According to a study done by Dr. Quentin Atkinson, every language in the world has evolved from a prehistoric “mother-tongue” that was first spoken in Africa tens of thousands of years ago. What’s astonishing about this evidence of the origin of language coming out of Africa is that it fits with the theory most scientists agree with and that is the “Out of Africa” theory. This theory basically states that early humans originated from Africa and migrated throughout the continent and eventually spread throughout the world. This evidence that language originated in Africa will now back up this theory that humans originated from Africa.
Dr. Atkinson did a study on phonemes, which are distinct sounds used in a language. He used 504 different languages from around the world and mapped out how many phonemes each language had. What he found was the languages with more distinct sounds were closer to sub-Saharan Africa while the languages with fewer distinct sounds were further.
Just to give you an example. San bushman is a language in South Africa that uses a staggering 200 phonemes, while English on the other hand has around 46 sounds. Dr. Atkinson also argues that these differences in phonemes across the world are a direct correlation with the patterns of migration of our ancestors when they left Africa 70,000 years ago.
We see language change happening from generation to generation. This is how language evolves. For example, let’s go with this theory that language originated in Africa. Let’s say your tribe left to find better “opportunity” and went west. My tribe went east. We all started out speaking the same language, but as the generations pass, the sounds of our original language will be lost and language begins to change.
Dr. Atkinson also says that this change in language varies depending on the size of the population. Large populations are more likely to be stable because there are more people to remember what the previous generation did and taught. While smaller populations on the other hand are more susceptible to change.
We can see this theory hold true even today. Take my family for instance. I come from a Hispanic background and I’m not fluent in Spanish. My parents however are fluent in both Spanish and English. My grandparents are only fluent in Spanish. You see, with my family alone, as the generations go on, we begin to adapt to our new environment. The same can be said with ancient African tribes when they left the motherland. As the years went by, they begin to adapt to their new environment and language began to change as well.
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