The Evolution of Communication


Gia Patel, General

From body gestures to emails, humans communicate throughout all aspects of the day. We rely on spoken language, postal services, and our phones to get in touch with other people, ultimately uniting communities and civilizations. Communication, however, was not always as convoluted as in modern times. Our languages, alphabets, and means of interaction have undergone immense changes, and with each new generation, our methods of communication continue to morph.  


Paintings & Symbols

Before humans were equipped with tablets and language translators, we utilized the elements around us in order to interact. The earliest forms of communication can be traced back to cave paintings. With the ink from colored rocks, animal blood, and berries, cave paintings were created for religious practices and the marking of territory. The basic markings on cave walls and ceilings transformed into petroglyphs (images carved into rock) by 10,000 B.C, which conveyed stories and shared information such as hunting tactics. As different cultures began to develop their own ideograms, the symbols soon molded into the first established alphabets. 


The Mutation of Language

The alphabets birthed from cave symbols soon turned into localized languages. However, as seen throughout history, languages began to evolve and spread across the globe. To understand how the presence of accents and slang terminology arose, we need to examine the influence of colonization and immigration. Colonization was one of the driving forces of language evolution. As colonizers acquired new territory, they brought their mother tongue with them and often forbid indigenous people from speaking their native language. This forced adoption of language in foreign lands led to mispronunciation, cultivating the beginning of accents. Furthermore, immigrants faced the task of trying to communicate in a foreign land while also learning an entirely new language and vocabulary, leading to the mixing of languages and the exchange of certain words. Today, we can see the impact that different languages have had on the English language. For example, many common words we use have a foreign origin including chocolate (Spanish origin), ketchup (Chinese origin), and hotel (French origin). 


Once we had established languages that continued to adapt over time, several technological advancements were made. These advancements each individually altered the efficiency and methodology of how we communicated. To begin, radios became a common feature around 1920. Rather than relying on typewriters and newspapers, radios quickly supplied news and political information to a vast majority of the population. Around the 1950s, televisions gained popularity as well. Serving the same purpose as radios, televisions also incorporated advertisements and propaganda along with entertainment, altering the reasoning behind widespread communication. Lastly, by 1990, mobile phones allowed individuals to have their own personal communication devices instead of relying on postal services to send messages across the country. The inventions of

radios, televisions, and telephones demonstrate the evolution of widespread communication. Rather than depending on pigeon messengers, these advancements made it possible to reach people hundreds of miles away with just a click of a button. With the ability to rapidly communicate and reach millions of people instantly, it became clear that entertainment and persuasion were highly incorporated into widespread communication. Technology and long-distance communication transformed communication from being mostly informational to allowing individuals to easily express opinions. 



Technology continued to advance, allowing civilians access to widespread communication rather than just public figures whose purpose was to inform. Today, every person has access to the entire world in just the palm of their hand. Rather than having to wait days or weeks for messages to be sent, texting, tweeting, and emailing create instantaneous connections. Currently, there is an ongoing debate as to whether online communication is negatively impacting the way we speak and professionally write or if it is simply deviating into its own sub-language. Since short-hand writing and abbreviations dominate the world of texting, many assume that the constant use of improper grammar directly leads to poor academic and professional writing. However, a 2014 study conducted by professors at Coventry University in England examined the correlation between texting and academic performance in primary school, high school, and university students. They concluded that “Young people seem well aware that different types of communication require different ways of writing” and that grammatical mistakes in texting do not reflect declining writing skills. Several other linguistics support this conclusion, including John McWhorter who argues in his TED Talk, “Txting is a killing language. JK!!!” that texting is simply the complexity of language and that abbreviations such as “LOL,” “bc,” and using the letters r and u as independent words are the foundation of a new, evolving language.