The Kingdom of Speech

Language evolved with us. What are its limits?

Language is a tool that evolved as humans, with their unique cognitive abilities and unparalleled dependency on cooperation, worked over millennia to build small bands of scavengers from the rich African ecosystem into societies held together by culture. Culture itself exists in symbiotic relationship with language, in which knowledge structures, values ranked by relative importance, and social roles are justified, explained, and brought into being largely through language. Language is the most amazing tool in the animal kingdom. American author Tom Wolfe has gone so far as to say that humans have moved beyond the animal kingdom to the “kingdom of speech.”

Yet because language was not simply given to humans by the command of an all-knowing creator, or “first talker,” it has evolved from the days of Homo erectus to this current era of Homo sapiens, as no more nor any less than the only communication system we have. Our languages are associations of sound, meaning, and s

Continue reading

Enjoy unlimited access to the world's leading thinkers.

Start by exploring our subscription options or joining our mailing list today.

Start Free Trial

Already a subscriber? Log in

Join the conversation

will james 25 April 2022


Dawson Chad 14 June 2021

The kingdom of speech, Read the complete speech which I mention on page. I want to make multiple instructions but first I want to select multiple material which is perfect to understand or to take some ideas to spend life perfectly.

Robert Griffin 22 January 2017

Bit of a redundant comment, given the author is making the same point. Studying language, its "satisficing" limitations, and the conflicts that often flow from conflating its "just good enough" descriptions with "truth" is valuable in and of itself. Recognizing and describing the limitations of the tools you use is fundamental to the scientific method (ie. stating that any data collected is shaped by the limitations of the tool you're using to measure, the discrete variables chosen to be measured, the theory that selects those variables over potential others, etc.). Interrogating the tool of language for these types of limitations is the best (though obviously not a cure for) method for reeling in the problematic assumptions that emerge and under-gird those idealized worlds, no?

Roger Sharp 1 January 2017

Who needs it in an era of post-truth truthinesses, garnered from a virtual idealised world via social media?