Gesture Origin of Indo-European Languages


AMONG the many theories which in course of time have been propounded on the origin of language, that put forward by Sir Richard Paget in his work "Human Speech" (1930) is one which is most probable, and likely, to revolutionize philology. In this Work he asserts that the speaking organs imitated the bodily gestures, especially those of the hands, with which Homo sapiens some 30,000 years ago tried to make himself comprehensible and to understand his neighbours. This theory was put forward first in a treatise on the Polynesian language by Dr. J. Rae in 1862 (reprinted in "Human Speech"). Sir Richard Paget emphasizes that the natural sign-language of those born deaf, and that of the Red Indians, may give useful information as to the stages by which the human language was developed. It is evident that if the gesture theory is right, a valuable aid may be rendered by the study of sign-language all over the world.

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JOHANNESSON, A. Gesture Origin of Indo-European Languages. Nature 153, 171–172 (1944).

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