Africa: Cradle of Languages?

It is generally accepted that the human proto-language, which initially had a fairly simple structure, subsequently developed into a huge variety of modern languages ​​(according to Science Illustrated, 6909 languages ​​are spoken in the world today). And the question of where they and translate english to tagalog correct grammar all came from has been of concern to humanity for a long time.

The results of a new curious study will certainly raise the discussion of this issue to a new level. They inspire confidence also because they do not contradict other historical facts. The study, published by Science, was authored by Quentin Atkinson of the University of Auckland, New Zealand. An explanation is needed here.

It has been scientifically established that as tribes settled around the world, they were usually subjected to the effect of the founder effect. The founding tribes – those that conquered new territories – were usually small. They brought with them only a small percentage of the genetic and cultural material that was characteristic of their mother tribes. Over time, the small founding tribes most often grew and, undergoing changes, acquired greater genetic diversity, and technical innovations enriched their culture. However, if the original mother tribe managed to survive, those tribes that descended from it usually did not differ in the diversity characteristic of the mother.

Atkinson decided to test whether the same principle applied to theories of the development of languages. Intuitively, he guessed that it was possible. None of the small subgroups of the world’s English-speaking population, for example, will have exactly the same set of slang expressions and word meanings, tone characteristics, or even common vocabulary inherent in the mother population. But instead of conducting a comparative analysis of words and expressions, as has been done for decades with the aim of establishing kinship between languages, Atkinson turned to what is called the very basics: phonemes. These are “the minimum units of sound structure that serve to distinguish between words”, they make up certain sounds inherent in our vowels, consonants and intonations. It is believed that it is phonemes, among other elements of the language, that are least subject to change. Then, after analyzing the work of previous generations of linguists, Atkinson determined which languages ​​have the most extensive arsenal of phonemes (with the greatest complexity), and which ones have the most modest. He examines 504 languages ​​in the study – this, of course, does not reach 6909, as mentioned above, but affects all corners of the planet.

It has definitely become clear that the languages ​​with the smallest number of speakers have the smallest set of phonemes. In a survey on the subject, The Week reports that while some languages ​​have up to a hundred phonemes, Hawaiian, for example, has only 13. This fits nicely into the founder effect model. But this is where the story gets even more interesting.

A series of analyzes allowed Atkinson to prove that the languages ​​with the most extensive arsenal of phonemes are the languages ​​of sub-Saharan Africa, and that the number of phonemes in languages ​​decreases in accordance with the distance of the countries in which they are spoken from Africa. … This suggests that the language as such originated in Africa and that in the tribe of immigrants from this continent, as they spread on earth, the founder effect manifested itself more than once, at each new stage leading to a reduction in the set of phonemes in the tribes descended from the founder tribe.

One can easily imagine how this works for the population of Oceania alone. It is quite expected that the languages ​​of the islands, which were settled later than others by undoubtedly small founding tribes, will be characterized by the smallest arsenal of phonemes. The Hawaiian language matches this statement exactly, as these islands were gradually settled by the inhabitants of Southwest Asia, who migrated east and north and eventually reached the Hawaiian Islands.

Atkinson also found that the phonemic diversity of North and South America is widest in the Bering Strait region and narrows in a southerly direction.

A comparison of the genetic material gives a similar result. The African continent has a wider genetic diversity than all other countries in the world combined. Cultural data provide a similar picture. If we add this information to all that has been said above, it can be argued that the linguistic analysis carried out suggests a new look at the history of human development.