The confusion of tongues (confusio linguarum) is the initial fragmentation of human languages described in the Bible after the collapse of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). Languages have since been thought of as tending toward cultural and geographical localism and divergence.
A dramatic sight on the topic related to the confusion of tongues, as it may have occurred during the attempt to build Babel, by Gustave Doré.
The human proto-language spoken prior to the event was assumed to have split into seventy or seventy-two dialects, depending on tradition. This is in apparent contradiction to Genesis 10:5.
These were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.
suggesting that even before Babel, human languages were separated, at least among the descendants of Japheth.
During the Middle-Ages, the Hebrew language was widely considered the language used by God to address Adam in Paradise, and by Adam as nomothete (the Adamic language), especially by Christian scholastics.
Dante in the Divina Commedia implies however that the language of Paradise was different from later Hebrew by saying that Adam addressed God as I rather than El.
The argument of Genesis 10:5 played a certain role at the time preceding the discovery of the Indo-European language family, originally considered the “Japhetite” languages by some authors. During the Renaissance, Hebrew had lost its status as the original language of Paradise and was considered just one of the seventy languages derived from the confusion of tongues.
Priority was now claimed for the alleged Japhetite languages, which were never corrupted because their speakers had not participated in the construction of the Tower of Babel.
Among the candidates for a living descendant of the Adamic language was Gaelic (see Auraicept na n-Éces), Tuscan (Giovann Battista Gelli, 1542, Piero Francesco Giambullari, 1564), Flemish (Goropius Becanus, 1569, Abraham Mylius, 1612), Swedish (Andreas Kempe, 1688, Olaus Rudbeck, 1675) and German (Georg Philipp Haurdörffer, 1641, Schottel, 1641). Anne Catherine Emmerich revealed that most direct descendants of the Adamic language were Bactrian, Zend and Indian languages, thus Adamic language would be the same language as Proto-Indo-European language.
The origin of language (glottogony, glossogeny) is a topic that has been written about for centuries, but the ephemeral nature of speech means that there is almost no data on which to base conclusions on the subject. We know that at least once during human evolution, a system of verbal communication emerged from proto-linguistic or non-linguistic means of communication, but beyond that little can be said.
No current human group, anywhere, speaks a “primitive” or rudimentary language. While existing languages differ in the size and subjects covered in their several lexicons, all human languages possess the grammar and syntax needed and can invent, translate, or borrow the vocabulary needed to express the full range of their speakers’ concepts.
Homo sapiens clearly have an inherent capability for language. Whether other extinct hominid species, such as Neanderthals, possessed such a capacity is not known. The use of language is one of the most conspicuous and diagnostic traits that distinguish H. sapiens from many other animals.