Social and socio-
Ontogeny and symbolism
The reconstruction of the evolution of human spoken language
Mary LeCron Foster
Language is an analogical system for classification on multiple levels. Language systems build upon semantic analogies and analogies in phonological, morphological, and syntactic distributions (positional analogies). New meanings are created through the process of metaphorical extension. The direction of language change is determined in large part by this process and by analogical systematization - hierarchical congruence of classes.
The regularities of sound-change reconstructed by the comparative method provide the most reliable diagnoses of remote linguistic relations; but these are limited to 'families', or, in a few cases, 'stocks' made up of interrelated families. Broader groupings, 'phyla' or 'super-stocks', are suggested on the basis of typological relations, rather than on firmly established sound-correspondences. The basis for going even further and attempting to reconstruct a single prototype for all the world's spoken languages is not agreed upon; but the reconstruction should reflect systematic correspondences in sound and meaning throughout, whether insights were initially gained from typological studies of phonology and/or from internal reconstructions. Hypotheses must show system. While individual meanings underlying reconstructed forms need not be identical, differences should be minimized. Once correspondences are firmly established, culturally influenced semantic variations are useful in assessing degrees of interrelationship among languages.
Pursuing the monogenetic reconstruction through this bare-bones phonemic approach, refined by a series of simplifications, leads to the startling hypothesis that the sounds of which the VC and CVC roots are composed were originally themselves meaning-bearers. These phememes, as they are termed, were minimal units of sound whose meaning derived from the shaping and movement of the articulatory tract. In other words, the phonemes of language, as well as the combinations into which they unite within the word were originally not arbitrary signs, but abstract, highly motivated analogical symbols.
In the earliest stage of primordial language, single
phememes expressed notions o space and motion. Across
the evolution of the genus Homo these were differentiated and
new phememes created, hypothetically in stages, until
the phememic inventory was completed during the Upper
Palaeolithic. In the Neolithic period, it is hypothesized,
syllabic concatenation with morphophonemic merging
increasingly obscured the analogical significance of phememes,
which gradually became what we now know as phonemes.
Nevertheless, in the roots of most modern languages a number
of the primordial phememes are still recognizable