Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Friday, November 8, 2019

Click Language may not be the "first" language of mankind

In previous posts I have written about languages, their diversity, out-of-Africa and the peopling of America.

I recently read an interesting article published several years ago in Scientific American (Social Clicks: Sounds Associated with African Languages Are Common in English) by Anne Pycha -February 1, 2012.

Pycha writes that:

"[English language] Speakers, it turns out, use clicks for a previously overlooked purpose: as a form of verbal punctuation in between thoughts or phrases. Melissa Wright of Birmingham City University in England recently analyzed click sounds in six large sets of recorded English conversations. She found that speakers used clicks frequently to signal that they were ending one stretch of conversation and shifting to a new one. For example, a speaker might say, “Yeah, that was a great game,” produce a click, then say, “The reason I’m calling is to invite you to dinner tomorrow.”
This pattern, which occurred for both British and American speakers, suggests that clicks have a meaning similar to saying “anyway” or “so.” That is, clicks provide us with a phonetic resource to organize conversations and communicate our intentions to listeners...

Why is this important? Because Click languages, which are only spoken in Africa, are often portrayed as ancient languages, the "original" mother tongue of human beings.

This video shows what a Xhosa sounds like speaking in his click language.

See these scholarly articles as an example of the above notion of a primeval African click language:

However if clicks were overlooked in English, were they also ignored among other languages?

There was one other language outside of Africa, spoken on Mornington Island, Australia. It was called "Damin", nobody speaks it now, it became a lost language. It was spoken in until the 1800s by the initiated men of the Lardil aboriginal tribe (read more here).

The idea that click languages are the original tongue of mankind is based on a weak assumption: since these languages are used by the South African hunter-gatherers, and these people are also (see my recent post on this subject) said to be the oldest group of humans based on their mtDNA, then it must be the primeval language. But are we expected to believe that these people kept their original language while elsewhere it evolved at a rapid pace, diversifying? Why would the click-languages remain static or evolve slower?

I side with Tom Güldemann who wrote: "The idea that modern click phonemes have their ultimate origin in the linguistic feature of a very ancient human language remains just one among several speculative hypotheses."

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2019 by Austin Whittall © 

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