Language: An Ancient Puzzle for Modern Man

Where did human language come from?  To be clear, we are using the word language in the sense of the human ability to speak, not a particular language such as English or Spanish, German or Latin.  Obviously, the origin of language is outside the scope of repeatable, observable scientific experimentation.  But by studying current languages, one can see the puzzle pieces scattered across the board, waiting to be put together.  Of course, there are a lot of missing pieces.  Human language is very complex, and much more complicated than the gruntings of animals.  How did language –  how could language – begin?

Let’s start with animal “language.”  Their method of communication is a “closed system,” according to Johnson Jose.  Animals have no way to combine expressions into long sentences.  Humans, on the other hand, can communicate almost any feeling or idea to one another.  If we evolved from animals, how did we get from simplistic grunts to complex sentences?

There are plenty of different theories, all with the most bazaar nicknames!  For example, there’s the “Yo-He-Ho” theory, which claims that language developed through the groans emitted during hard labor.  Gradually, these changed into more sophisticated words, such as the ones in use today.  This theory, however, only goes so far.  How could groans and sighs develop into words, especially words that represent abstract ideas?  So other theories have been developed – the “La-la” theory, for instance.  It suggests that language may have been developed in connection with “love, play, and (especially) song” (Nordquist).  But this gives no particular reason for more rational, less emotional words.  Yet another theory, the “Mama” theory, holds that, “Language began with the easiest syllables attached to the most significant objects” (Boeree).  But all of these theories (and many others) leave a tremendous gap in the account as to how language developed from sounds to words and sentences!

If people evolved, maybe their language could be traced back to one smart ancestor to discover how it developed.  But Dr. C. George Boeree states that, “many say we can only go back perhaps 10,000 years before the trail goes cold” (Boeree).  So where did language come from?  Boeree says, “perhaps we will simply never know” (Ibid).

But maybe we should consider the problem of language from a different angle:  What if humans were designed to be able to communicate?

Language is extremely complex.  Yet, despite this, it is not really necessary to life; animals do not have anything like language, and they manage just fine!  For the purposes of survival, human beings do not have any reason to think about things like abstract numbers, the motion of the stars, and how to improve technology.  If people had evolved from animals, how could they have developed such complex thinking abilities?  These abilities are not essential to life on earth; how would they develop?  According to Charles V. Taylor, “Chomsky insists that grammar is not learnt in the child by trial and error, or else children could not make new grammatical sentences which they have never heard before.”  That means that even before individuals can speak, they already have an understanding of language that an ape does not.  Mere circumstances cannot account for the complexity of language; many believe that, “the ease and speed with which children learn language requires something more” (Boeree).  In fact, many linguists say that learning your first language is, “a mixture of genetic maturation and social learning,” essentially meaning that at least part of learning how to speak in the first place is the work of something inside you (Taylor).  It could not have gradually evolved over generations.  Instead, as a human grows and matures, his language also expands.  An animal, for this reason, cannot learn to speak like a human (and no animal ever has).  If an ape cannot even be taught to speak, how can it be supposed that it could develop language all by itself?  If language was not developed slowly over time, there remains only one alternative – it must have been given at some point in time.  Clearly, such a thing would require superhuman power belonging only to God.  Language is a gift from God.  Its complexity allows no other explanation!

As Augustine stated in his work Concerning the Teacher, “when words are uttered, we either know what they signify or we do not know.  If we know, then we remember rather than learn, but if we do not know, then we do not even remember, though perhaps we are prompted to ask” (87).  Language itself, expressed by means of words, has no ability to teach anyone, but rather, one needs to already know what the words mean.  Obviously more complicated words can be explained by the use of simpler expressions; but the cycle will soon become endless.  Open a dictionary in some unknown language and you’ll soon see!  From a logical standpoint, whatever makes basic words understandable must have been with humans from the beginning, and this is the cornerstone piece of the language puzzle.  When God made men in the beginning, He gave them language for a purpose, thus pointing them once again toward Him as the Creator who spoke things into existence.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).  “All things were made by him,” and he made men and women, “in his own image,” capable of thinking and communicating with Him, and even of knowing Him (John 1:3, Genesis 1:27).  “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ,” that Word, “whom thou has sent” (John 17:3).

If you enjoyed this article, the following posts might interest you as well:

 

Bibliography:

Augustine, Aurelius.  Concerning the Teacher.  1938.  Hobbs, NM:  The Trinity      Foundation, 1994.

Boeree, Dr. C. George.  “The Origin of Language.”  Ship.edu.  Web. (accessed 9    September, 2012)

Jose, Johnson M.  “The difference between animal and human communication.”     HubPages.  Web. (accessed September 14, 2012)

Nordquist, Richard.  “Where Does Language Come From?”  About.com.  Web. (accessed 12 September, 2012)

Taylor, Charles V.  “Origin of Language.”  Creation Ministries International.  Web.           (accessed 11 September, 2012)

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Should Everyone be Treated Equally?

Does justice always mean that people are to be treated equally?  This may perhaps seem to be the case.  If I were a judge whose job it was to try two people for murder today, and if the respective juries found both equally guilty, would it be right for me to give one person sentence of death and the other a life sentence in jail?  Certainly not!  However, if I were to give both the same sentence, would that mean that I am treating everyone equally?

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A Transforming Light: The Impact of the Reformation

                Over two thousand and five hundred years ago, Nebuchadnezzar, King of ancient Babylon, saw in a dream a stone cut without hands, destroying the proud image of the kingdoms of the earth, and then growing into a mighty mountain.[1]  That stone, thrown once again into the sea of society during the Reformation, has caused spreading waves of effect – waves reaching to the farthest corner of the globe.  Like salt,[2] which pervades the flavor of food wherever it is introduced, the Reformers’ new presentation of the old truths of the gospel has had, and is still having, a tremendous influence on this earth.  Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, based on the Bible alone, to the glory of God alone, has left its mark on human culture in each of society’s three main branches – on the individual, on family, and on government.

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The Good Samaritan Tries Political Activism

A certain man set out on a trip from Washington, DC, to Greenville, South Carolina.  He was held up by terrorists, who stripped him of his raiment, wounded him, and departed, leaving him stranded on the side of the highway, half dead.

By chance, a certain pastor drove by; when he saw the man, he switched lanes.

A Red Cross worker, when he reached the spot, slowed down to take a look, but quickly hit the gas again and then took the next exit.

But a certain Mexican, as he drove his old banger on a visit to his relatives, reached the point where the man was lying, and when he saw him, he had compassion on him.

He went to him, and bound up his wounds, applying Hydrogen Peroxide and Neosporin; then he helped him up into his own car, and brought him to a hotel, and took care of him.

The Mexican questioned the man as to what had happened, and was horrified to discover how long he had lain neglected by the side of the road.

The next day, when the Mexican left to continue his trip, he went to the hotel manager, and said to him, “Take care of him; whatever you spend, when the government realizes its duty to the victimized, it will repay you.”

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Righteousness Part Three: God’s Solution

“Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” (Proverbs 20:9).  Each of us knows, that, however well we may do when compared to our own defective standards, when compared to the standard of absolute perfection, we fall woefully and willfully short.  And would it not be absurd to suppose that a perfect God would not hold all His creation to a perfect standard?  How could He do otherwise?  But does that mean that there is no hope for rebellious humanity?  Thank God, that is not the case!  Instead, He has provided a solution!

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Righteousness Part Two: Man’s Dilemma

Last week we saw the demand God makes of all mankind: perfect righteousness, perfect obedience to His holy law.  This demand is hardly surprising, since a perfectly holy God could not be expected to tolerate imperfection in His creatures, much less the high treason that takes place when any human being decides that he knows better than God and chooses to go his own way.  The question then follows: does mankind fulfill this demand?  Or does he daily, even hourly, break the law of God and act as a law unto himself?

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Righteousness Part One: God’s Demand

                A perfect God can require nothing less from His creatures than perfect obedience. Were they to fail even in the slightest degree, God’s perfection would demand that He punish them!  What then, will be the punishment for mankind, who has repeatedly offended God’s majesty to His face?  How could God possibly pardon man?  How could he reconcile a people to Himself?  Is there any solution to this dilemma?  In this three part series we will look at the Old Testament, where we see God’s demand set forth as He commands righteousness and justice, man’s dilemma explained as He fails to obey, and God’s solution presented as He calls upon His people to base their trust on Him and His glorious plan.

First of all, God’s demand is set forth.

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Fractional Reserve Banking: Unimportant or Unrighteous?

French toast for breakfast!  Who doesn’t love the appetizing aroma and delicious flavor?   Of course we need a few ingredients before we can have our pile of steaming goodness in the shape of French toast.  Bread, eggs, and milk – later on, butter and syrup – all need to be available for our ideal breakfast, and in the right quantities.  When was the last time you were able to create ten slices of French toast out of one slice of bread?  For that matter, when was the last time you were able to use one of anything to produce ten of the same?  You may not have that kind of power but, surprisingly, there is someone just around the corner who does.  When a bank accepts a deposit and then loans it out, it actually creates additional money out of nothing!  This practice (which we will explain in more detail in the next paragraph) is called fractional reserve banking.  But creating money with a few clicks of a mouse is a power that does not come without strings attached.  It has economically undesirable consequences and even moral implications that need to be considered.  Sadly, these often go completely under the radar.

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The Affordable Care Act, Calorie Labeling, and You

                “Every year our government adds thousands and thousands of pages of new rules,” John Stossel stated in his TV special, War on the Little Guy.   Now a new regulation is scheduled to go into effect – one that FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg says “will help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families.”  Vending machine operators that run more than twenty machines must post calorie counts (when not otherwise visible before purchase) for sale items.  This rule, buried in the 2010 Affordable Care Act, is to go into full effect July 26th, 2018 – it took the FDA four years just to spell out a regulation that would fulfil the ACA’s provisions.  In fact, their final ruling even regulates “type size, color, and contrast requirements for calorie declarations in or on the vending machines.”   While this regulation will clearly have costs for the industries it affects, the FDA contends that it will “enable consumers to make informed and healthful dietary choices.”  It sounds fantastic!  Operators spend a little on calorie labels, and now all vending machine consumers can be healthy!  Is this the case?  Do the benefits really outweigh the costs?

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