Does Language Make Humans Unique?

| February 17, 2015

There is between the whole animal kingdom on the one side, and man, even in his lowest state, on the other, a barrier which no animal has ever crossed, and that barrier is—language.

— Friedrich Max Müller1

One of the most basic teachings of the Christian faith is that humans are the only creatures on earth made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28). We are God’s vice-regents, given the special privilege of ruling over creation on his behalf.2 However, with the rise of Darwinian naturalism, this supposedly “anthropocentric” view of the universe has been increasingly challenged. Humans are said to be nothing more than advanced apes, differing from the rest of the animal kingdom only in degree, not in kind. We are told that the forces of random mutation and natural selection can account for every aspect of our existence, without recourse to any “god of the gaps.”

But there is at least one “gap” that stubbornly refuses to go away: language. Even secular scientists admit that there is something about human language that sets us apart from the animals. But what exactly is language? What makes it different from other types of communication? And…

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