Condillac, then, posited what he called a langage daction as the starting point, and as we shall see, it involved not only gestures, but also pantomiming imitations of all manner of actions.
But for the moment I wish to stress another point he made, because it has so often been overlooked, namely that the very first signs were not made intentionally as signs, but were the normal reactions to particular situations.
It has often been argued that language cannot have originated as an invention, since no one could have envisaged the advantages which would accrue from its use before it existed.
This web page is a copy of a booklet published in 1999 by The Rationalist Press Association. Wells is Emeritus Professor in the Works mentioned or quoted (listed under their authors names at the end of this booklet) are referenced in my text and notes simply by the relevant page numbers, prefaced by a date of publication when it is necessary to distinguish between publications by the same author.y interest in the origin of language began when the late Dr.
It is with the kind permission of Professor Wells that it is reproduced here. David Oppenheimer and I adapted the posthumous papers of one of our teachers, Ronald Englefield, into a book on the origin and nature of language that was published in Englefield's point of departure was the neglected work of eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinkers, best represented by Condillac, who stressed that man's first efforts at communication must have involved signs that are self-explanatory.
To suggest the idea man or fish I could draw an outline in the air with a finger or make a rough drawing or model.
One can represent actions such as chopping or digging most intelligibly if one is holding some object that vaguely resembles the tool.
Where a simple gesture did not suffice, these other means will have been added to it, until this multiplicity of signs finally conveyed the desired idea.