of sentences. Therefore, language was invented by modern man; as explained by biological exaptation, different body parts have specific linguistic function.
Use of Language in Communication
Some of the functions of the language include communication, color perception, problem solving and memorizing, and expressing thoughts. Through communication, people are able to exchange beliefs, opinions, wishes, threats, thanks, promises, feelings, and the declaration (Thurgood 13). Communication limits are only set by human imagination especially when exchanging threats, feelings, or commands. In addition, non-linguistic types of communication have different implication. For example, people can laugh to express happiness, disrespect or amusement. On the other hand, one may smile to show pressure, amusement, approval, or better feelings. Therefore, communication is itself a language since different forms of communication have different expressions depending on the languages and person communicating (Herschensohn 39). There are two characteristics that distinguish linguistic communication from non-linguistic communications. These characteristics are syntax and double articulation which states that languages have about ten thousand signs. These signs are a combination of meaning and form. For example, written language consists of a series of letters while sign language consists of a sequence of gestures. The form and the meaning of a language constitute a sign. For example, if the form is /sit/, then the meaning of the form is to take a position of rest.
Use of Syntax in Language
Syntax is the second characteristic that distinguishes non-linguistic communication from linguistic communication. It refers to an invention that enables human beings to speak out their imaginations. In addition, syntax combines signs expressing simple meanings and that expressing complex meaning. Syntax allows one to understand or utter an infinite sentence constructed from different language blocks (Herschensohn 3). Another crucial role played by language syntax is that it allows human beings to express other meanings rather than those associated with isolated signs. It also increases the number of meanings human being expresses; as a result, one can express more meanings than the number of signs in a particular language.
Use of Language in Expressing Thoughts
Second function of language is to express thought. In this context, language is a pathway for expressing thoughts. There are two types of hypothesis explaining how different languages express views. Linguistic deterministic hypothesis or the stronger version is the first hypothesis which states that thoughts are entirely determined by language in use. Linguistic relativity or the weaker version is the second hypothesis which asserts that thoughts are partially shaped by language. Language relativity is a human characteristic claiming that language influence thought. Linguistic influence two categories of thoughts: namely, classification and abstract thinking. For example, classification linguistic category reveals that speakers of all ages distinguish sharply between substances and objects.
Use of Language in Problem Solving
The third function of language is a problem solving and memorization. Psychologists argue that linguistic contribute in developing thought necessary in problem solving, decision making and memorizing (Comrie et al. 8). For example, an experiment is carried out with two groups, such that the first group is given several meaningless objects and shapes while the second group is given shapes with name labels. After three weeks, it turned out that the group where shapes had name labels were prone to remember compared to the group given meaningless shapes. As demonstrated by the experiment, object names influence human being’s ability to recognize shapes or objects hence enables people to solve problems involving a particular shape. In addition, the experiment shows that linguistics has the ability to distort human memory.
Color Perception as a Factor Causing Language Difference
Color perception is another function evident in different languages. For example, the English language has a term for “green” and “blue’ while the Tarahumara language has a single term for both terms green and blue colors. In this case, English has two concepts for the two colors while Tarahumara has only one concept for both colors. In an experiment, speakers of two different languages were represented with three colors clips to demonstrate color perception in the two languages. The blue color chip was placed on one right hand side, a neutral color chip at the middle, and green color side on the left hand side. The two speakers were asked to state whether the distance between the neutral color chip and the green or blue color chip are equal. The English speaker recognized a difference in two distances. On the other hand, speakers of Tarahumara did not notice any difference in the two distances since in Tarahumara speakers’ vocabulary, there is no distinction between “blue” and “green” color. From the experiment, it is clear that language spoken by man influences the way he/she perceives the world
How Culture Affects Language
The main cause of language difference is cultural differences. People of a different culture perceive universe in different ways. Geographic conditions and cultural background vary in different nations or even in different regions within the same country. There are more cultural differences in different nations than similarities.Therefore, cultural differences are said to have influence on language through geographical situations, social backgrounds, social situations, and social conditions (Eakins et al. 3). In England, people are uncertain on the occurrence of different types of weather. As a result, it affects the Englishmen’s language. In this context, it is clear that language is attached to the culture. All human cultures consist of languages which influence culture. Language is a crucial component of culture hence it is an essential tool of reflecting culture, maintaining culture, and exchanging culture. For example, Western countries’ culture is different from Chinese culture since cultural difference is known to cause language differences. Moreover, human culture influences ways in which one may present language
The second factor that affects language variation is a gender difference which refers to the relation between men and women. Linguists explore gender development and its impacts on language difference. Since 1970, the relationship between gender and language is the primary sociolinguistic concern in the sense that it is not a sexual characteristic but is socially constructed (Canary and Kathryn 4). Men and women give different commands in communication styles hence they are not given equal opportunities in social discussions. In other words, men use a different language to that women use. In addition, men and women differ in topic selection. For example, economics and politics are some of the topics that are often chosen by male speakers. On the other hand, family and education topics are mostly chosen by female speakers. According to Meunier, “The topics such as sports, politics and cars which are seen as ‘serious’ are for men only, the choice for women are the topics such as child-bearing and personal relationships known as ‘trivial.”(2). Language is also used differently when giving orders, especially by males and females bosses at workplace. For example, women bosses use phrases such as “I would”, and “maybe we would”, which makes them less confident and less capable since they are always easy of approach. This shows that, though women have higher status at work place, they will always stick to a communication style that is less indirect and powerful. On the contrary, men tend to be more direct and usually use fewer words when giving commands or orders at workplace.
In brief conclusion, language is a verbal behavior that involves the use of gestures and spoken words to enhance the exchange of information by human beings. It is also an important aspect of expressing inner thoughts, emotions, and making sense of abstract and complex thoughts hence satisfying one’s needs and wants. A language difference arises as a result of communication problems that can be solved through language translation. Additionally, language is about two million years old. Moreover, Language origin and development is explained by considering the upper and the lower age limits. Different languages in the world are used for communication, problem solving, color perception, and expressing thoughts. Lastly, language difference is caused by cultural variation and gender difference. People from different regions or parts of the world have a different perception on the universe. For example, there is a noticeable variation in cultural background and geographical condition in different regions or countries hence cultural difference influence the language.