Friday, April 15, 2011

Origin of Language

Before 60 or 70 millennia,
In the gen'ral vicinity of Kenya,
An intelligent word
Was origin'ly heard,
But is long since forgot, as so many ah.  

A new study, published in the journal Science by psychologist Quentin Atkinson of the University of Auckland, theorizes that complex language originated some 50,000 to 70,000 years ago in Africa. This theory is based on the "founder effect," the phenomenon that, when a small group of individuals breaks off from a larger group, the smaller group gradually loses some genetic complexity and variation. If the same holds true for languages, then the fact that those of Africa are the most phonetically complex would indicate that other languages broke away from there.  A fascinating follow-up question is whether anapestic meter comes "out of Africa" as well.

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