We don’t really know when language arose. It probably goes back over half a million years. It is possible that there was a need for language when man started making tools. In the Stone Age man made flint tools – and later on the tools of bone, ivory and antler.
We can see wonderful painting on walls of caves from long ago – along with carvings and engravings. The finest achievements of Stone Age man are only around one hundred thousand years ago – so it is possible that language was flowering in those days.
When we look at the language our Eleven Plus children need we have to be aware that a child’s language needs are very different from those of adults. So while we expect a child to learn words like `mummy’ and `doll’ and `spoon’, it is possible that adults many years ago were developing language around hunting, fishing and feeding families.
The Bronze Age was a mere five thousand years ago – and the Industrial Revolution is far more recent. Since the onset of the Industrial Revolution language has developed at an extraordinary rate.
If the Eskimos had Eleven Plus examination then the examiners would have to be very careful of the word `snow’. The Eskimos have words for `soft snow’, `new fallen snow’ and `hard snow’. We visited the Science Museum over the weekend – and saw, once again, Stevenson’s Rocket. The impact of this machine on the world must have generated many new and descriptive words.
Bright eleven year old children use language to influence the behaviour of their family, friends and school mates. The children want (or need) food, money, sleep entertainment – along with a desire to pass examinations. If the child does not have a wide vocabulary it becomes very difficult to manipulate words and ideas.
Eleven Plus children need to read and write. It does seem hard to reduce language to: “as AB is to CD find the letters after EF …….”