How did languages develop?

One does not need to dig deep into the past to understand how special can a language be. Let us have a look at the etymology and the source of the Slovenian word “Nemec” (meaning “a German”), which the Slavs used in the past to describe the Germanic nation. According to some theories, the Slavs would call Germanic peoples by this denomination because they were unable to communicate with them due to the language barrier. For them, the Germanic tribes were “mute” – in Slovenian, “nem” is the word for someone who does not speak. While history books offer many more similar examples, we focused more on the origin of languages, so we looked for answers to some of the most frequently asked questions in this field.

How did the language develop?

All social animals, from bees to whales and monkeys, communicate among each other. However, humans were the only ones who have developed a language that is far more than mere sequels of previously structured signals. Today, it is impossible to construe how exactly did the language evolve, but it is generally considered that a language could not have just “sprung up” but has rather developed from earlier sub-linguistic systems. Millions of years ago, our ancestors must have already communicated with each other, albeit with much more limited vocabulary and simpler grammar rules than the ones we have today.

How old is the language?

This question is a continuing source of many a heated discussion among linguists. There is a common consensus established that the humans developed the complete linguistic skills around 100,000 BC. This was also the time when a modern human emerged, who had a fully developed skull and the vocal tract, which shows that people at that time were able to produce sounds required by modern languages.

What is the oldest form of written language?

With regard to the world’s oldest written language, the answer to this question is definitely the Sumerian as well as the language of the ancient Egypt, as both have developed written encrypting systems based on pictograms and hieroglyphs respectively, which emerged as early as 3200 BC.

Which is the oldest spoken language?

Around 3200 BC, many spoken languages existed besides the written ones. However, they did not survive since they were not recorded in writing. Today, the Basque language is considered to be the oldest European tongue and is also categorised among the oldest languages in the world, besides Farsi, Hebrew, Hindu and some other languages.

Which is the oldest written form of language that is still in use today?

The Sumerian pictograms and Egyptian hieroglyphs are long extinct. Today, the Chinese and Greek are considered the oldest written languages still in use as there is evidence to support the theory that they both emerged around 1500 BC.

What about the Slovenian language?

Slovenian is a South Slavic language and one of the rare Indo-European languages that has preserved the dual. Today, the language uses the Latin script, more specifically a Slovenian version of Gaj’s Latin alphabet. The Slovene language is spoken by 2,500,000 people, the majority of whom live in Slovenia. The Friesing manuscripts dating back to around 1000 AD are the oldest preserved written documents in Slovenian, showing the characteristics of this language. Primož Trubar is considered the consolidator of the Slovene language, having written the first two books in Slovenian around the year 1550, i.e. the Cathecismus and Abecedarium.

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