Illustrated by @audaciousauburn @hafsa_imrann
By Elaine Shak
They are essential in helping us carry out our everyday tasks, every menial transaction, every brief interaction. It has seeped into our very being, ingrained into our brains even before our earliest memories. Our strongest desires, our insatiable wishes; it is through language and the spoken word that we are able to feel and go about our daily lives so intensely and expressively. In other words, words are the window to the soul.
Humans are universally acknowledged to be adaptive and resourceful creatures. We keep evolving and changing over time, trying to best fit in and survive in the wilderness. The question then, is not how languages have developed over time to the complex vocabulary that we speak today, but rather how the human species have evolved to be capable of implementing language into our lives so that it has become a norm.
Language first emerged roughly around 100,000 years ago, though there were already some primitive language systems around 1.8 million years back when people communicated almost exclusively through symbols and signage. It is crazy to think visual communication has been not a thing of the past, but a thing from the past. Ancient people leveraged on the subjectivity of shapes, a mishmash of symbols and lines to communicate and send messages. Furthermore, Hebrew, for instance, dates back to 1,000 BC, giving it a label as one of the world’s oldest languages. It is also the language believed to be spoken by Adam and Eve in the Bible, which many then interpret as the language used by God. Language has naturally been with us since the beginning of time.
The origins of the spoken language include words and sounds – phonetics – that are a stark contrast to the sophisticated medium of communication that we use during present day. For example, ‘bow-wow’ indicates the imitations of cries of beasts and birds, and ‘pooh-pooh’ was used to express emotion, be it joyful or gloomy. There is a distinct difference between modern languages, such as French and Spanish, as compared to classical languages, such as Latin and ancient Greek. This difference of phonetics is the reason why most of Latin language has gone extinct. Coming back to the modern world, it is estimated that around 5,000 languages exist today, though some are not used as frequently anymore, and others completely obliterated. Chinese is, as of currently, the single most spoken language in the world with about 1.2 billion people who consider it their first language.
Languages now serve a different purpose as compared to the past. They are not used just for understanding one another, but rather determine whether one possesses a flair for the spoken language. Poems, novels and biographies; they are but a compilation of different words, yet people critique the author’s use of them, constantly comparing one to the other to see the way in which they construct their sentences, their flow, their ability to transport readers to a parallel dimension, whereby they are completely immersed in the characters’ way of life. Take Shakespeare, for instance. His plays, such as Romeo and Juliet, and his sonnets are so widely acclaimed and recognized due to the unique use of words and the various rhetorical
devices, like alliteration and personification. From his famous quote, “All the world’s a stage,” we can see ourselves living as actors of our own creation, as if our life is a movie and we are both the director and the main lead simultaneously. It is his ability to allow readers to relate to his works, that enabled him to leave such a legacy.
Books too, allow us access to a world of our dreams, through the words that pattern the pages. A poet once said that a person who reads can live a million lives, while one who does not read can live only one. It can also greatly improve your grammar and diction, and impact how you view the world. It rewards from action-packed adventures to mushy romance novels; it loyally accompanies; and it saves us from drowning into the depths of boredom on some days.
All in all, words have become, or have always been the foundation of our society and is in fact the basis of who we are as a human being. Without words, we are reduced to mere beings where communication is restricted and limited. Words allow us to express more than we could ever imagine, and it is important to take a breather every once in a while, and remind ourselves that, words are a reflection of who you are.