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What the FIRST Language Sounded Like

Where do languages come from? Many linguists think that all human languages came from a single one that was spoken in East Africa around 50,000 years ago. But how would it have sounded--would it have been mainly grunts? New research suggests that it sounded somewhat like the speech of Yoda in "Star Wars."

In LiveScience.com, Natalie Wolchover quotes linguist Merritt Ruhlen as saying, "This language would have been spoken by a small East African population who seemingly invented fully modern language and then spread around the world, replacing everyone else."

Most of our modern languages come from Latin, which was spoken in Rome 2,000 years ago, and Latin family is part of an even larger group of languages, including Germanic, Slavic, Greek and Indic. Different groups of languages use subjects, objects and verbs (SOVs) in different orders. Some, like English, use subject-verb-object (SVO): "I like you." Others, such as Latin, Spanish and French, use subject-object-verb (SOV): "I you like." Linguist Merritt Ruhlen discovered that out of the 2,000 modern languages that are known, more than half are SOV, meaning that that the ORIGINAL language probably was too.

But why would languages switch word orders as they evolve? Ruhlen says, "We have found that word changes in very precise ways, but the fact remains that half of the world's languages still have SOV word order because they have not changed word order at all--but it is unpredictable if word order will change, and I really don't know why."

Words are important to people who come to this website. Some of the most important words Whitley ever heard came from the Master of the Key, who imparted huge amounts of wisdom when he burst into Whitley's hotel room in 1998. The Key is now back in stock in the Whitley Strieber Collection. Why buy it from us? If you do, it comes with an autographed bookplate designed by Whitley!



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