Conference on "The Origin of Language" was held in Istanbul University

The conference on “The Origin of Language” which Assoc Prof Dr Tom Schoenemann who is a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at University of Indiana attended was held at IU Faculty of Letters at May 2nd 2018.  IU Faculty of Letters Dean Prof Dr Hayati Develi, faculty members and students attended the event.

Assoc Prof Dr Tom Schoenemann began his words by saying that there are two ways to look at the origin of the language. First one being the theory about how our brain was developed and the other one is archaeology, which explains where the language came from with its findings. He continued: “In Europe, people were actually thinking about the origins of their language long before Darwin pointed it out. Darwin believed that language was the leading quality of humans that separated its kind from others. When we consider the evolution of the language, we need to understand; our brain changes and evolves, at the same time the language changes and develops, and the two evolve in relation with each other.”

Pointing out that people did not have language in a certain time in the past, and raising the question of how it transitioned to the state it is in now, Assoc Prof Dr Tom Schoenemann stated that the because of its inter-group transitions language is the crucial part of this puzzle and said: “Language has become increasingly more useful among each generation and each group. If it were not so, we would not be able to reach our present state”.

Assoc Prof Dr Schoenemann also mentioned the evidence presented about claims that the language was very old. One of them had claims that the stone tools belonged to an ancient era and perhaps language was necessary for the production of such tools and Assoc Prof Dr Schoenemann added that he found this argument to be weak. Voicing that another explanation that was used when language was claimed to be very old is the size of the brain itself, Assoc Prof Dr Schoenemann continued on to give information on this approach: “Among primates, brain size is associated with social group size. Primates’ social groups are very strong in terms of communication in essence. What I mean here is that primates do not just hang out with each other they also exchange information. Larger brains point to a richer conceptual conception. More conceptual assets mean more communication ability. Because there is more to talk about.”

After the presentation, the conference ended with Assoc Prof Dr Tom Schoenemann answering audience’s questions.

At the end of the conference, IU Faculty of Letters Dean Prof Dr Hayati Develi presented his gift to Tom Schoenemann.

Story by Şirin ŞEFİİ

Translated by Ece GÖÇ

IU Press and Public Relations

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