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In the Name of God بسم الله

origins of human language

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I was reading about our diverse languages and came across an interesting comment, though I'd share.

"Most humans have developed an ability to communicate through oral language.  By age four to  six or seven, most humans can comprehend, as well as express, written thoughts.  These unique abilities of communicating through a native language clearly separate humans from all animals.  The obvious question then arises, where did we obtain this distinctive trait?  Organic evolution has proven unable to elucidate the origin of language and communication.  Knowing how beneficial this ability is to humans, one would wonder why this skill has not evolved in other species.  Materialistic science is insufficient at explaining not only how speech came about, but also why we have so many different languages.  Linguistic research, combined with neurological studies, has determined that human speech is highly dependent on a neuronal network located in specific sites within the brain.  This intricate arrangement of neurons, and the anatomical components necessary for speech, cannot be reduced in such a way that one could produce a “transitional” form of communication.  The following paper examines the true origin of speech and language,based on Islamic perpective and Science  and the anatomical and physiological requirements.  The evidence conclusively implies that humans were created with the unique ability to employ speech for communication"

https://kampungtadris.wordpress.com/2011/09/28/the-origins-of-human-language-islamic-perspective-and-science/

 

The Quran, of course, addresses this;

وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ خَلْقُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافُ أَلْسِنَتِكُمْ وَأَلْوَانِكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِلْعَالِمِينَ

And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours: verily in that are Signs for those who know. Quran 30:22

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I believe there is an element of truth in the idea that human language was inspired to us by Allah, in its basic structure and vocabulary. That could be the meaning of Allah teaching Adam the “names”. Most human languages can be traced back to a handful of primary language families, but there are similarities between those primary language families too which suggests an proto language or at least a proto vocabulary of nouns.

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16 minutes ago, Cherub786 said:

I believe there is an element of truth in the idea that human language was inspired to us by Allah, in its basic structure and vocabulary. That could be the meaning of Allah teaching Adam the “names”. Most human languages can be traced back to a handful of primary language families, but there are similarities between those primary language families too which suggests an proto language or at least a proto vocabulary of nouns.

i can't imagine, from a macroevolutionary standpoint, why humans would end up with so many different languages

it must be from God. Whether it comes from a single prototype, i don't know but i doubt it; the primary language families i feel are too unique from one another.

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17 hours ago, dragonxx said:

i can't imagine, from a macroevolutionary standpoint, why humans would end up with so many different languages

I can answer this, but you'll laugh rather than engage so there's no point. 

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3 hours ago, notme said:

I can answer this, but you'll laugh rather than engage so there's no point. 

i found it funny when you said "humans don't even try".

i would love to hear your answer, as from a non-islamic standpoint i don't see good reason logically how or why humans would develop multiple languages, and even have an articulate language in the first place while no other creature does

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There was koko.

It's not that other species don't have languages, it's just that their mouths and tongues aren't shaped like ours, and thus they speak via other means. Like echolocation in cetaceans (they live underwater so obviously they aren't going to speak with use of air-bound sound), through facial or bodily expressions, or through unique independent sounds.

Now, obviously Koko isn't going to pull out meriam Webster's dictionary, nor would we expect koko to teach others about thermodynamics (their intelligence is considered to be roughly that of a 2 or 3 year old). But much like other animals, or non-human animals, simple expressions are known to occur throughout the animal kingdom.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10071-015-0889-6

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9 hours ago, dragonxx said:

i found it funny when you said "humans don't even try".

i would love to hear your answer, as from a non-islamic standpoint i don't see good reason logically how or why humans would develop multiple languages, and even have an articulate language in the first place while no other creature does

From an Islamic standpoint, we've been grouped into tribes and nations so that we can know each other. I think that means so that we have to make effort to know each other. What is too easy is often taken for granted.

From a standpoint of cultural evolution, just look at accents. An Englishman, a South African, and a Canadian all speak English, but with differences. Even if I ask people from varying regions of the United States to draw a "buggy", I'll get a variety of different items drawn. I can think of three but there might be more. Now imagine a time when most humans were isolated and never went beyond the borders of their own village. Every village might have had a unique dialect and the longer time between mixing, the more unique it because until it was an entirely different language. 

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Human infants can recognize differences in languages. Do you think dogs or fish or elephants can recognize that humans speak multiple languages? Similarly, would we realize if horses in South America communicate differently from horses in China? I don't actually know. 

But some animals do seem to have articulate language. Examples include birds and cetaceans. 

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Here's another named kanzi

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanzi

https://youtu.be/dBUHWoFnuB4

https://youtu.be/MTFL7BgWloY

https://youtu.be/P-9Ub1-LaAA

https://youtu.be/h7IdghtkKmA

Kanzi part 1-4 above^^

There are actually a good number of great apes that are involved in and display an assortment of language based abilities. 

If we think about the animal kingdom, only the smartest animals that have the most efficient brains can display advanced understanding of language. So this mostly limited to mammals like great apes and cetaceans (dolphins and whales). Cetaceans live underwater so we can't expect to understand their language though if anyone watches Nat Geo, we all know that animals like dolphins are shockingly intelligent. Which leaves us mostly with looking at great apes like ourselves.

I'm pretty sure kanzi could school me in Pac-Man.

 

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20 hours ago, iCenozoic said:

Here's another named kanzi

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanzi

https://youtu.be/dBUHWoFnuB4

https://youtu.be/MTFL7BgWloY

https://youtu.be/P-9Ub1-LaAA

https://youtu.be/h7IdghtkKmA

Kanzi part 1-4 above^^

There are actually a good number of great apes that are involved in and display an assortment of language based abilities. 

If we think about the animal kingdom, only the smartest animals that have the most efficient brains can display advanced understanding of language. So this mostly limited to mammals like great apes and cetaceans (dolphins and whales). Cetaceans live underwater so we can't expect to understand their language though if anyone watches Nat Geo, we all know that animals like dolphins are shockingly intelligent. Which leaves us mostly with looking at great apes like ourselves.

I'm pretty sure kanzi could school me in Pac-Man.

 

the car scene was priceless. it is indeed fascinating.

but in all seriousness, this doesn't explain why there aren't other species near the level of the human being. it actually supports the uniqueness of the human being imo. these primates have been around just as long if not longer than humans, yet not near the level of a human's complexity.

 

20 hours ago, notme said:

we've been grouped into tribes and nations so that we can know each other. I think that means so that we have to make effort to know each other. What is too easy is often taken for granted.

this is a good perspective, never thought about it this way.

20 hours ago, notme said:

But some animals do seem to have articulate language. Examples include birds and cetaceans. 

even if these animals understand other species, it is not a fraction of the extent of the complexity of human language, that is what's highlighted in the opening comment. 

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20 minutes ago, dragonxx said:

it is not a fraction of the extent of the complexity of human language

Then it should be pretty easy for us to understand and communicate with them, but we've never figured it out. We've never learned the language of any non-human species. 

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1 hour ago, notme said:

Then it should be pretty easy for us to understand and communicate with them, but we've never figured it out. We've never learned the language of any non-human species. 

difference of 'language' isn't relative to complexity here, thus us not figuring animal language out doesn't negate the extreme complexity and intricate neural framework required to possess human language. 
However given the relative "simplicity" of animal 'language', i agree this should humble the human in that he is privy only to what Allah permits. It's rather fascinating that the 'creature' who appears the most "evolved" from an atheist p.o.v is least capable of interspecies "communication".

All in all though, it isn't difficult to understand the hiss of a cat or rattle of a snake or the roar of a lion, even though we may not necessary be able to verbalize it in the same way (similar to other animals of different species).

Furthermore for us muslims we have evidence of certain humans receiving the ability to communicate with animals. it's a matter of obedience to God and subsequent enlightenment

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2 hours ago, dragonxx said:

it actually supports the uniqueness of the human being imo. these primates have been around just as long if not longer than humans, yet not near the level of a human's complexity.

From an evolutionary point of view, complexity is not usually an advantage. Our big and complex brains require more food than we would need with small simple brains and are more susceptible to harm. And our emotional system is an entire universe of benefit and harm. Humans really are amazing and unique. 

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3 hours ago, dragonxx said:

the car scene was priceless. it is indeed fascinating.

but in all seriousness, this doesn't explain why there aren't other species near the level of the human being. it actually supports the uniqueness of the human being imo. these primates have been around just as long if not longer than humans, yet not near the level of a human's complexity.

It is a misconception to believe that given enough time, all animals ought to evolve to be identical. As the common phrase goes, evolution isn't a ladder. 

image.png.840f24e07efbcfc60019bd928bf58d5e.png

 

Perhaps a bonobo might think, wow, after 4.5 billion years, those small muscled humans still can only bench press a couple hundred pounds.Indeed, the average bonobo is far more powerful than the strongest of men. 

But evolution isn't about reaching a specific goal or becoming something that approaches a perfect being. But rather it simply suggests that species become adapted and evolve to succeed in their respective environments.

 

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And it should go without saying that a chimpanzee in general is much more successful at surviving in African jungles than people are ^. 

And, The same question could be posed for cetaceans. Someone might ask, after tens of millions of years why haven't whales evolved to be anything like people? Well, theyve evolved to succeed in their respective environments. A dolphin is a much better swimmer than a human will ever be. So success is relative to the history and location in which they have evolved. 

And to be fair there are a lot of other species that will probably survive on earth longer than we will. 

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^your examples are just that, specific examples. None of them address the many land animals in various environments which would certainly benefit from a language of far superior intelligence. Sure, a whale doesn't need to "talk" underwater because sound can only travel so far. But the millions of other species, certainly there are at least a handful that would've benefited from higher intelligence.

Yet here we are, humans the only creatures on earth endowed with both intelligence and instincts, this fact is undeniable. No other creature on this planet boasts the two. In fact, no other creature boasts true intelligence.

And no, no matter how good kanzi becomes at pacman, it won't ever match human intelligence nor is it reflective of actual true intelligence, even if you concede his skills at pacman are superior to yours. True Intelligence is far beyond that, let us not downplay the clear world's difference between human and animal in order to align it with our personal convictions.

An animal, not now or in trillions of years can produce a hospital, symphony, animated picture, world war, or shiachat. This is evident today given absence of interspecies dialogue.

 

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4 hours ago, dragonxx said:

^your examples are just that, specific examples. None of them address the many land animals in various environments which would certainly benefit from a language of far superior intelligence. Sure, a whale doesn't need to "talk" underwater because sound can only travel so far. But the millions of other species, certainly there are at least a handful that would've benefited from higher intelligence.

Yet here we are, humans the only creatures on earth endowed with both intelligence and instincts, this fact is undeniable. No other creature on this planet boasts the two. In fact, no other creature boasts true intelligence.

And no, no matter how good kanzi becomes at pacman, it won't ever match human intelligence nor is it reflective of actual true intelligence, even if you concede his skills at pacman are superior to yours. True Intelligence is far beyond that, let us not downplay the clear world's difference between human and animal in order to align it with our personal convictions.

An animal, not now or in trillions of years can produce a hospital, symphony, animated picture, world war, or shiachat. This is evident today given absence of interspecies dialogue.

 

Ill say it again.

Evolution isn't a ladder where life just evolves specific features because those certain features are good for it.

Just because say, wings, might benefit an insect, doesn't mean that all insects ought to evolve wings. That's just not how it works.

Some insects will acquire mutations for wings, some will not. Some will benefit from wings, some will not. But ultimately there is no ladder where every insect must evolve wings or else the theory is wrong. And just the same, just because language might benefit whales or chimpanzees or horses etc. Doesn't mean that all of these animals ought to evolve these features as a product of evolution.

Because there isn't an "end goal" of evolution. There isn't a "top rung" or a "finish line". Evolution is more like an ever changing web, than it is a ladder or step stool.

All life doesn't evolve in a linear path on the road to be more like mankind, and nothing in the theory suggests that this ought to be so.

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Maybe the simple thing to do is to ask, @dragonxx 

Why do you think that because language would benefit say...a horse, that a horse ought to evolve to speak? With respect to mechanisms of evolution (mutations and natural selection).

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On 9/13/2020 at 11:13 PM, notme said:

But some animals do seem to have articulate language. Examples include birds . . . 

Decades ago l saw an experiment with birds --on TV.

A bird was raised from a hatchling in a cage next to a different species of bird.

The bird learned the "song" of the other species. (Comment: kinda reminds you of imprinting, does it not?)

Then when the bird was full grown, it was placed in a large cage with a bird of its own species.

This experimental bird started to sing the other-species song.

The normal bird attacked the experimental bird nearly killing it before an intervention.

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13 hours ago, iCenozoic said:

Maybe the simple thing to do is to ask, @dragonxx 

Why do you think that because language would benefit say...a horse, that a horse ought to evolve to speak? With respect to mechanisms of evolution (mutations and natural selection).

Don't know. I'd have to be a horse to figure it out... But then we can ask why the common ancestor of humans and monkeys had to evolve to speak in one forested area, but not in the other forested area.

13 hours ago, iCenozoic said:

Ill say it again.

Evolution isn't a ladder where life just evolves specific features because those certain features are good for it.

Just because say, wings, might benefit an insect, doesn't mean that all insects ought to evolve wings. That's just not how it works.

Some insects will acquire mutations for wings, some will not. Some will benefit from wings, some will not. But ultimately there is no ladder where every insect must evolve wings or else the theory is wrong. And just the same, just because language might benefit whales or chimpanzees or horses etc. Doesn't mean that all of these animals ought to evolve these features as a product of evolution.

Because there isn't an "end goal" of evolution. There isn't a "top rung" or a "finish line". Evolution is more like an ever changing web, than it is a ladder or step stool.

All life doesn't evolve in a linear path on the road to be more like mankind, and nothing in the theory suggests that this ought to be so.

I understand there is no linearity under the premise of evolution and appreciate what you are explaining.

However what the whole evolutionary premise is, is that there is advanced progress over the ages in some shape, form, or way. Sure, it may not be speaking any human derived language. But there is no communicatory ability "equivalent" in complexity, diversity, applicability, depth, emotion, etc. etc. 

I.e. no true intelligent progress, despite humans apparently being derived from a non-living thing in a body of water that was zapped coincidentally by lightning, magically producing 300 something genes coincidentally congruent with a life-form.

I can fathom animals developing from macroevolution (with created prototypes, not accidentally-appearing organisms), but humans are a separate entity unlike animals in creation, though humans can become worse than animals through action.

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Another way of looking at it, why is there no other species that can contest humans in intelligence, a species with intelligence rivalling us yet retaining some animal characteristics, like these friendly looking guys. What, speaking intelligent language between monkeys is not going to help their efficiency and productivity in the forest, and they among other species didn't get those "coincidental" mutations over "billions of years"? Surely if "chance" happens once, it should happen again.

latest?cb=20140727103926

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41 minutes ago, dragonxx said:

Another way of looking at it, why is there no other species that can contest humans in intelligence, a species with intelligence rivalling us yet retaining some animal characteristics, like these friendly looking guys. What, speaking intelligent language between monkeys is not going to help their efficiency and productivity in the forest, and they among other species didn't get those "coincidental" mutations over "billions of years"? Surely if "chance" happens once, it should happen again.

latest?cb=20140727103926

"Don't know. I'd have to be a horse to figure it out... But then we can ask why the common ancestor of humans and monkeys had to evolve to speak in one forested area, but not in the other forested area."

 

Language and our ability to comprehend language didn't evolve to it's advanced stage at the split of our ancestry with the chimpanzee.

We've only had language, at most for maybe 4 million years. And that's like primitive sounds, that's not even like the complex language we have today.

The human and chimpanzee split, in contrast, occurred some 7 million years ago. Our mutual ancestor didn't have language as we know it. But rather it wasn't until after the split some 3-5 millions of years later that hominids developed language.

Also, chimps lived in jungles, but our ancestors were not tree goers. Historic hominids left the trees and became bipedal and lived in more planar areas. But chimpanzees have always lived in large part, around trees. That's why their arms are still so strong and they have long toes for grabbing branches. So there were environmental differences as well between our ancestors and the ancestors of chimpanzees (post split).

So your question in a practical sense is really no different than asking why one fish evolved to walk on land while another did not.

The same response applies. Evolution isn't a ladder

Molecules do not "know" which way to evolve. During times of ice ages, whooly megafauna were successful. But with climate change what historically was successful is no longer. And molecules don't know to evolve one way or the other. They simply respond to what is around them. This is why we have things like back mutations (mutations reverse course and go back to the way they previously were) and series of random walks in the fossil record where animals evolve one way, climate changes, and then they evolve back the way they came (it's not a ladder, there isn't just one direction).

If evolution were a ladder, giant dinosaurs would never have existed because they were never as successful as smaller dinosaurs (in the grand scheme of things). 

But someone could ask, why did some dinosaurs get gigantic and some did not? Why did some evolve better features than others?

The answer is the same, evolution is not a ladder.

And like Ive said before, it's very likely that other species of animal, Will live longer than mankind will on this planet. so it isn't even fair to conclude that every animal should evolve to be as intelligent as people because some animals are going to out survive us anyway. And that assumes that we also don't use our big brains to blow ourselves up with nuclear weapons which is also a possibility.

The greatest form of creation must be one of great variety, because the moment we all start evolving to be exactly like one another, Is the moment that we all die by the same cause. Variety and difference is key to survival of God's created life. 

Evolution isn't a ladder. Mutations dont strive to reach a specific end goal. And we should not expect any other form of life to be like us. 

And one other concept that is worth considering, If life is billions of years old and language is only 2 to 3 million years old, This is a demonstration of an extreme amount of time that it can take species to reach a point in which they can use language like we do (if ever at all). And given the great variety in the animal kingdom, there's no reason to believe that all species of life should reach that specific point at the same time as we do. Which is to say that the chimpanzee could eventually evolve to speak like we do, but it may not be for another 10-15 or 20 million years. We have no means of ruling that possibility out. All we know is that we are the first and to be perfectly honest we are very young and new to it, so it's not like we've been around for a long time and we're waiting on animals slowly moving behind us, we are like newborns. Asking why nobody else is older than us. But we ourselves have no room to talk because we took billions of years to get here ourselves. 

And of course as many would say there's also the possibility of further intelligence life outside of Earth. But of course that is another topic as well.

 

 

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Bottom line, evolution isn't a ladder. And there is no mechanism of the theory that suggests that other species ought to be like us. There is convergent evolution, but mechanisms that produce convergent evolution usually have to do with limb function and morphology and not so much brain capacity, so far as we know in current times.

And I'm not saying that we aren't creations of God, I'm just saying that, we shouldn't view our unique intelligence as a contradiction of the theory of evolution, because there is no real contradiction to be found, not logically nor scientifically with the theory of evolution.

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Interesting explanation to say the least.

On 9/16/2020 at 1:13 PM, iCenozoic said:

This is why we have things like back mutations (mutations reverse course and go back to the way they previously were) and series of random walks in the fossil record where animals evolve one way, climate changes, and then they evolve back the way they came (it's not a ladder, there isn't just one direction).

Do you think humans can evolve back the way they came should they be forced into an environment conducive to that, or would they simply die off no matter how (coincidentally) optimal the situation is?

 

On 9/16/2020 at 1:24 PM, iCenozoic said:

And I'm not saying that we aren't creations of God, I'm just saying that, we shouldn't view our unique intelligence as a contradiction of the theory of evolution, because there is no real contradiction to be found, not logically nor scientifically with the theory of evolution.

I can accept that (minus the random factor, i.e. it was intelligently designed and mutations were willed purposefully in the specific contexts), up until human creation. My bottom line is that there is no other species today that can ponder on "what is the purpose of life". That alone, to me, is enough to reject common ancestry between human and animal.

I can't comment about all the science behind it, but it is certainly illogical in many ways when applied to the human being.

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On 9/15/2020 at 8:12 PM, notme said:

It'd be nice if humans couldn't. 

Well of course, but that's besides the point.

Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth." They said: "Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?" He said: "I know what ye know not."

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1 hour ago, dragonxx said:

Interesting explanation to say the least.

Do you think humans can evolve back the way they came should they be forced into an environment conducive to that, or would they simply die off no matter how (coincidentally) optimal the situation is?

 

I can accept that (minus the random factor, i.e. it was intelligently designed and mutations were willed purposefully in the specific contexts), up until human creation. My bottom line is that there is no other species today that can ponder on "what is the purpose of life". That alone, to me, is enough to reject common ancestry between human and animal.

I can't comment about all the science behind it, but it is certainly illogical in many ways when applied to the human being.

I don't understand what you mean in your first question, but you're free to believe what you wish.

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