Human language may have started differently than thought

August 13, 2015 by Bob Yirka report
The plots show the acoustic characteristics of each of the 18 meanings. The five variables are represented on the x-axis: D, duration; H, harmonics to noise ratio; I, intensity; P, pitch; C, pitch change. All values are normalized (z-scored) for each of the five measures. The red line shows the median and the blue box spans the first and third quartiles. The up and down arrows indicate variables that differed reliably between antonymic meanings. For example, vocalizations for bad differed from those for good by having a lower harmonics to noise ratio and pitch. The variables marked with arrows were the basis for the iconic template of each meaning. Credit: Royal Society Open Science, DOI: 10.1098/rsos.150152

(Phys.org)—A trio of researchers, two with the University of Wisconsin, the other with the University of California, has conducted a study, the results of which suggest that maybe humans did not get a start on language using only hand gestures as many scientists have theorized. Instead, as Marcus Perlman, Rick Dale and Gary Lupyan note in their paper published in Royal Society Open Science, it may have been a result of both noise-making and gesturing.

Nobody can say for sure how it was that we humans first began speaking to one another—surely it was a gradual process with different groups and individuals using various signals such as , , gesturing with arms, hands and fingers, or as the researchers with this new effort suggest, noises that were meant to convey some degree of meaning.

To come to this conclusion, the research trio conducted a study whereby volunteers were asked to make noises to convey the meaning of different words, without using body language or even facial expressions. Nine pairs of volunteers were asked to play what amounted to vocal charades, taking turns trying to get their partner to understand which of 18 contrasting word ideas (up, down, big, small, etc.) were being expressed. The researchers recorded their efforts and then compared the results among the different pairs. In so doing, they found that there was a discernible pattern—people attempting to convey the idea of "up" for example tended to use a rising pitch, whereas they did the opposite for "down." The researchers discovered that the pairs tended to improve when going multiple rounds, eventually getting to a point where the partners could figure out which word idea was being expressed on average 82.2 percent of the time. It also carried over to a non-lab environment. When the voice sounds were played for anonymous people over a crowd-sourced site, listeners were able to guess correctly on average 35.6 percent of the time, far better than chance would suggest.

These findings, the researchers claim, suggest that it appears more likely that our ancestors used both hand-signals and noises to convey meaning, which over a long period of time, evolved into more complex sounds that came to be associated with common ideas among multiple people.

Explore further: Words jump-start vision, psychologist's study shows

More information: Iconicity can ground the creation of vocal symbols, Royal Society Open Science, Published 5 August 2015. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.150152

Abstract
Studies of gestural communication systems find that they originate from spontaneously created iconic gestures. Yet, we know little about how people create vocal communication systems, and many have suggested that vocalizations do not afford iconicity beyond trivial instances of onomatopoeia. It is unknown whether people can generate vocal communication systems through a process of iconic creation similar to gestural systems. Here, we examine the creation and development of a rudimentary vocal symbol system in a laboratory setting. Pairs of participants generated novel vocalizations for 18 different meanings in an iterative 'vocal' charades communication game. The communicators quickly converged on stable vocalizations, and naive listeners could correctly infer their meanings in subsequent playback experiments. People's ability to guess the meanings of these novel vocalizations was predicted by how close the vocalization was to an iconic 'meaning template' we derived from the production data. These results strongly suggest that the meaningfulness of these vocalizations derived from iconicity. Our findings illuminate a mechanism by which iconicity can ground the creation of vocal symbols, analogous to the function of iconicity in gestural communication systems.

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verkle
Aug 13, 2015
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ogg_ogg
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 13, 2015
wow! Since we all know that a choosing 18 English speakers (students at UCSC are about as randomized a sample of humans as is possible to select, right?) will obviously allow us to reach broad sweeping conclusions about language origins... Oh wait. Sample size is risible, and generalization is impossible. (cue the joke about the drunk under the lamp post - asked by cop what he is looking for. Drunk replies:"my car keys" Cop asks him how he lost them. Drunk replies he lost them getting them out of his pocket when unlocking his car. Cop looks around and asks where the car is. Drunk points across the street a couple of dozen meters away. Cop asks if he lost them there, why is he looking here? Drunk replies that light is better here. Its too difficult to see over there.)
axemaster
5 / 5 (5) Aug 13, 2015
A very interesting study. Now they need to follow up and attempt to replicate this in other cultures.
Vietvet
4.9 / 5 (8) Aug 13, 2015
@verkle

. The scientific explanation in the Bible for this scenario is the most believable and plausible.

The Tower of Babel myth is a scientific explanation?

LMFAO!!!
rgw
5 / 5 (3) Aug 13, 2015
Primate communication began with slaps to the head and kicks in the rear.
yep
5 / 5 (3) Aug 14, 2015
Terence Mckenna's Food of the Gods gives an excellent scenario for language development in humans. It's a great book for those of you who read more then one.
The bible is composed of stories gathered by the roman state to create a religion that would be easier to control a population with. The stories themselves, some are from texts a thousand years older. Many of the stories are the anthropomorfication of celestial events and we know this because of the earlier solar religions they came from.
Jonseer
not rated yet Aug 14, 2015
The theory that human language started with signing is a great example of religious notions being behind a lot of nonsense many scientists choose to believe even if they themselves are atheists.

Only by assuming we are utterly and completely different in every way from other mammals could anyone seriously accept that theory, and where does that notion of human specialness come from religion.

Of course, it's so much part of Western culture that scientists remain oblivious to how that religiously rooted bias keeps making nonsense theories seem sensible.

If you want to see how language began, the smartest thing to do is look at other animals. Overwhelmingly those that show some sort of primitive language like structure are verbal and audible.

For humans to have opted otherwise also means we completely abandoned that path for an audible language. That alone should make it clear the theory is ridiculous if it cannot give a good reason for doing so.

edshort4
4.5 / 5 (2) Aug 15, 2015
'onomatopoeia' as the root of human spoken language - is what this article is saying.
viko_mx
Aug 15, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
jsdarkdestruction
5 / 5 (4) Aug 15, 2015
Wow viko, that is quite the scientific explanation there.......

If languages given to us by god change over time and people are vain and prideful don't you think its possible the bibles been manipulated and changed by people for their own benefit and to fit their personal views in the last 2000 years? Not to mention changes during translation to other languages.
Knowing that how can you say its the literal word of god? Do you know how many changes have been made over time by church leaders and rulers and how different previous versions were from what is wrote now? Have you truly studied the history of the bible through the last 2000 years?
viko_mx
1 / 5 (2) Aug 15, 2015
There is full harmony between the books of the Bible where it is written the word of God and the human history, although are recorded by the prophets and the saints who lived at different times and at different places. And God clearly warned those who would try to change His words and truth.

Revalation chapter 23

"18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."
hmijail
5 / 5 (5) Aug 15, 2015

Revalation [sic] chapter 23


So, in summary, we have to believe that the book hasn't been changed because the book says so. Right?
L. Ron Hubbard was the most brilliant capitalist of all times.
viko_mx
1 / 5 (3) Aug 15, 2015
No. Because God said so. There is no other book in human history like the Bibble and is obvious for the hones and inteligent people that it is not human work. You can beleave in what you want for your personal comfort. I hope that you do not have to hide when returns tha Son of God.There will be not such an option.
axemaster
5 / 5 (7) Aug 15, 2015
No. Because God said so. There is no other book in human history like the Bibble and is obvious for the hones and inteligent people that it is not human work. You can beleave in what you want for your personal comfort. I hope that you do not have to hide when returns tha Son of God.There will be not such an option.

It's amusing because pretty much every religion makes exactly the same claim. Off the top of my head: Christianity, Mormonism, Islam, Judaism...

Even better, they each point out the flaws in every other book, while remaining blind to their own... What comedy!
viko_mx
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 16, 2015
Where else but in the Bible we can find prophecies that have come true exactly as prophesied? What other faith is practiced by the prophets who predicted with accuracy distant future events. This can be done only with the help of the Holy Spirit. Read the Word of God to learn. Human teachings are useless. Man is too inconstant unlike God and the truth of God is eternal but human teachings are false and vain.
yep
5 / 5 (3) Aug 16, 2015
Viko what part of the bible is written by men do you not get? What part of the bible is composed of stories from other religions before Christians did you not get? Why do you think the Dead Sea scrolls were kept from the public for over forty years? Your Christian bible was created by the Roman state for population control just like Mohammed used the same template and Mormons, and L. Ron, it's a scam, but it generates amazing amounts of profit and power. Your faith deludes your sense, it's your ego that generates the silly shit you wrote above so you can feel better about yourself, just like its mans ego that says they know the true word of God and could write it in a book. That's all bullshit. We are here for a finite instant in this form. Yesterday and tomorrow are make believe. Now is real. You have the right to believe whatever that's your choice, but I have been to the void and glimpsed the infinite your truth will always be a lie to me.
Hev
5 / 5 (4) Aug 16, 2015
Why does anything like this bring out the religious fanatics.
matt_s
5 / 5 (4) Aug 16, 2015
Want an easy thought experiment to show the God of Christianity can't exist viko? Consider God and sins of omission. Lol.
jsdarkdestruction
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 17, 2015
Where else but in the Bible we can find prophecies that have come true exactly as prophesied? What other faith is practiced by the prophets who predicted with accuracy distant future events. This can be done only with the help of the Holy Spirit. Read the Word of God to learn. Human teachings are useless. Man is too inconstant unlike God and the truth of God is eternal but human teachings are false and vain.

Where? Who decided what was a fulfilment of previous prophecy? What distant events? What holy prophets?
jsdarkdestruction
5 / 5 (5) Aug 17, 2015
Viko,
http://www.nola.c...ars.html
please read this information(all of it) by bible scholars who have showcased for other bible scholars some of the many changes both big and small that have been made.

Another thought as well. Why didn't Jesus appear to the native Americans and Asians and all the other people not in the middle east? How can he blame and torturously punish them for not believing when he shunned them and didn't reveal himself? Your god has serious issues. If he was a man he'd be considered a monster unworthy of life. Perhaps your god is in truth a demon Pretending to play god? his indifference to suffering and punishments eternally for things that are his doing that he allows and for not believing in people he never revealed himself to doesn'tsound like an all loving all merciful god worthy of praise and worship.
verkle
Aug 17, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
jsdarkdestruction
5 / 5 (3) Aug 17, 2015
Are you referring to me as atheist? Because I'm not.
History book? Its missing a lot of stuff and got a lot of stuff wrong.
matt_s
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 17, 2015
" But I assert that the Bible has the most plausible explanation for where languages came" - most plausible meaning that instead of a natural mechanism we know works (evolution), you think some being that created itself (not to mention the only evidence of this being is a book written by HUMANS), out of all the quadrillions and trillions of planets in the universe, thought little humans on their planet were being to prideful in building a tall tower. And his response was to create languages for the humans to divide them. And all of this is the MOST plausible explanation. Not to mention this being is unable to be proven or tested for, and has as much evidence as another other of the major religions... Right.
animah
5 / 5 (4) Aug 17, 2015
I am not promoting religion

Your hypocrisy literally took my breath away.

Also, just Google " prophecies that came true". You'll realise every one of them makes the same claims, often with incredible amounts of detail leading to "absolute proof". You're just one among hundreds.
Vietvet
5 / 5 (4) Aug 17, 2015
@verkle



But I assert that the Bible has the most plausible explanation for where languages came,

Your assertion is entirely based on religious dogma and displays your inability for critical thinking.
viko_mx
1 / 5 (3) Aug 18, 2015
@jsdarkdestruction

The main obstacle to the knowledge of God is the pride and vanity. These two emotions are bluring the spirit and mind, and doom the world to destruction.They are typical of chesri weak personality and take away the freedom of man.
In the Garden of Eden God each day is communicated with Adam and Eve. But the serpent deceived and seduced Eve with the promise that by the knowledge people will become gods. But only God is the bearer of truth and true knowledge and He wanted to give this knowidge to them gradually while they mature spiritually and learn to bring this knowledge responsibly. Instead they chose the source of the lies that promised to them quick dividends without effor and the need of responsiblity. When God found them naked after the original sin, they do not even repented and refused His mercy. So they were cursed and expelled from the Garden of Eden.
viko_mx
1 / 5 (3) Aug 18, 2015
Adam and Eve rejected God who is the source of life and truth in the name of a lie that would become gods through knowledge, which did not from the source of the living water. The consewuence is corruption and suffering. The inquest is corruption and suffering. Since then humanity walking in their own ways did not manage to find a balance and lasting peace and unfortunately history is full of meaningless wars and suffering, which causing satisfaction of the serpent.
Therefore God is not disclosed at all people. Only to those who seek it. Knowledge of God is through the spirit of truth in people who seek Him. God has left everything to find Him and drew the path to Him. We have a choise.
matt_s
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 18, 2015
Man, that serpent. If only God had known exactly what was going to happen when he created the serpent..... oh wait he's supposed to be omniscient, so he would... what a surprise! If only the wages of sin was something else... oh wait! It was God who would have decided what the wages of sin were! No matter how you spin it, it always comes back to all sin being God's fault. If there's a god who's omniscient and omnipotent, and you apply the Christian ideals of sin, he's the most sinful being in existence. The consequences of being omniscient. Sins of omission bud.
jsdarkdestruction
5 / 5 (3) Aug 19, 2015
Viko, do you then concede that I'm right about the bible being changed countless times both big and small? How do you know the other non middle East people would not of been interested in following your god and having Jesus convert them like he did various non believers? He didn't mind revealing himself to non believers in the middle east to convert and enlighten them and spread his message.
jsdarkdestruction
5 / 5 (3) Aug 19, 2015
The god you are describing over and over seems very vain and prideful and petty and spiteful to me viko. The teachings of Jesus refute/contradict many of the claims/actions made by and of god in the old testament. So how do you know Jesus wasn't really the devil in disguise to lead humanity off the path of god again? The message of Jesus was much ddifferent than the old testament version of god.
Revelations is a joke. The Jesus in the bible would never behave as is claimed there. He was all about love and forgiveness not casting all non believers in the lake of fire of hell.
viko_mx
1 / 5 (2) Aug 19, 2015
God can extrapolate in distant future all posibilities. And knows what will happen for sure if a certain character and way of thinking manifest in the being with free will created by HIm. Before that there are possibilities in different directions. God sees them all but the consequence of specific choice can not be seen in the future before this choice is made. Therefore God created us with free will.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (3) Aug 19, 2015
Where else but in the Bible we can find prophecies that have come true exactly as prophesied? What other faith is practiced by the prophets who predicted with accuracy distant future events. This can be done only with the help of the Holy Spirit. Read the Word of God to learn. Human teachings are useless. Man is too inconstant unlike God and the truth of God is eternal but human teachings are false and vain.

"Predictions" are merely a product of careful, logical examinations and interpretations of historical records by savvy observers of societies, NOT from anywhere else.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Aug 19, 2015
God can extrapolate in distant future all posibilities. And knows what will happen for sure if a certain character and way of thinking manifest in the being with free will created by HIm. Before that there are possibilities in different directions. God sees them all but the consequence of specific choice can not be seen in the future before this choice is made. Therefore God created us with free will.

Once again, I will state -
GOD is an acronym for Geometricly Ordered Data (or something along those lines). Data that is altered when interacting with OTHER data.
God is NOT an individual separate from any/all of us with it's own agenda and plans...
Face it - it IS us (along with everything else) in constant interaction and motion...
Zzzzzzzz
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 19, 2015
you guys, at it again...... arguing with the delusional psychos. I thought I told you about that...... Its a complete waste of time, and actually makes the psycho think what he is spewing has some slight value. They don't really need the encouragement, they live to defend their fragile simplistic belief systems.

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