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communication has connected us-by-tayson martindale

Innovative History: Language

Welcome to the first post in my Innovative History series! In this series, I’m going to be exploring some of history’s most impactful innovations and how they brought us to where we are today. I’ll be specifically exploring  technological innovations, from the invention of agriculture and language to the internet and social media. You’ll want to stick around for the ride and let me know if there’s a topic you’d like to see me cover in this series!

In this first post, I’ll be looking at the invention of language.

Linguistic Anthropologists have estimated that humans (or our distant ancestors) have been able to communicate in some fashion with each other for roughly the last 2 million years. This finding is based on DNA extracted from ancient bones that show evidence of a language-related gene called FOXP2. FOXP2 is thought to be one of the genes included in the physical process involving the externalization of speech using fine motor movements in the mouth and tongue. Other research in modern humans suggests that FOXP2 may also be partially responsible for language cognition. Previously our ancestors were able to communicate with each other in simpler ways like vocalized noises, sign language and body language cues. Comprehensive language wasn’t developed until around 100,000 years ago, during the Middle Stone Age, right around the time of Homo Sapiens and the invention of the stone arrowhead. Some anthropological evidence points to the simultaneous development of tools and better organized hunting groups with language, which propelled humanity into a new age of organized societies.  

The invention of language allowed our ancestors to communicate more complicated concepts to each other than body language or basic vocalizations were able to. Language helped individuals share vital information on survival, which encouraged the evolution of language even further. Individuals could now communicate what was poisonous or inedible and direct hunting groups to more effectively execute hunting strategies. Language allows us to form more complex and deeper personal connections to each other than ever before, fostering larger social networks and creating communities. The deeper social ties that complex language encouraged helped build an environment for individuals to work together to advance our social evolution as a species. Language has allowed people to collect and expand on knowledge to find solutions to problems, like transitioning from a nomadic hunter-gatherer society to an established agricultural group. As you’ll find out in the second post, agriculture was the next innovation that helped our ancestors establish a more stable supply of food and grow our population. 

Communication is key to innovation; it allows us to explain our ideas and problem-solve with the help of our peers. Without language, none of the work we do at DevFacto would be possible, nor would any of the other innovations I’ll be exploring in subsequent posts. If you’re interested in learning some more about the origin of language, I’ve included links to other sources at the end of this post!

If you're interested in innovation and how we do it at DevFacto, please check out the DevFacto Innovation Framework for more information!



About the author

Sara Richards is our Social Media Coordinator and Visual UI Designer based in Edmonton, Alberta. She has a background in industrial design and sociology and is a recent graduate from the University of Alberta. In her free time she loves to do film photography and snuggle with her cat, Lasagna. Sara is passionate about putting the fun in functional to design new and interesting things. Follow her on instagram!

About the artist

Tayson Martindale is a cartoonist and graphic novelist from Edmonton, Alberta. He loves storytelling and by far his favourite way to tell a story is through the medium of comics. His first graphic novel 'BOX BOY' was released in 2018 and he is excitedly anticipating the release of his next book in 2022. You can find him on instagram and facebook!

He writes “I loved reading this piece and thinking about the ways language and communication has connected us. It got me thinking about how even today the way we communicate continues to evolve and I'm looking forward to reading the next pieces in this series!”



Additional Resources

The Mystery of Language Evolution

Social Conditions for the Evolutionary Emergence of Language 

Ape Gestures and Language Evolution 

Mapping the Information Flow from One Brain to Another During Gestural Communication

Hierarchical Processing in Spoken Language Comprehension

Altered Ultrasonic Vocalization in Mice with a Disruption in the FOXP2 Gene