Human Language: An All or Nothing Proposition | The Institute for Creation Research
Human Language: An All or Nothing Proposition

If humans evolved through a piece-by-piece accretion of parts, then so did their ability to talk. Although talking seems simple, it actually depends on so many perfectly placed characteristics--both material and immaterial--that language must be a gift from God.

Charles Darwin proposed that human language evolved through nature selecting the best grunters from a crowd of ape-like ancestors. For support, Darwin cited people he had observed in Tierra del Fuego. He described the Fuegians as savages and "primitive beasts," whose Yahgan language had a mere 100 or so words and sounded like animal grunts and clicks.1

However, when 19th-century missionary Thomas Bridges reached out to Fuegians with the gospel, he recorded over 32,000 words and inflections in his Yahgan-English dictionary.2 Thus, Darwin was wrong about their language, and wrong about Fuegians being subhuman. Was his story of the evolution of language wrong, too?

One way to check this would be to list some of the features required for human language, then use either a mental or empirical experiment to see what kind of function the system would have if one or more of its parts had not yet been added by evolution.

First, a network of sensors and controls that deliver variable airflow is required for volume regulation, as well as a separate but integrated network to regulate pitch. In humans only, a hyoid bone, specially shaped cartilage parts, muscles, and connective tissues suspend vocal cords in the throat right where air can pass over them and where humidity can keep them supple.

Vocal cords come pre-tuned to resonate at biologically reasonable airflow rates. A central processing center is needed to tabulate sensory data, as well as issue speech-specific commands to many muscles, such as the diaphragm, throat, tongue, and lips.

However, these precisely engineered structures are worthless for communicating language if their possessor does not comprehend certain information, such as symbols. These symbols take the form of conventional sets of sounds and are understood as representing transferable ideas.

One must also know, at least implicitly, the overarching structure used to organize those symbols into coherent thoughts. This is called grammar and is part of the "software" needed to process the informational content of speech. Damage to Wernicke's area of the human brain causes patients to utter only unconnected, incoherent sounds, demonstrating that grammar software is critical to speech.3

If an animal were to somehow evolve all the necessary anatomy to articulate abstract concepts, and yet had no concepts to express, what then? Such a costly and complicated, yet useless, apparatus would surely be selected out of a population rather than preserved until symbols and grammar evolved.

The opposite also holds. Having thoughts without an apparatus to express them would result in a strange, mute world. Similarly, having just grammar--the use of which requires an innate logic--would be useless by itself.

In describing man's specialized language learning capacities, researchers John Oller and John Omdahl wrote: "The whole system must be in place before it can be employed to interpret experience."4 Thus, talking uses webs of under and overlying interdependent aspects. Removal of any of the many core material or immaterial features would sabotage language.

No wonder "the origin of human language…is a complete mystery to evolutionists."5 Fortunately, God has chosen to reveal Himself using language--complete with symbols, grammar, and thoughts. The wise listen to what He is saying both through their ability to speak, and through His spoken Word.


  1. Bridges, L. 1948. Uttermost Part of the Earth. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 33-36.
  2. Grigg, R. 2010. Darwin and the Fuegians. Creation. 32 (2): 42-45.
  3. Harrub, B, B. Thompson, and D. Miller. 2003. The origin of language and communication. Technical Journal (now Journal of Creation). 17 (3): 93-101.
  4. Oller, J. W. and J. L. Omdahl. 1994. Origin of the Human Language Capacity: In Whose Image? In Moreland, J. P., ed. The Creation Hypothesis. Downer's Grove, IL: University Press, 255.
  5. Morris, H. 2001. The Mystery of Human Language. Acts & Facts. 30 (3).

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: Thomas, B. 2010. Human Language: An All or Nothing Proposition. Acts & Facts. 39 (6): 18.

The Latest
ICR's New In-Depth Science Book: Chimps and Humans
Evolutionists frequently claim that human and chimp DNA are over 98% similar. They need this percentage to support their hypothesis that humans and...

Fossil Chromatin Looks Young
What are the odds that a buried animal would still have intact DNA after 125 million years? Researchers publishing in the journal Communications Biology...

Inside October 2021 Acts & Facts
How is the Lord’s handiwork on display at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park? Does the universe look old? What can we learn about science and...

Two-Volume Series: Restoring the Truth about Origins
The subject of origins continues to attract interest from the public and the scientific establishment. Understanding our origins informs us of who we are...

Creation Kids: Floods Form Fossils Fast
Christy Hardy and Susan Windsor* You’re never too young to be a creation scientist! Kids, discover fun facts about God’s creation with...

A Battle for Hearts
Since the ICR Discovery Center for Science & Earth History opened in fall of 2019, tens of thousands of people have walked through our doors. They...

Eating Bugs Isn't Always So Simple
The Lord Jesus Christ deserves glory for why He made Earth’s diverse creatures, and He also deserves glory for the complicated details of how...

Does the Universe Look Old?
Since distant galaxies are billions of light-years away, some understandably assume that distant starlight must have taken billions of years to reach...

Hawaii Behind the Scenes
ICR Research Scientist Dr. Brian Thomas and ICR Video Producer Clint Loveness, with help from friends and family, recently shot footage in Maui, Hawaii,...

Mutation, Design, and Faith
Any alteration in a cell’s DNA sequence is a mutation. These changes can come from copying errors, exposure to chemicals or radiation, or from...