Social media revives study which shows all languages originated in Africa

A study led by an academic from the University of Auckland in New Zealand says all languages derive from a singular language in Africa

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Apparently everything can be traced back to the motherland. Many users on social media recently began resharing a 2011 study conducted by a group of scientists which says the world’s 6,000 modern languages — from English to Spanish and beyond — date back to a single “mother tongue.” The “mother tongue” is an ancestral language spoken in Africa which dates back more than 70,000 years, according to expert estimations.

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According to The World, a public radio platform, research suggests that the singular ancient language spurred human civilization as we know it, and drove progress in art and hunting tool technology. The report states that the language laid the groundwork for every culture throughout the world. 

The research was spearheaded by Quentin Atkinson from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. Atkinson also discovered that speech evolved much earlier than previously believed. Through his findings, it’s speculated that modern language originated just one time. This has previously been a subject of contention among linguists, according to the New York Times, per the report.

University of Auckland

Prior to Atkinson’s research findings, some scientists argued that language was developed independently throughout different parts of the world. Atkinson’s research reveals that they come from one area in Africa, which laid the groundwork for all the world’s cultures by taking their single language with them as they traveled and created dividends of such over time. “It was the catalyst that spurred the human expansion that we all are a product of,” Atkinson told the Wall Street Journal.

His research was extensive. Atkinson traced the number of distinct sounds, or phonemes — consonants, vowels, and tones — from 504 world languages. He found evidence that the sounds and such can be traced back to a long-forgotten dialect spoken by people who lived during the Stone Age. 

Atkinson also guesses that languages with the most sounds are the oldest in time. The study also found that some of the click-using languages of Africa contain more than 100 phonemes, or sounds.

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