Science: First Words

Nobody knows how men began to talk, but plenty of scholars have advanced strangely nicknamed theories about it. Last week an eminent psychologist, Edward Lee Thorndike of Columbia University, entered his "babble-babble" (or "babble-luck") thesis in the competition.

Most theories presuppose that primitive man laboriously developed language from what were at first mere random sounds. According to the "ding-dongists," man's first words were based on the characteristic sounds made by objects when they are struck (e.g., the splash of water). The "bow-wowers" hold that man began talking by mimicking the sounds of...

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