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Evolution of Human Language: Biological Anthropology


The evolution of human language often results in formation of more complex words associated with corresponding images and objects. The theory of natural selection postulates that humans, unlike other primates, developed language as a natural requirement for his survival. Since homo-sapiens had the natural capacity to speak, inherent traits in humans led to his development of language during his evolution. Basically language involves a systematic pattern of words used in relation to certain objects in man’s immediate environment. In this series it is assumed that language developed due to dominant use of signs rather than sounds. The ability of man to speak however was a result of larynx function and the tongue. In the first part of this essay, we examine the various areas of the brain that allow for language development through an interdisciplinary approach from the interface of biological anthropology.

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In both neuroscience and anthropology, images and signs seem to play a critical role in coordinating the functioning of objects and an individual’s thought process. This essay examines the theories put forward to explain how symbols operate in brains based on human object interaction. Local example is based on the interesting process that occurs in the brain as a result of using an object to mean something. This is the first stage in a series of steps aimed at triggering the cognitive process of the brain toward articulation of words. In cognitive archeology, language development is a result of long transformations in human life as well as the past human environment. The best way to understand language evolution in the wider spectrum of human culture, is tracing the function of images in the human brain. This is vital in understanding the roles of various parts of the brain in language evolution in its entirety. Therefore, the actual mental activities associated with imagery studies provide critical bases for the evolution of language from cognitive aspects of anthropology perspectives. It would be very likely for people to use things in their environments as representatives of a greater understanding of language evolution across different cultures. The larynx is usually engaged in variation of sound (noises) that conveys information in a certain pattern. Thus besides its importance in neuroscience and other disciplines, anthropologists have learnt that brain imagery studies can be used in social, cognitive and affective functions of the brain. In as much as it reduces the study of language to the brain functioning, imagery studies yields significant results as it leads to a certain cognitive pattern that is bound to recognition of objects and using them as signs or precursors to various sounds before the wording of the objects and the motion they create in an individual’s environment (Ahmed et al 2001, 8).

Essentially, imagery studies lead to the conclusion that the brain does much of the work by itself while the rest of the body simply follows in response to the information conveyed from the brain parts. In this discourse, archeology derives knowledge from the study of things while neuroscience focuses on the brains and the various parts of the brain. The interaction of these two disciplines in nature is thought to have led to developments in semantics that acted as precursor to the knowledge of writing. In essence, this emphasizes the opinion that language resulted from the use of more signs than sounds considering that humans were in the primate family at the time (Arbib 2003, 24).

Anthropologists generally agree that relating processes in the mind (brain) and the environment through symbols is real and language as one of the resultant features of this hyper interaction of various social and science discipline, in essence, language is an outcome of an augmented function of continuous cognition and work. However, the extent of language development is limited to how much material in the human environment became symbolic; evolution of language on the basis of signs and symbols followed a systematic process where the meanings of symbolic objects were slowly and consistently coded in the human thought process. In the coding process, the symbolic objects’ input to the model is dependent on activating the automatic memory (attention) and by internalizing the objects themselves. This aspect of critical language development was brought forth by symbolization and materialization. (Wallentin et al 2007, 118).

Finally, a hybrid language pattern results from related symbolic meaning of objects with and purely biologically based internalization process. This postulation maintains that people’s thoughts are governed by comprehensive objects and words are merely the expression of interest to such individuals. The abundance of material symbols changes the center of attention as people begin to assign meanings to those images. Consequently, the mind is transformed over time by a highly interrelated mesh of symbolic objects and epistemological artifacts (Henare, Holbraad & Wastell, 2006, 48).

The physical morphology that allows for verbal speech

Studies based on lesions findings indicate that language (word) semantics actually relates to particular neuronal location in the brain. This drives to the proposition that words together with their meanings, are coded differently in various parts of the brain including parts that are not necessarily given to the activities of language. According to (Henare et al 2006, 9) words that tend to define color and words of a particular pattern frequently relate to certain coordination patterns in the brain. On the other hand, verbs actually illicit a corresponding response in nerves, stimulating the body parts which defines the verb used (Corballis 2003, 8).

The more the words are used in certain sentences, the wider the response of the brain. Simple words and sentences may illicit responses in the area which is predominantly a low level area in the brain. Complex sentences involving the use of phrases activated the frontal zone of the Broca area. It therefore follows that verbs tend to increase the rate of typical emotions in the left back cortex and middle temporal cortex. Sentences with static semantics such as the pavement leads to the administration office when compared to sentences with static connotations, the pavement is in the administration block significantly changes the strength of the brain to its contrast its activation properties from typical bilateral posterior part of the temporal and parietal lobes spatial responses to typical language like left horizontal inferior frontal cortex coordination (Wallentin et al 2007, 113).

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Various experiments have suggested that particular activity and response elicited are subject to the cortex part of the brain where, they occur. The overall effects of words in the brain are a result of complex interaction between neuro-transmitters from both linguistic and non-linguistic areas in the brain. This postulation was validated by an experiment conducted by Wallentin et al 2007. The study involved accessing scenario where two different groups had been presented to either visual or linguistic information. It was observed that an overlap existed on hippocampus, amygdala and precuneus of either of the group members with respect to the previous information accessed ( Widmann et al, 2004, 711)

An interesting feature that distinguishes word-brain area activation theory from symbol-sign theory or symbolization is mainly due to the notion that once a word is used with respect to certain specific symbol, then remains a sign of the object for relatively long time. Consequently, the symbolic object continues to act as reinforcement to the meaning of what relates it to each time the word is used. Alternatively, as the word is used, it is likely to activate and coordinate its presumed meaning in a way that resonates with the brain area that the symbol bears greater meaning. This process results in a rather spiral arguments generating the view that once a word is understood by people it proceed to become instantaneous reference codes in the brain. However this must not be mistaken with the view that words uniformly substitute the objects’ meaning in the brain. Saussure emphasized that words become increasingly symbolic based on how frequent they are used. Over time, they become objects linking previous usage and present use as implied by what they previously meant (Pinker 2007, 432).

Other studies also indicate that the in the auditory cortex, expected stimulus can be established by continuous symbolic representation of visual information. The studies confirm how inter modal interaction of stimuli in one sensory area of the brain may arouse expectation in other related sensory area. Due to increasing importance of symbols in neuro-network models, it has been argued that signs aught to be understood as unified semantic representation for information upon which language is generated based words used in the net works (Driem 2008, 28).

Foxp2 gene and how it is relevant to developing linguistics

Foxp2 is the short form for forkhead box P2. The gene is believed to be responsible for syntax in the evolution and development of human language. The study of primates, humans and the gene itself show that foxp2 gene played a critical role in the rise of the use of words and sentences with variations in sound during late stages in the evolution of hominids. Linguists agree that, there is a strong correlation between foxp2 and the critical times in human history when people began to use spoken language. The genes mutation in humans is thought to have produced language at relatively the same time the human vocal codes attained significant functioning (Cooper 2006, 11).

Contemporary linguists, just like the pioneer students of language, aught to establish the true position of foxp2 gene as researcher claim that it remained critical to the period of development of spoken language. The evidence from genetic selection also indicates that foxp2 gene remained dominant in primates and particularly humans as opposed to other animals. This led to the rise of language in humans and not in other animals. During early child hood development when children acquire language, foxp2 gene highly influences the critical time span and the earliest time the child is likely to learn how to speak. Precisely, the levels of foxp2 in cerebral cortex, parietal lobes and other parts of the brain involved in language and communication during the time when children are acquiring language is responsible for the specified period required for the child to learn spoken language. Due to the elastic property of foxp2 protein, it may be realized that its presence and levels in areas of the brain related to acquisition of vocal communication influences the development of speech techniques across the entire period language use (Napoli 2003, 81).

The main importance of foxp2 gene to develop linguist in the contemporary world is probably in the study of language disorders which is often associated with mental disorders. The most common problem is the disorder called schizophrenia that is associated with incoherence with a precursor on language specific areas of the brain. General observations indicate that foxp2 gene mutation is the cause of language impairment and language disorders. Since DNA studies from the discovery of foxp2 lead to the conclusion that its impairment often causes genetically inheritable language disorders, such as the classical case of Specific Language Impairment (SLI) in the KE family, interesting studies focusing on foxp2 may lead to relevant discoveries of most suitable medication for schizophrenics among other language patients who struggle to be understood through poorly coordinated words and sentence structures (Marcus and Fisher 2003, 259).

As the studies of gene mutation in the KE family suggest, certain complications must have arose in the neural structures necessary for development of language areas in the brain of the members affected with SLI in the lineage. The studies point to problems arising in the cerebral cortex which is composed of six layers with no membranes dividing these layers. During growth, the inner layers develop first hence allowing for growth of pyramidal cells within the first three inner layers of the cerebral cortex. These pyramidal cells are responsible for communicating with the rest of the brain. Similar cells are concentrated on the Broca’s area of the cerebral cortex and their primary function is to coordinate words during communication. The Broca’s area and the three inner layers contain a multiple of foxp2 genes that are mainly generated during the earlier stages of development (Locke and Snow 1997, 274).

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In the event that foxp2 gene inhibit the coherence of sound coding, then it necessarily follow that direct complications arise in the linkages between the cerebral cortex and the rest of the brain. Such complications which arise mainly due to gene mutation are also highly likely to alter the entire make up of the cerebral. Schizophrenia causes speech disorder without foxp2 gene mutation. However, some researchers claim that schizophrenia is a direct result of the process of genetic selection as a result negative feedback in the variation of cerebral balance. In theory, some researchers believe that the disease is related to foxp2 because language development and psychological processes are concentrated in the cerebral cortex of the human brain (Marcus & Fisher 2003, 261).


In the human environment, objects have continually been developed through images to form resonance between internal processes and the external material world. The end result is a near perfect interplay between symbolic meanings of words as they have been used in the past and brain coordination, thus yielding a particular pattern of configurations resulting into language development. Even though earlier studies conducted on foxp2 gene on animals show strong linkages between the gene and critical period in human language acquisition and development, more research still needs to be done on the gene to explain why it failed to yield speech communication in other primates and higher animals. Conversely, it is not ethically profound to sacrifice many animals in the vain attempt to foxp2 investigations that may eventually lead to SLI medications. Since SLI are not that common, enthusiasts of foxp2 should view it with intentions of improving methods of appreciating language.


Ahmed, Sarah, Lombardino, Linda, and Leonard, 2001. Specific Language Impairment: Definitions, causal mechanisms, and neurobiological factors.” J. of Medical Speech-Language Pathology,Vol. 9 no. 1: 1-15.

Arbib, Michael, 2003. The handbook of brain theory and neural networks (ed. 2). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Cooper, David, 2006. Broca’s arrow: Evolution, prediction, and language in the brain. The Anatomical Record (Part B: New Anat.) 289B: 9-24.

Corballis, Michael. Evolution of Language as a Gestural System. Marges Linguistiques 11 (2006): 1-12.

Driem, G. V, 2006. The Origin of Language: Symbiosis and Symbiomism. In In hot pursuit of language in prehistory: essays in the four fields of anthropology : in honor of Harold Crane Fleming. By Bengtson, J. D. 2008. San Francisco, CA: John Benjamins.

Henare, A., Holbraad, M. and Wastell, S, 2006. Thinking through things: theorising artefacts in ethnographic perspective Abingdon, New York, NY: Routledge.

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Locke, John & Snow, Catherine, 1997. Social influences on vocal learning in human and nonhuman primates”. In Social influences on vocal development, ed. Snowdon,Charles T., & Hausberger, Martine, 274-292. U.K: Cambridge University Press.

Marcus, Gary, and Fisher, Simon, 2003. FOXP2 in focus: What can genes tell us about speech and language? TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences 7, no.6 (2003): 257-262.

Napoli, Donna, J. Language Matters. NY: Oxford.

Pinker, Steven. Language as an Adaptation by Natural Selection. Acta Psychologica Sinica 39, no. 3 (2007): 431-438.

Wallentin, M., Weed, E., Ostergaard, L., Mouridsen, K. and Roepstorff, A, 2007. Accessing the mental space-spatial working memory processes for language and vision overlap in precuneus. Hum Brain Mapp. UK: Cengage.

Widmann A, Kujala T, Tervaniemi M, Kujala A, Schroger E. From symbols to sounds: visual symbolic information activates sound representations. Psychophysiology, 41 (2004): 709–715.

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