Language, a powerful tool for communication should have played a very important part in the evolutionary history of human species. Two relevant questions that could be asked of human language in an evolutionary context are : i) when did it originate and ii) what were the selection pressures that led to its development as a powerful facility for the exchange of ideas? There cannot be definitive answers for either of these questions. Yet we can do some knowledgeable speculations.
One of the inan's major adaptations is symbolic thinking and its expression through a symbolic language. Language is the foundation of human culture and this adaptation has distinguished man from other animals and in fact has made him superior to them. Other organisms, however, can also learn a few things, for instance birds can learn to do new things with their beaks by observing another bird. A chimpanzee can put together two sticks to make a long one to obtain a fruit placed out of its reach. But even here the animal can do this only if all the elements are together in one place. In other words, the chimpanzee may not be able to think and go in search of the stick in order to obtain fruit. But recent studies have indeed shown the chimpanzees, our closest relatives do have the ability to symbolise to some degree.
It is a fact that ability to symbolise has made man enter a new adaptive zone. Also, it was big jump for man from the world of symbolising to a world of words. The development of a spoken language should have been a response to the direct stimuli from the external environment. We earlier raised a question regarding the time-of emergence of the language. Unfortunately the products of language facility cannot enter into the fossil record. Therefore, we have to deal indirectly with the question of when the facility arose. Human brain as distinct from those of other animals provides a reasonable answer to this question. Also, a more careful analysis of the tools and art objects, the horninid products, do indicate of the type of cognitive capabilities necessary for spoken language.