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Dec 09, 2016 09:45 AM EST

The Tower Of Babel And The First Human Language Theory


For years, scholars and scientists have viewed the Tower of Babel as either a literal or metaphorical explanation that humans had, at one time, used a single language. A lot of theories have come up as to where and how the languages we have now it originated. But no matter what the theory is, all of them hold the idea that there is indeed one original language.

One popular theory was by Scottish philosopher, John Burnett, who claims that language was born as a response to the changing environment. Burnett believes the naturalistic evolution of the human life, which includes language. Like all other philosophers and scientists who hold the same belief, he discards the story of the Tower of Babel saying it was just allegorical and highly implausible, Open Culture reported.

Instead, according to Burnett, language naturally came into existence as the environment around humans changed. Then, it diversified as man began to disperse to different parts of the globe, and diverged culturally. His theory became known as the monogenesis theory.

Despite the naturalization of the story, the mystery of the Tower of Babel still begs to be solved - the original language. However, Burnett did not take the path of the mystics in search of that mystical Adamic language. Rather, he tried to create a historical reconstruction of the original language by using comparative linguistic methods. That proved to be futile until the Society of Linguistics banned all discussions and attempts about it in 1866.

However, later philosophers and linguists had shown renewed interest in the subject and pursued it. The 20th-century linguist Joseph Greenberg studied different races of people all over the world and grouped them into what he calls superfamilies. He used mass comparison and typology to compare these superfamilies.

Later, linguist Merritt Ruhlen made more comprehensive study by comparing different vocabulary all over the world. This led him to the construction of 27 proto-words which, according to him, made up the first original language. His study, however, has been tossed by critics and labeled it pseudo-science. But Noah Chomsky's argument seemed to support Ruhlen's theory saying that from the 6,000 plus languages around the world, there exists one common structure he calls the "universal grammar," Science Focus reported.

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