The History of Languages


A language is a structured system of communication.

The type of communication that involves the use of words.

What is a Language?

Apes and Whales communicate with each other.

Birds and Bees communicate with each other.

But only humans have developed a real Language.

No other species can express ideas using sentences constructed by a set of words (with verbs and nouns).

This skill is remarkable. And what is even more remarkable: Even children master this skill.

Spoken Languages

We are not sure of how old the spoken language is. The topic is difficult to study because of the lack of evidence.

We don't know how it started. But we have a clue.

The great African apes, Pan and Gorilla, are our closest living relatives. Why are they called "Apes"? Because they ape. Apes mime to get their message across.

It is assumed that the evolution of languages must have been a long process. Our ancestors might have started speaking a million years ago, but with fewer words, more miming, and no grammar.


The Tower of Babel

Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The Tower of Babel (Vienna) - Google Art Project

Cognitive Development

According to , there are six aspects of language development:

  • Theory of Mind
  • Understanding Vocal Signals
  • Understanding Imitation
  • Understanding Numbers
  • Understanding Intentional Communication
  • Understanding Non-linguistic Representations

Human Languages

Human languages contain a limited set of Words put together in Sentences:


I'm going on holiday in my new car.
Vado in vacanza con la mia macchina nuova.
Me voy de vacaciones en mi auto nuevo.
Ich fahre mit meinem neuen Auto in den Urlaub.

Computer Languages

Computers are programmed with a limited set of Words put together in computer Statements:


var points = [40, 100, 1, 5, 25, 10];
points.sort(function(a, b){return a - b});

Written Languages

Egyptian and Sumerian are the earliest known written languages.

(The oldest written language in use today, is Chinese)

3500 BC Sumerian
3000 BC Egyptian
1500 BC Chinese
1500 BC Vedic Sanskrit
1500 BC Greek
1000 BC Hebrew
900 BC Aramaic
700 BC Etruscan
500 BC Tamil
700 BC Latin
700 AC Classical Sanskrit
500 AC Arabic
400 AC Gothic (German)
700 AC English
700 AC Japanese
800 AC French
900 AC Italian
1000 AC Spanish
History of Languages