Can All Languages Be Traced Back to a Single Ancestral Tongue?

By Atlas LS

Quentin Atkinson of the University of Auckland, New Zealand has recently published research in (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/332/6027/346.abstract ) Science Magazine that all human language originated in Africa.  Mr. Atkinson believes the ancient “click” language, called Khoisan is the first language known to humans and that all of the 6,000+ known languages have roots from this single tongue.  Khoisan is thought to have originated 50,000 to 70,000 years ago.

It’s a bold and controversial claim but it has some solid scientific research to back the idea up.  So how did Mr. Atkinson come to this conclusion?  A computer program was used to study not words but sounds in 504 languages.  By using sounds that are used to form words (called “phoneme” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoneme), the application used an algorithm, which determined that they all pointed back to a Khoisan.

From a linguistic standpoint, it is interesting to think about the prospect of a single language having roots in all others.  While it’s difficult to fully jump on board with what the research claims, it does indeed further the discussion of language origin history.  But as the (http://www.economist.com/node/18557572?story_id=18557572&fsrc=rss%22%3EEconomist%3C/a)”the obvious place to look for the evolutionary origin of language is the cradle of humanity, Africa.”

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