Did 6 000 languages derive from a single African language?

New research conducted by scientists suggests that all modern languages that we know today, from English to Mandarin, began from one ancient African language. This single mother tongue may be as old as 50 000 – 70 000 years old, according to Quentin Atkinson from the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Atkinson suggests that this ancient mother tongue was first introduced by our oldest lineage of ancestors. He found that they laid the foundation for human civilisation, which later led to other cultural advances, including more sophisticated art and hunting tool technology. Atkinson holds that speech was developed earlier than previously thought. Scientists disagree. They believe that language evolved independently throughout different parts of the world.

Atkinson also hypothesised that all the world’s cultures began with the first population. They spread from Africa and their single language became more exposed. “It was the catalyst that spurred the human expansion that we all are a product of,” Atkinson said, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Other compelling evidence shows that the number of distinct sounds, or phonemes — consonants, vowels and tones — in 504 world languages, supports his theory of a dwindling dialect spoken by our ancient lineage, according to the Daily Mail.

The study found that some of the click-using African languages have more than 100 sounds, whereas Hawaiian, a more contemporary human migration route out of Africa, has only 13, the Times reported. English has about 45 phonemes, or sounds.

The phoneme pattern and human genetic diversity match as humans migrated from sub-Saharan Africa roughly 70,000 years ago.


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