Universal Human Commonalities (UHC)

Morphemes

A morpheme is the smallest unit of semantic meaning in a language. Every word in a language is made up of some combination of morphemes, which can be classified as either free (morphemes that can stand alone as words) or bound (morphemes that must be used in conjunction with other morphemes).

Metaphor

A metaphor is a figure of speech that describes a subject by asserting that it is similar to another object. Metaphors are useful because they allow one to conveniently convey much meaning with very few words by transferring properties from one concept to another. Metaphor is so pervasive and common in everyday language that some believe all words may have originated from a metaphor.

Mentalese

The way individuals organize their thoughts has long been a subject of scientific research. At times people may utilize language to form the inner speech that directs their thoughts, while other times they may be more dependent on pictures or symbols. Nonverbal thought is said to be composed of a system of symbols which constitute the mental language, known as “mentalese.” Mentalese is not a language in the traditional sense, as it contains no words.

Similes

Native speakers of a language have the advantage of having “stereotypical knowledge that underpins much of what is said in a given culture,” allowing them to understand “what is implied by language rather than what is overtly stated”. Similes are an example of a feature of language that relies on what is implied rather than what is plainly stated. Languages use similes to describe a set of stereotypical descriptions which reflect their culture.

A Single, Original Language

Scientists believe that all languages may have descended from a single ancestral language, spoken by early humans between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago. Analysis of language has shown that the complexity of the world's modern languages mirrors human migration history, with the most complex languages in Africa and the least complex languages in South America.

Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeias are a class of words that attempt to describe noises by emulating the sounds that are made (for example, the word “meow”). Onomatopoeias are generally universal because the generated sounds that they describe are universal. Regardless of one’s language or culture, the sounds that animals or objects make remain the same, though description of these sounds may differ slightly. The capacity to speak a language seems to “naturally involve a knowledge of whatever principle it is that underlies onomatopoeic idioms, coining, and usages.”

Singing as a Form of Communication

Singing and speaking are two forms of communication. Both are produced when a collaboration of sound structures and tonal patterns coincides with the speaker’s feelings and attitudes. FMRI results revealed that there were “two complementary cerebral networks” that lead to singing and speaking. When a non-lyrical tune was generated, the right motor cortex, right anterior insula, and the left cerebellum of the brain were mainly activated. However, the opposite response pattern was observed during speech.

Manipulative Language

Individuals can manipulate others very effectively using language, particularly persuasive language. Pervasive language attempts to control how the recipient should think, whether the outcome benefits the recipient or not. Dunbar explains that language evolved as a method of aiding others within a social community, though the role of manipulative language was not explored. As group sizes increased throughout human history, the “adaptive value of using language to benefit oneself at the expense of others would also have increased”.

Kin Terms Translatable by Basic Relations of Procreation

The language used for kin-relational expressions was examined by comparing three sets of definitions that were thought to have similar properties. Among these similarities were the order of the words and the hierarchical reductions that could be deduced from the expressions.

Gesticulation

The numerous capabilities of human hands are unique in the animal kingdom. Hands can be used for anything from sensing the environment to writing to communicating non-verbally. Hands play a large part in human communication because although most communication occurs through use of language, the hands relay subconscious “emotions, thoughts and sentiments”. The brain gives a relatively large proportion of attention to the hands during communication.

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