We’re a social mammal and we “do community”. Based on the fact that we talk, we do community more imaginatively than any other species. On the one hand, we create spaces (sports facilities, beaches, online social forums, work spaces and shopping centres) where we come together to trade and share and laugh and connect. And most importantly, to talk.
On a deeper level, we speak about 6,900 different languages (with over 200 spoken in Australia and more than 60 of those spoken by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, not to mention Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese, Greek and Auslan for the deaf – all spoken in our Aussie homes).
Community is our lifeblood. And languages are the veins that pump it.
So where does it come from?
Language came not from animal cries and whimpers, but from hand and face gestures. After all, actions speak louder than words. Or so says Professor Michael Corballis, leading expert on the origins of language. His hunch is that a primitive sign language was the kick-start to it all, complete with its own grammar, and that grunts came second. Words didn’t arrive on the scene until only about 50,000 years ago. And they were just a cultural accident.
But that’s not what everyone thinks. Some claim speaking is genetically inherent and much older.
Language is the common denominator that binds our species together. And (according to other linguistic theorists, thanks to our dropped larynx) the art of speech must have arisen in our species at least 100,000 years ago and today, is the tool that lubricates society.
I wonder what role technology will play in evolving human language, speech and communication? As I’m writing this, it’s a warm Saturday morning and I’m sitting outdoors at a Sydney Eastern Suburbs café enjoying breakfast. On the table to my right sits a young upwardly mobile couple. Both heads down, deep, flicking away on their iPad screens. I’ve noticed that in 38 minutes, not one word has been uttered. Not one.
On the table to my left, two sets of friends are obviously meeting for a long overdue catch-up. One couple has a 4 or 5 year old child – Sophie. Sophie’s poor desperate Mum, is going spare trying to get Sophie to say hello or to at least acknowledge the couple they’re meeting. She refuses to lift her head from her kiddy iPad game console. Her little thumbs are flicking away at lightning speed. Dad shrugs his shoulders to his mate in a kind of defeatest expression, while his mate (i kid you not) checks his own iPhone to read a long email that has just loudly blipped to announce instant attention.
So, I’m left wondering … Language, Speech, Technology – where is it all headed? What will this same café scene look like in 10, 20 or even 50 years time?
Yours is a voice in our community that we call shopping centres; What do you think?
Stuart Langeveldt Head of Marketing & Communication for AMP Capital’s Property Division.