Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 January 2010
The question about when and how language emerged in human evolution has been a major and intriguing question since at least the classical Egyptian times. It is reported that the Pharaoh Psamtik took two children to be raised by deaf-mutes, in order to find out what was the first and natural language. When these children were later observed, one of them said something that sounded like bekos, the Phrygian word for bread. From this, Psamtik concluded that Phrygian was the first and original language. During the following centuries, the origin of language continued as a most intriguing and polemic question. Different approaches and interpretations were proposed throughout history. At a certain point the debate became so complex and hot that in 1866 the Linguistic Society of Paris banned discussion of the origin of language, arguing that it is an unanswerable problem.
Contemporary research on linguistics, archeology, comparative psychology and genetics has significantly advanced understanding of the origins of human language (e.g., Bickerton, 1990; Corballis, 2002, 2006; Enard et al., 2002; Mallory, 1989; Nowak and Krakauer, 1999; Ruhlen, 1994; Swadesh, 1967; Tallerman, 2005). Different disciplines have contributed from their own perspective to make the human communication system more comprehensible.
The purpose of this paper isnot to further review anddiscuss thehistorical origins of language, but to relate what is known (or supposed) on the origins of language, with contemporary neurology and neuropsychology data, particularly with the area of aphasia.