German, French, Spanish, English, Brail, Sign – it doesn't matter what kind of language you use; at the end of day, its main objective is the same – to communicate and express. But, have you ever wondered how people in ancient times used to communicate?
Before you go scrutinizing that question, let us clear it out that by ancient times we don't mean a decade or a century back. We want you to go seriously back in time. Let's say 200,000 years back! Now answer us that same question - how do you think people used to communicate back then?
Well obviously, they weren't aware of the concept of education, nor did they have any technology. So how did they do it?
The magic organ called the “larynx”
Before we jump into the depths of this discussion, let's do a little activity. Place your fingertips on your throat and try saying "Abracadabra" out loud. Avoid whispering because then the experiment won't work!
Did you feel a bit of a buzzing? That very buzzing is what makes sound emanate from our vocal cords as they vibrate inside our larynx.
The larynx is also known as the voice box of the body (remember eight standard biology classes). Its location is what causes sound and it works as an essential key to language. Researchers have claimed that the larynx is placed lower down the throat in human beings as compared to other primitives like apes. Now this means that speech didn’t evolve after the arrival of homo sapiens, its actual origin might have happened way before that.
Teardown of LDT, or Laryngeal Descent Theory
A paper published in Science Advances states that there are many authors who still argue about the anatomical ingredients needed for speech being very much present in our ancestors, even as early as 200,000 years ago. Not only that, but they also proposed that throat shape and motor controls are responsible for producing distinguishable vowels, and they have forever been around in humans as well as old world monkeys who shared a common ancestor. Thomas Sawallis, one of the authors of the paper, stated that their speech abilities could include definite consonants, syllables, vowels, or even syntax, which according to studies is impossible to find in creatures without a human vocal tract.
Lehman College’s linguistics professor, John Locke, says that it's almost impossible to find concrete data regarding whether or not our ancestors had the ability to speak. Motor controls rot when a living organism dies, which is why pulling off an exact DNA sequencing from ancient bodies or fossils is next to impossible. Yet, he still believes that this argument makes a lot of sense. Of course it does! When you haven't got enough on the plate, even a little something goes a long way, right?
Given that there’s a major scarcity when it comes to solid data, there’s almost no way that we can straight away jump to lucid conclusions regarding the evolution of language. All we need to do is broaden our parameters and look for some out-of-the-box theories if needed. Focusing less on our throat structure and more on the brain could open more room for investigation. And if everything goes well, maybe we'll get our hands on some more interesting revelations.