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Why exactly languages evolved?

Have you ever played dumb charade? You might need to. A week ago, my wife and I had a prolonged and heated argument over a topic (we’re not a ‘very different couple’!). At the end of arguing, out of her disappointment, my wife suddenly jumped into ‘Verbal Non-cooperation’ mode with me. She declared that we wouldn’t talk with each other, just to cool off from heated arguments that we just had. Whoever talks first would loose thus need to give some kind of gift to other. By the way, we gave liberty to each other to communicate nonverbally i. e. through facial expressions, gestures, body movements and some very basic sounds.

Within just a minute after we got into ‘Verbal Non-cooperation’ mode, I had to ask her about very important thing about this so-called ‘silent standoff’. I started by using hand gestures, facial expressions and sounds to explain what exactly I wanted to ask her about. I was trying harder to explain and she was trying even harder to understand. After few frustrating attempts, I eventually broke into words overthrowing the agreement. Actually, the question I wanted to ask her was - For how many hours or days from now we’re going to be in this mode?. This question was very easy to ask verbally than nonverbally.


Have you ever asked yourself this question - WHY (or HOW) the very language I speak and write in EVOLVED? Well! This so-called simple question is very complex to answer in a single sentence. So many theories have been proposed over years about evolution of spoken languages and writing systems. Like other experts in this field, I’ve my own theory about same to which I call as Nonverbal Failure Theory (NFT). It doesn’t discuss about HOW exactly languages evolved but pin points WHY exactly languages evolved. Let me introduce all of you with this theory.

Like all other creatures, we evolved to communicate primarily through bodily expressions because they are embodied, non-confusing and easily understandable. Moreover, everything we observe, experience, sense through different sensory organs, store in memory and eventually respond to is basically nonverbal. Nonverbal communication is coupled with expression of emotions, feelings, motives, intentions, orientations and aspirations. It was only nonverbal mode of communication through which our remote ancestors used to exchange information and knowledge among themselves.

Nonverbal mode of exchange is so profound, irreplaceable and inseparable from vast world of creatures that even two members of two entirely different species can communicate between each other unmistakably. Except modern humans, rest of the creature world successfully survives through communicating nonverbally. Isn’t that amazing? Let’s take a look at our closest evolutionary cousins. Male gorillas don’t (need to) write letters to their potential mates to win their hearts and chimps don’t (need to) speak over hours among themselves to create strong social bonds.

Communicating with dogs nonverbally isn't much harder for us.
We all know that our ancestors faced same challenges like every other creature. To survive successfully, any creature has to 1) defend itself from predators and adverse climatic conditions 2) mark and protect certain physical area for shelter 3) find and preserve food to live upon 4) attract a mate, protect it and produce off-springs 5) take care of off-springs and teach them techniques, methods and manners 6) cooperate and coordinate with members of same species as well as others to seize opportunities and minimize risk to survival.

To be able to survive and pass genes to next generation, any living creature must be able manage fairly well on all six fronts, both on it own and communally. For doing same, it needs to communicate effectively. Communication is said to have taken place effectively between two individuals only when the sender succeeds in inducing the most accurate meaning of indented message in the mind (or brain) of the receiver. Being honest and clear in nature, nonverbal mode of communication is still the best way. However, it has its own limitations.

When environment, living conditions, resources and survival challenges remain same over a considerable amount of time; creatures don’t need to adapt to new tools, techniques and methods. They can carry on surviving and passing genes by using old and same methods, tools, techniques and methods which their ancestors invented, devised and taught to later generations. When entirely new challenges appear, they have to adapt anew to survive. Was it a dramatic alteration in early human’s survival challenges that ultimately led to evolution of speaking and writing?

According to Nonverbal Failure Theory (NFT), language evolved when Nonverbal mode of communication failed to meet  the very challenges and demands of human world that went on becoming complex. It kept on expanding through continual exposure, experience, exploration, observation and experimentation. Languages and scripting methods were invented by us just to overcome huge barriers and shortcomings that facial expressions, gestures, body movements and some very basic sounds posed in expanding human world and changing living environment. Human bipedal anatomy, erect posture and
free hands greatly helped in development of speech and scripting.

In modern world, can we explain or describe mathematical formulas/equations, theories, findings, patterns etc. without using alphabets, numbers and signs? Simply, we cannot. When our ancestors started to realize that body movements, gestures, facial expressions, postures, smells, sounds and colors were not efficient or adequate to express, convey, explain, propagate and record complex & lengthy information, occurrences and phenomenon; they completely revolutionized the way of human communication.

It must have started by making different kinds of grunts, growls and sounds through their primitive voice-boxes to identify, convey and talk about different entities, occurrences and phenomenon. Continual changes in producing sounds from throat paved path for evolution of spoken languages. Carving images and basic shapes on cave walls, writable surface of pots, lather, wood and fabric paved path for evolution of writing. Both spoken and written mode of communication catapulted human evolution. This very article is result of our ability to write down information and data systematically.

However, nonverbal mode of communication is still most effective and efficient, especially when it comes to expressing and acting on something that simply can’t be conveyed, done or carried out through speech and scripting. Action speaks louder than words. Right? Moreover, effectiveness of nonverbal communication wouldn’t wither in future, as long as creatures thrive on this marvelous planet to which we call Earth.

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