Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Greatest Invention

This happened when I was in 1st year of engineering. After the day's lectures, I used to sit in the library and study from reference books. This way I got introduced to some of my seniors who used to be regulars there. I especially sought company of a senior named Rahul who was then in the final year. I used to spend about half an hour after finishing my studies, discussing many things with him. This guy had an unquenching thirst for knowledge and was quite an insightful thinker. In our friendly discussions, we touched upon numerous topics including books, movies, education, company policies and much more. I gained much knowledge from our talks and used to look forward to our library-table talks.

During one such chit-chat, Rahul asked me a question, "Mihir, what do you think is the greatest invention made by mankind?" Simple, as it sounded, I was very much baffled by this question. I had never thought about anything like this. Nevertheless I asked him for some time to think. Now my mind was searching for possibilities. 'Internet' I thought, but then I was skeptical whether it was the greatest of all. Electricity, fire, wheel ... all made their way to my mind, but deep down I knew these weren't the greatest of all. There was something that was much more supreme than these inventions. After thinking for about 10-15 minutes, I finally gave up. Then I asked Rahul to tell me what the answer was. The answer he gave silenced all my thoughts and there wasn't any need of further clarification. His answer was, "Language is the greatest invention ever made by man". "How true!", I thought. My mind went back to the Stone Age and the Early Man. Language was one of the earliest and most basic of the inventions which endowed him with the characteristics of a social animal. Man would have never ever intellectually evolved, had 'language' been never invented. His interactions with other humans would have never been possible. The great deal of knowledge now available to man would have been impossible to acquire. The concept of civilizations and their literary treasures and manuscripts would have never existed. The development of language was pivotal in building up the pillars of civilizations on which today's world has been erected. All the landmark events like Renaissance, Industrial Revolution, etc would be unheard of. And the world wouldn't be the one we see it now.

One more peculiar thing about Language is that it has a global presence, in each and every home, unlike other inventions - which aren't omnipresent. From a tribal in the jungles of Africa to the sophisticated businessman in his plush office, language has a presence in each one's lives. Hence the key to man's development and progress through past, present and the future is one great invention - Language!

That day when I packed off for the day, I had a happy feeling in my heart. Being a student of telecommunications, in future I may contribute in my own small way towards furthering the cause of communication among people through the medium of mankind's greatest invention - Language!!


Viraj said...

Very true, Mihir...Language is perhaps closest to being the most important milestone in the journey of humankind through the ages. But I would rather call it an evolution than an invention. I do not think any single person or any group of people ever sat down to add words to or to 'invent' a particular language, or even 'invent' language itself as a means of communication. It always happened over a period of time, and passively, rather than actively, if you know what I mean. Also, this whole discussion is valid only if we consider just the spoken word as 'language'. As a matter of fact, the most important part of communication, no matter how well you can articulate your thoughts in any given spoken language, is Body Language (as our Communication Skills teachers keep on telling us repeatedly). Now Body Language is a consequence of the ability of human beings to react to different situations, and this ability is a characteristic of all living beings (Responsiveness to stimulii). This ability is a gift given to us by Mother Nature. Besides, all animals have a language of their own....its just that we don't understand it. Even the spoken word evolved over a period of time, through a process in which man learnt to imitate the sounds of creatures around him, which later developed into syllables. Of course, it was man who fitted these syllables into a code so as to form words, and later, sentences; but to call this the 'invention of language' would be like calling any programmer the inventor of computing itself, for he writes the code according to which the computer executes the program. So, in my view, calling language an 'invention', and that too a 'human invention' is somewhat unfair & inaccurate. Nevertheless, I think it cannot be denied that the evolution of language as a means of communication is the most pathbreaking event in the course of history, as far as hitherto development of man is concerned.

nehudfriend said...

hmmm....very interesting! good one mihir, it made me think a lot too!
Then finally when i did read what answer ur friend had given i must admit it was unexpected.

as viraj has said that language was developed over a period of time n no one person actually invented it , but nonetheless u did make me think about the importance of language.

mihirtronics said...

i completely agree with viraj that language was not made in a day..rather it evolved! So it was an 'invention' which evolved and developed with each passing day! Well, i used the word invention because language was not 'discovered', it is man's creation! And yes, language means every aspect of it, including body language.
Thanks for posting Viraj!! Cheers!
And Neha, you got some food for thought in your vacations, eh!!

avk said...

While I agree with viraj that language is more of an evolution than an invention, i would like to add smthing to it. Almost every living creature uses some or the other means of comm. to communicate with its fellows. Humans call it language. Now i stand for correction, but as far as it is known, humans are the only species showing so much regional variety in their languages. No other creature in the animal kingdom is known to do so. It is extremely interesting to note how human languages vary thru the length n breadth of the earth; but always leave some trace of connection behind. This is most particularly true in case of the Indo-European language group, which comprises most of the major languages spoken in the world today. Some examples:
Sanskrit root- 'Sthaa'(frm which we get words such as 'sthaan', etc)is equivalent in sound n meaning to its Latin counterpart 'Sta'
(which gives us 'stand', 'station',
'stay', etc).
Another link is the Italian 'chiavi' n the Marathi 'chavi'! (This list is frankly endless.)
I may sound a bit fanciful, but its not difficult to suppose the existence of some connection between every language in the world, if anyone bothers to research!
So my point is, language is not so much an invention, as a development of an inherent capacity as well as need, for communication, of humans- the most social n interdependent of animals!

nehudfriend said...

hmmm.. right!

kelkarnandini said...

After reading your blog, the first thing that came in my mind is..Really a big problem to find out "what is the greatest invention by mankind?"
So then I felt.. well, this question itself is the answer. The question" that man invented accidently by the thought process" itself is a great invention!
Confusing.. k let me clarify..
At the point that man started thinking he invented questions" that discovered many things. So behind every discovery, there was invention of questions as to "How, When Why". So QUESTIONS" was his most important invention...!!
Also like any other important invention this was invented accidently and in complete ignorance .In fact u can say due to ignorance...

ankit said...

ppl can jus go blah blah at times about jus nethin , but does ne1 even kno how many languages exist as of nw in the world ??