Ever wondered, how it would be to live in a world of Silence? No words, no thoughts, no languages — just silence. The world would be very different and probably unimaginable.
The other day, I was reading David Attenborough’s book calledLife Stories. In the book, he talks about how the human voice could have possibly evolved. It must have taken a really long time, he says, for a voice, such as that of a human, with a wide range, to have developed a very complex voice box. He believes that humans probably developed this voice range perhaps even before Homo Sapiens appeared!
That is when, I got transported to that part of my growing up when, many questions had popped up in my head and when I had also unconsciously thought if I would find those answers someday.
When I was in college, one of the many things that bothered me was — “how languages have come to exist”. I wondered if languages could have also evolved over a period of time, like many other things on this planet have. This meant that languages would constantly change and that non-existent words would begin their life or certain words would just cease to exist in active vocabulary. On the other hand, the usage of certain words would change over the years. And so, the journey for the languages would continue with its expansion — this, in brief, was my understanding.
I remember, when I was so excited because I had found that a certain Hindi word was now an accepted word in English. The word — pyjama! Before I knew that pyjama was an accepted word, I remember struggling to find its equivalent in English . I thought of “pants”, “loose pants” , “trousers” but nothing seemed right. So, when I actually saw the word in a book, I was thrilled, but at the same time confused. Had I just read that correctly? The word had indeed found a place in the English lexicon. Upon doing a quick check, I found that the word had its origins in Persian and so got incorporated in Hindi. The word literally means, clothing for legs. So, my understanding had been right after all — words do migrate from language to language and find a place for themselves over time.
As I look up in the net in my quest to find my long-awaited answers, I realise that, I am not alone. A lot of people — linguists — have actually pondered over this aspect. They have theories for the origin of the spoken word.
Some believe that body movements preceded language. Some others say that languages came about due to the imitation of the natural sounds around. There are so many theories that nobody knows exactly how they have come to form. It could be a singular effort or a collective effort — all we can do is just speculate on this remarkable medium of communication that happened probably four million years ago.
Yes. Life would be very different without words. It is impossible to imagine our planet without communication. Since, we have been tuned to observe, interpret, understand and react in languages, it is truly difficult to imagine a world of silence. A world without words, would be a world without any communication. In such a world, all our gadgets from phones to ipads would be non-existent because, scientific understanding and reasoning should have a communicating medium. Perhaps, we would never have become social animals because communication makes up for a major part of socialising. There wouldn’t have been the ‘wheel’ and most importantly, there would be any mobile phones. Imagine all those peaceful dinners we could have had — without any talking! That, would be quite something!