Voice-over voices

Born ready. Ready to talk.

The human race simply cannot stop talking. I’m thinking about it while I’m sipping my morning coffee in the company of a garrulous friend. It is quite sufficient to occasionally mumble something like “oh, yeah, yeah, really?”.  And there goes my whole morning. I finished my coffee a long time ago and she is still talking. I have no other option but to suggest a shot of liquor. “Waiteeeer”, a double shot!

Talk, speak, chat, gossip, arrange, babble, discuss, tell tales, grumble, whisper, shout, chatter, natter, prattle, whine, tittle-tattle, narrate…

   Each of us use about 370 million words during an average life span, but no one really knows why we are the only species with the ability to speak. We are born with the gift of speech and it is quite natural for us to master our first words in the first year of our lives. Mankind is the only species born with the ability to talk, speak, chat, gossip, arrange, babble, discuss, tell tales, grumble, whisper, shout, chatter, natter, prattle, whine, tittle-tattle, and even narrate…
   But why us people? The question is rather simple, but the answer to it is definitely not. Why is it people are the only beings inhabiting this planet who have mastered speech? This is the puzzle that the most brilliant minds of this day and age have tried to solve – from linguists to evolution biologists, from geneticists to anthropologists. But we still have not found the answer to how we have managed to acquire this feature that distinguishes us the most from all the other species. Speech. While in other aspects of human evolution there are fossils that provide concrete proof of the development, it is difficult to tell with absolute certainty when and where speech began. There are no words that have been preserved in rocks or frozen in ice.

    Human knowledge on how the brain produces speech is still in its infancy. We don’t even know exactly when we started to speak. For example, it is understood that some species in Homo genus – including our evolutionary ancestors, such as Neanderthals, had an organ that enabled them to speak. But we simply haven’t got a clue whether they actually were speaking.
   Throughout history language has “adapted” to us over generations during the processes of cultural heritage. In other words, language has adapted because it was good for language, and not because we biologically adapted to it.
If we metaphorically perceive language as a living being, then we can say that it has evolved over the years, and through the process of natural selection, in order to survive. It is the “Survival of the Fittest” as in Darwin’s theory of evolution. Each language has its own various methods of adapting syntax and intonation. The first comes from the human anatomy and the second from the specific way our brain operates. Even though there is no “language organ”, syntax is something that occurs when the brain has to deal with words.

   But where did those words originate, and how did we manage to develop such a perfect system of communication, in which a person can utter a sentence no one has uttered before, and still be perfectly comprehensible?

   And so, from caves to cabins, from shanty huts to penthouses, human speech has undergone its evolution, changing and adapting in order to survive. Say this to today’s children: ”The highwayman leapt o’er the gully and fled into holt”, and they would understand you as much as you were to tell someone this 50 years ago: ‘’I downloaded the podcast from the web, I’ll bluetooth the mp3 to your cell’’. Modern times force us to enhance vocabulary with new words that surround us every day. Regardless of what language we speak or how much we stay in touch with the advancements in modern technology, one thing has not changed since the time of Homo sapiens – people simply cannot stop speaking. Just like my friend from the beginning of this story!

Written by:
Nikola Klobučarić


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