A Review – Theories of the Origin of Speech

Man differ from animals because of extraordinary development of the brain and the power of articulate language. Truly as civilizations progress, man continues to study and explore the world.

Since the beginning of time, language has become essential in the progress and evolution of time. From the caves and tribes; sign and symbols were evident in gestures, communication and various art forms in the way man lives.

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1. The bow-wow theory – Speech that is imitative of natural sounds, such as the barking of dogs and other animals, etc.

2. The pooh-pooh theory – Speech is derived form instinctive ejaculations evoked by pain, joy or other intense feelings or sensations. The earliest linguistic form were interjections and exclamations.

3. The ding-dong theory – This theory is a mystic harmony between sound and sense, that to every impression within there is an appropriate expression without -“everything which is struck rings. Each substance has its peculiar ring.” (For example: the bell)

4. The ye-he-ho theory – Words came into being as a result of the expressions following upon strong muscular effort. It would relieve the body to let the breath come out strongly and repeatedly, to “heave” and “to haul.” This theory was put forward by a 19th century scholar Noire.

5. The gestural theory – Speech that came into being when men began to imitate with their tongues and gestures they made with their bodies. Sir Richard Paget quotes a passage from Darwin’s book, “The Expression of Emotions.”

Language was thus produced, by the tongue, lips, and jaw mimicking movements is a gesture meaning “eat,” others call such gestures “the pantomime.”

6. The tarara-boom- de-ay theory – Speech that originated in the half- musical expressions of early man when his principal vocal exercise was a meaningless humming and singing.

Example: “Hooray! Let us give thanks.” This theory has been suggested by Professor Otto Jespersen.

This also highlights the romantic picture of love and hymns.

7. The tally-ho theory – This theory came into being as a result of the necessities of communication arising during the hunt; believing that the earliest speech was an imperative language consisting only of commands like a baby crying, or an animal begging, etc.

Henry James quotes “All life comes back to the question of our speech – the medium through which we communicate.”

The signs and symbols of a language in the everyday affairs of peoples transmit an orderly and convenient system of communication showing progress of cultures for all time.

Rose Flores Martinez

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