Friday, 14 March 2014

Yakety Yak - Don't Talk Back

There are lots of theories about how humans started talking - 'hunters need to communicate during the chase and in laying ambushes', or food gatherers needed to 'pass on information about rich food sources such as trees being in fruit' ... others suggest that our early human ancestors started talking as soon as their brains became large and sophisticated enough, while yet others think that language evolved slowly, from the gestures and sounds used by our earlier ape-like ancestors ..... and that all human languages arose from a common language, spoken by our ancestors in Africa.

I have my own favourite  theory, formulated over many journeys on my daily commute .... Gossip. Women can't stop themselves. Its 06:45am on a wet Winters morning, men are sullen and quiet, but as soon as two women who know each other sit down .... "Yakety Yakety Yak ... and she said and I said .... and did you know that ... of course she's always like that .... Yakety Yak" non stop for 50 - 60 minutes.

Women's Gossip - Driver For Human Language

..... It's like they have a mission to fill silence with anything that comes into their heads, and that can be transferred in to their mouths .... just so long as there is no silence .... or so it seems.

Half joking aside, in fact there is a serious point here. There were so many theories on the subject of the development of human speech, that at one point in 1866, the 'Linguistic Society of Paris' went so far as to ban debates on the subject, a prohibition on debating the subject, which remained influential across much of the Western world until late in the twentieth century.

Of course there is a scientific version of this which is that 'gossip' is form of social 'grooming', which has replaced the physical grooming that our ancestors and apes performed to hold the group together,  because the task of manually grooming all one's friends and acquaintances, became so time-consuming as to be economically unaffordable. However this theory has its critics - mainly that as it was so easy to 'vocally groom', its value would have been quickly lost.

But I have noticed that on wildlife programmes for example, its often the female primates (monkeys/apes), that do most of the vocalising (outside of male fights), and therefore its the basis of my belief that it was they who developed language skills in the human race, driven by their overwhelming urge to tittle tattle (Gossip) on their peers. There is also the research which suggests that women prefer men who talk less ....

I suspect that this is partly the reason, why they are few months ahead of boys in language learning in childhood ... cos it just ain't natural for boys to talk or need to talk!!


  1. I read that it may have been babies/children who invented language, The younger generation tend to invent words and evolve their language unlike their parents who want to tie it down.

    1. Actually, that's the point the French scholars at the 'Linguistic Society of Paris' made ....another 'theory', which is as valid or invalid as mine. However, one point, children can't invent words outside of a language framework within which to invent them .... so one child pointing at a tree and saying 'grummph' while another says 'Urglerbulglah' leaves both baffled unless they can both agree and get others to agree that a sound combination means tree. Whereas women in a group gathering berries would have an incentive to agree that a certain noise meant 'red berries' and another meant 'mountain lion' ... after all all the monkeys and apes do the very same thing.

      Its when trying to pass on more complex ideas that women may have suddenly become more inventive e.g. giving persons names, etc.


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