We know a lot about language, but we know very little about how speech developed. Did we start with gesturing and grunts? Beating our chests and pointing? Most linguists agree that some combination of movement and sound probably got us started. But how did we decide which sounds to use for various words? Now, an experimental game has shown that speakers of English might use qualities like the pitch and volume of sounds to describe concepts like size and distance when they invent new words. If true, some of our modern words may have originated from so-called iconic, rather than arbitrary, expression—a finding that would overturn a key theory of language evolution.
Read more: Science