THE ORIGINS OF HUMAN LANGUAGE Islamic Perspective and Science

THE ORIGINS OF HUMAN LANGUAGE     Islamic Perspective and Science

Abd. Ghofur

Most humans have developed an ability to communicate through oral language.  By age four to  six or seven, most humans can comprehend, as well as express, written thoughts.  These unique abilities of communicating through a native language clearly separate humans from all animals.  The obvious question then arises, where did we obtain this distinctive trait?  Organic evolution has proven unable to elucidate the origin of language and communication.  Knowing how beneficial this ability is to humans, one would wonder why this skill has not evolved in other species.  Materialistic science is insufficient at explaining not only how speech came about, but also why we have so many different languages.  Linguistic research, combined with neurological studies, has determined that human speech is highly dependent on a neuronal network located in specific sites within the brain.  This intricate arrangement of neurons, and the anatomical components necessary for speech, cannot be reduced in such a way that one could produce a “transitional” form of communication.  The following paper examines the true origin of speech and language,based on Islamic perpective and Science  and the anatomical and physiological requirements.  The evidence conclusively implies that humans were created with the unique ability to employ speech for communication

Keyword: Human language

  1. Introduction

When the questioned about the affairs of human existence in this world could be based on the opinions of religion agreemen that Adam was the first man created by God. It is said that this is Gods creation, is the creation of both because they were given no priority compared with other creations. The question that arises then is: whether the attributes that make human beings different from and better than any other creature? Apparently physical strength is not the right answer because a lot of very powerful beings in the face of their wild habitats. When people favor the ability sensory organs, it is still a lot more other creatures in the world have the sensory abilities far more perfect and very sensitive (ultra-sonic and infrared). So what distinguishes it?

The evolutionary theorists[1] believe that the difference between humans and other creatures is his ability to communicate with language. With these attributes can be separated from human existence in the animal kingdom  is a form of superiority and God-given. This means that in the real world there is no non-human languages because the language is to communicate with humans. In this context language is an attribute that is Distinctive behavioral (distinguishing behavior) for men in this world.

So is it really language? Why  there is a language among humans? How language is used by them? What is the form  of the language? May be many more rows of questions about language. The Questions that are the starting point of human philosophical thought about the existence of language in the world.

Many experts have given a definition of the language. Sapir (1921), for example, stated that the language … is a purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of voluntarily produced symbols. This means that the language is only used by humans and become a tool for expressing opinions, feelings and desires through symbols. Hall (1968) adds that the language  is the institution whereby humans communicate and interact with each other by means of habitually used oral-auditory arbitrary symbols. Finally, among the human language is a tool to communicate, interact, express, express their opinion / ideas, and to transmit culture to the next generation.

As what has been described above regarding the definition of language, the language is something that can be understood in the communication process. This refers to the shape and how language is used by humans. It is said that the language is used more oral than written language. The first time people use sign language to communicate and eventually long evolved into understandable language. So it is with written language. Primitive people have started communicating with their writings can be found in the relics, such as inscriptions. And time is very important in the development of human language as the development of human evolution itself.

The anthropologists concluded that humans and language developed together. Human beings are on earth approximately one million years old. The factors affecting the development of Homo sapien also affects language development. The upright body shape, eye shape, and stereoscopic celebra cortex that does not exist in other animals have helped human evolution. Alter brain development from a little man  become real human beings. They  have the ability to find and use the tools and began to speak. In other words, language arises. Thus a thought on the origins of language in the appearance of human  first time. This is what gave birth to the various theories about the origin of language.

There are various predictions and theories presented by experts on the origins of human language, but no theory can really be proven until now. Among those theories are based on the theory of religion (divine origin), and theories based on science (natural evolution hypothesis).

Referring to what has been described above, in this paper will be delivered a presentation on the origins of language from two different perspective. From the religious point of view, the writers tries to give a careful description of how the Islamic religion at the origin of human language. In addition, will explain how the science to answer the same question.

B. The Origins of Language  Theories

With regard to the origin of language, there is no theory can really be proven up to  now. But there are two kinds of theories that can be a reference to think about how to be the origin of language. First, a theory rooted in the divine (beliefs in divine creation). Second, the theory which refers to natural hypotheses (Hypotheses natural evolution). [2]

According to the first theory, in general, the existence of the language at first because of the intervention of God as the creator of the first human beings believed to be also the first language. In other words, language and language skills in humans is given when humans were created by God. The Jews believe that God created the world with the words instantly without any effort. In other parts of the Jewish holy book says that the language of God is given to human beings can control and conquer the world. In the Gospel is mentioned in Genesis 2:19 that God created Adam as the first man with the ability to talk.[3] While the language of Hindu culture is the grace of Goddess Saraswati wife of brahma the creator of the universe.

The second theory is more emphasis on the facts or the result of observation through the process of human inkuiri. This theory is more often referred to hypotheses about the origin of language which later evolved to become more serious basic sufficient knowledge base representative as the location to see traces of human language. There are two increments that describe these hypotheses, the traditional approach and modern approaches.

The Approach was much influenced by traditional assumptions derived from a simple observation about the emergence of the first language. For example on Psammetichus[4] research conducted in Egypt, the story of the first language according to the Chinese[5], Japanese[6], and even Babylon.

But in the late 18th century origins of language speculation moved. This is called organic phase pioneered Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803). He argued that it is not appropriate language for divine grace. In his opinion: language born of the human impulse to try to think. Language is the result of which instinctively jerk like a fetus in the birth process. This theory together with the start of human evolution the appear of  initiated by Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) which was followed by Charles Darwin

According to Darwin (1809-1882) in the Descent of Man (1871) the quality of human language with the language of animals differ in degree only. Human language as the man himself comes from a primitive form., Perhaps the only emotional expressions. For example, feelings of annoyance or disgust born to remove the air from the nose and mouth, heard as “pooh” or “pish”. This theory is called the Pooh Pooh Theory. Then, Mark Muler introducing or Dingdong Theory called nativistic theory. The theory slightly in line with Socrates proposed that the birth of scientific language. According to this theory humans have a special instinct ability to issue an expression of speech for each impression as a stimulus from the outside. The impression received through the senses, like a blow on the bell to issue the appropriate greeting. Approximately four hundred basic sounds that make up this first language. As the primitives used to see a wolf, this view of the bell vibrating in him so instinctively spoken the  word “wolf”. Unfortunately, Muller on his own theory was  rejected at the end.

Another theory is called Yap-he-ho theory. This theory concludes that the primitive language used to work together. We are also experiencing similar work, for example, when we lifted the wood together spontaneously out certain words, because the pressure impulse muscle. Similarly, primitive people earlier times, when work was, the vocal cords vibrate so they born on special remarks for each action. Utterances were then becomes a name for the job as ‘heave’ (lift), ‘rest’ (silence) and so on.

The theory is rather endure Bow-wow or Onomatopoetic[7] Theory, also called Echoic Theory. According to this theory the words the first time is a clone of thunder, rain, wind, rivers, ocean waves and other

Another theory is called Gesture Theory,  saying that precedes the speech signal. Advocates of this theory shows the use of signals by various animals, and also signal system used by primitive people. One example is the sign language used by Indian tribes in North America when communicating with other tribes that do not the same language.

Finally, modern approach appears to show the facts that is more acceptable and logical if people thought about the appearance of human language. According to modern thinking, human beings are created with the physical equipment that is perfect to allow the speech (read: language skills). But speech is not only a physical organ work. In the process of speech, psychological factors were involved. West (2000) states “Speech, as language, is the result of man’s ability to see phenomena symbolically and of the necessity to express his symbols …”. In other words, the speech as well as the language is the result of human ability to see the symptoms as symbols, and his desire for the symbols.[8]

There is also a saying that the development of human language as well as language development in infants develop into adults. Jespersen Otto (1860-1943) saw the similarities between human language and the first baby. The first human language has almost no meaning, like a song just as the sayings of the baby. Over time the speeches were developed to perfection.

C. The Origin of Language in the view of Islam

Islam is a religion that covers issues creed, worship, and behavior. The language is the instrument to articulate these three issues. So that the language is just the media or instrument, he was not the goal. On this basis, then every prophet was sent to his people by using the people’s language. As word of God in his word:

 “We never sent a prohet, but with the language of his people, so that he can explain clearly to them. So God astray whom He pleases, and gives guidance to whom He will. and He is God Almighty, the Wise.” (QS. Ibrahim, 4)

The language issue has been confirmed of God in the Qur’an, that one proof of his power is the existence of differences in language and skin color.

“And among the signs of His power is the creation of the heavens and the earth and diverse language and skin color. Surely, with that situation  actually there are signs for people who know” (Surat ar-Rum, 22).


To those adherents of Islam above verse is believed that the language be controlled by humans on earth is a creation of God. So that could be concluded that the diversity of language is the characteristic of the earth. However, it should be noted that the Qur’an and Sunnah which are the two main sources of Islamic teachings and the message brought by Prophet Muhammad is using  the Arabic language. So that mankind for adherents of Islam are obliged to follow this treatise indirectly to understand Arabic. However, whether Arabic became the language used by the first Adam and Eve, the statement can not be scientifically proven, and have not found an authentic evidence in the Qur’an.

Further described in the Qur’an

“And If We have made it a Quran reading in languages other than Arabic, they would say: ‘Why not verses? ‘Does (should al-Quran) in a foreign language is (the Apostle is the) Arabic? Say: ‘Al-Quran is guidance and a bidder for the believers. And those who do not believe in their ears is deafness, that the Qur’an was a darkness to them. (Surat Fushilat, 44)

However, Imam Shafi’i,ra. Said,” Allah, requires all mankind to learn Arabic, because the dialogue between God and mankind is through the Holy Qur’an (Arabic-speaking) and God set that recite Qur’an including forms of worship . (Hawwa, 1993). On the made of Arabic as the official language of Muslims does not mean delete and remove the other languages. This is because the Qur’an and Sunnah as a source of Islamic law is written in Arabic, then the knowledge of Arabic structure must be mastered by every moslem who will perform ijtihad. (Abdullah, 2002). Expression that Arabic is the official language of Muslims, it is not on the basis of race. In the view of Islam learn Arabic is a pride. Prophet Muhammad, said:

“O mankind, truly God Almighty Keeper is one. Our ancestors also one (Adam).and true religion we are also one. The Arab of yours not on the basis of his father and mother, but the Arabian  is because of the language spoken by the tongue. He who spoke Arabic, so he is an Arab.

From the realm of religion then we revert to their respective adherents extent  believe to their believenes, as well as the origins of human language. To what extent we should believe what we believe

D. The Origin of Language in Science Perspective

Science is the embodiment of human curiosity because of his amazement at something[9]. The Inkuiri process which then reinforced with the ability to think to be the main basis for the emergence of new sciences. The case with the origin of language which is always questionable. Scientists are also trying to give a real contribution to the mystery of human language through science. Science is developing in line with the development of human civilization. Human civilization, one of which is a form of language used, is a representation of the mindset that they embrace the culture. Along with that, evolutionary theorists often link between the development of the human brain by the appearance of language.

  1. Biological Aspects of Human

In biology, humans usually studied as one of the many species on earth. Learning human biology is also sometimes extended to the psychological aspects and physical aspect, but usually not to the spiritual or religious. In biology, the human is defined as hominids of the species Homo sapiens. The only remaining subspecies of Homo sapiens is Homo sapiens sapiens. They are usually regarded as the only species that can survive in the genus Homo. Humans use their tool of movement (two feet)  perfectly. With both feet to move the body, both front legs can be used to manipulate the object using the thumb . Carolus Linnaeus classify the human species becomes:

From this classification of human belonging to homo sapiens (wise beings) and is suspected because of the large brain volume and function properly. Wise is able to think well and useful. Function that makes the brain has an important role in human positions such as homo sapiens. Then, the human brain believed to also as the forerunners of the creation of language.


  1. Human brain and language

Referring to the biological aspects of humans, the appearance of language depends on the development of the human brain itself. In its evolution, the human brain develops, from the simple structure into a more developed structure of perfect (a sophisticated). This is what led to the discovery of language and language learning. Both were made possible because people believed in their brain has what is called LAD (language acquisition device) or the language acquisition device. With regard to evolution, oral language (vocalization) and sign language (gestures) are inherited from previous generations of ancestors have been developed in such a way as to create the language system in the brain. According to the hypothesis of natural evolution, so be creative capacity of human language evolved both biologically and neurologically, the development of a certain system that changes shape to meaning will grow too.

The human brain consists of a large brain (cerebrum) and the small brain (cerebellum), which later divided into four lobes, the frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal. Overall the human brain is described as follows below:


At first, the origin of language complexity could be seen  when the researchers found many cases of patients affected the capabilities of communication. The researchers examined more thoroughly on the things that refers to disability or injury suffered by patients in the brain. They found that the defects or damage to the brain can cause loss of ability to speak (aphasia). In his research, Marc Dax (1836) reported that his patients include those who can not speak normally. Disabilities they experience showed similarities, they have disabled the left brain (left hemisphere of the brain).

In 1861, Paul Broca reported a patient who could only say one word ‘tan’. When this patient died, Broca examined the patient’s brain and found serious damage to the brain called the left frontal cortex (the brain and these areas are referred to as Broca). For the case of such damage to Broca’s area, the patient can still understand the language only they can not produce speech because words can not be formed properly.

In 1876, Carl Wernicke discovered the same problem, only happens in other areas of the brain, exactly at the back of the temporal lobe (later known as Wernicke’s area). The damage to these brain areas result in loss of ability to understand language. As a result, the patient was still able to speak but the layout or arrangement of words generated was so confusing that are not understood at all. Interestingly, both areas of Broca and Wernicke areas both in the hemisphere (hemisphere) left brain. This suggests that the inability of language experienced by patients with disorders of the brain damage comes from the left area of the brain (left hemisphere).

In the theory of evolution, experts allows a fact that social interaction is more often done along with the ability of human beings in their tactical interactions will encourage the development of their brains. In addition, factors also affect the food, especially meat diet is very important for brain development. Here at last withdrawn an assumption that the size of the human brain evolved along with their language.


3. How Languages Work Causing Human Brain?

As we know that the human brain is divided into two hemispheres (halves), the right and left. Brain function of the left hemisphere would allow someone to have intelligence in certain areas such as analytical thinking, logic, science and math, and language. Broca’s area and Wernick in this section. Broca’s area plays an important role in the formation of speech which will form the language (not one definition of the language is spoken?). While Wernicke’s area involved in language comprehension (meaning).

The function of the right hemisphere of the brain will allow a person to have intelligence in terms of thinking that is holistic, intuitive, creative, and artistic. It is described as follows:

Role of the human brain in tracing the origin of language is described in the system works. The process of how the brain works can be described as follows:


When we say a word that reads, preliminary information obtained from the eyes and then forwarded to the visual cortex. From the visual cortex, information is sent to the rear of the speech area (posterior speech areas, including Wernicke’s areas). From there the information transmitted to Broca’s area and the primary motor cortex (primary motor cortex). This is where muscle contraction occurs that causes the sound (speech). Another case when we say the word sounded. That act is no longer the visual cortex, but the auditory cortex. Complexity neural network system like this does not happen in the brains of animals

Along with the development of the human brain from time to time also developed human language. Human brain in the beginning was so simple and allows for a simple language well, ranging from sign language to spoken language is more complex. The development of the human brain from time to time is also influenced by elements of human consumption of food to nourish the brain. The brain will then grow more complex, and how to trigger the human brain works to produce more complex language well.

According to the theory of evolution, language eventually evolved along with the development of the human brain. At the beginning of human civilization began not in languages like today. Although eventually found written language, the spoken language has the important  role in human civilization until now. Sciences that address the language problem was developed starting from the role of language structure to meaning and use of language by the user community. Moreover currently developing the science of language that connected with other knowledge such as neurolinguistic medicine, experimental phonetics, psycholinguistics,etc.


E. Closing

Back to the concept of believeness, that we believe what in theHoly  Qur’an as a way of life for Muslims, we have to believe of what the Qur’an said, as one of the pillars of faith, believe to the Holly Qur’an. However, at the level of logic is still not yet answered what and how the human language of the earth. As an effort to uncover the origins of human language, the role of science is important. Science at the origin of language as a link between the development of human civilization itself with the biological aspects. Human biological aspects of participation ultimatum to the appearance of language is the brain. From this evolutionary theorists believe that human language emerged and evolved as the function and development of the human brain.



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Al Qur’anul Karim

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Gallagher, Kenneth T. 1994. Epistemologi: Filsafat Ilmu Pengetahuan. Diterjemahkan oleh Dr. P. Hardono Adi. Yogyakarta: Penerbit Kanisius


Hawwa, Said. 1993. Al Islam. Jakarta: Gema Insani Press


Harrub, Brad, Bert Thompson, and Dave Miller. 2003. “The Origin of Language and Communication” ) di


Lieberman, P. 1998. Eve Spoke: Human Language and Human Evolution. p. 5, New York: W.W. Norton

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[1]  ‘Speech is so essential to our concept of intelligence that its possession is virtually equated with being human.  Animals who talk are human, because what sets us apart from other animals is the “gift” of speech’ (see Lieberman, P., Eve Spoke: Human Language and Human Evolution, W.W. Norton, New York, p. 5, 1998)



[3] Based on Gospel about the origin of human language was spoken in the story of babel Tower, as quote.” Now the whole earth had one language and one speech’ (11:1).  When Noah and his family stepped off the ark, they spoke a single language that was passed on to their offspring.  As the population increased, it apparently remained localized in a single geographical region.  Consequently, little or no linguistic variation ensued.  But when a generation defiantly rejected God’s instructions to scatter over the planet, God miraculously intervened and initiated the major language groupings of the human race.  This action forced the population to proceed with God’s original intention to inhabit the Earth (cf. Isaiah 45:18) by clustering according to shared languages”. see Harrub et al (2003) di


[4] In the 17th century BC king of Egypt, make inquiries about Psammetichus first language. According to the king if he left the baby would grow up and speak the language of origin. To investigate these two babies taken of in ordinary families, and handed over to a shepherds cared for. Shepherd is forbidden to speak a word to the babies. After the baby was two years old, they were greeted with the shepherd spontaneous with the word “Beco”;. Soon the shepherd had to face and told His Majesty that. Psammetichus immediately investigate and consult with advisers. Becos they think means bread in Phrygia; and this is the first language. This story was revealed to the people of Ancient Egypt, so they egypt language is first language

[5] A turtle sent by God brought the language (written) to the Chinese people

[6] In Japan, the first language associated with their Lord, Amaterasu

[7] Mark Muller commented sarcastically that the theory applies only to the sound of crowing chickens and ducks, but many language activities occur outside the corral. However the least percentage of these words, we do not deny the existence of those words. In English there are words bable, Rattle, Hiss, cuckoo, and so on. Vocabulary words in the Indonesian language as well have the words like that: booming, vibrating, hiss, squeak, crowing and so on.


[8] As an example we imagine a clear lake surrounded by shady trees which dimukimi birds and other wildlife. For a person might endanger the lake earlier, could have sink, deadly. For others this may be a source of pond life for her child. Maybe fish a lot. For the others may be the source of inspiration, can be used as a place to rest, relax the muscles while waiting for  fall inspiration. In these three inner turns out there are different psychological impression. These impressions have spoken with the speech. In words these impressions must be expressed by vocal symbols, until the unspoken words for example: the danger, horror, in, cold, sink, float, flow, etc.; many fish, a good, broad, and etc; beautiful, cold, gentle, calm, peaceful, cool, free, peaceful, a source of inspiration and so on

[9] lihat Gallagher, Kenneth T. 1994. Epistemologi: Filsafat Ilmu Pengetahuan. Diterjemahkan oleh Dr. P. Hardono Adi. Yogyakarta: Penerbit Kanisius



1 Comment

  1. Good article. I said, thank you so much. I got information to add my knowledge on communication concep

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