Development of Language

Unlike other animals, humans have the unique ability speak. According to Medical Daily, healthy kids start speaking words at 10 to 15 months. At 15 to 18 months, children can speak around 50 words, 14,000 words at 6 years old and over 50,000 by the time they leave school.


What most animals seem to lack in order to create sensible and coherent sentences is what researchers from MIT and several European Universities think is a deficiency of the FOXP2 gene.


The FOXP2 gene is one of several genes that scientists believe contributes to the development of linguistic skills.


The gene was first discovered by clinicians working at the Institute of Child Health in London who had been treating a family with a defect in the FOXP2 gene.


The family was being treating with a language disorder. The ability to speak and understand speech was completely lost on them.


Unlike most language disorders, this one was unique in that the disorder was inherited simply as a result of a defect in a single gene.


More interestingly, about half of the family, spanning three generations, suffered from the unique speech disorder.


FOXP2 was found out to belong to the fork-head family of transcription factors, according to research done by Simon Fisher, a Royal Society Fellow at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford.


Svante Pääbo, with his group from Leipzig, discovered
the FOXP2 protein is also found in our closest relative, the chimpanzee.


This has led Shigeru Miyagawa, the Kochi-Manjiro Professor of Japanese Language and Culture at MIT to believe the origin of FOXP2, and the origin of speech itself, derived partly from primates.


“FOXP2 stands out,” Dr Fisher said. “It’s very unusual from an evolutionary point of view.”





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