As a would-be historical linguist, I’ve always had an interest in the topic of the ultimate origin of language, and I’m very pleased to see that Piotr Gąsiorowski of Language Evolution (“How and why language varies and changes”) has started a series on it. He announces it here, and the first post is up today. The title is “Too Many to Communicate,” and that’s his basic point:
Whether the total number of humans was closer to 30,000 or to 300,000 is open to debate, but in any case they were far too many of them to constitute one speech community, especially if the Out-of-Africa migrants were already a separate sub-population somewhere in the Near East, the Arabian Peninsula, and possibly elsewhere in Eurasia and/or Australia (depending on the exact date of the bottleneck). It’s hard to imagine that the same language was spoken in Paleolithic Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, no matter how strongly the latter was affected by a demographic crash. No single language, then; at any rate not in anatomically modern humans. We have always been multilingual.
I’m very much looking forward to reading further posts on this fascinating subject.