This experiment was tried, according to Herodotus:

"ow the Egyptians, before the reign of their king Psammetichus,
believed themselves to be the most ancient of mankind. Since
Psammetichus, however, made an attempt to discover who were actually
the primitive race, they have been of opinion that while they surpass
all other nations, the Phrygians surpass them in antiquity. This king,
finding it impossible to make out by dint of inquiry what men were the
most ancient, contrived the following method of discovery:- He took
two children of the common sort, and gave them over to a herdsman to
bring up at his folds, strictly charging him to let no one utter a
word in their presence, but to keep them in a sequestered cottage, and
from time to time introduce goats to their apartment, see that they
got their fill of milk, and in all other respects look after them. His
object herein was to know, after the indistinct babblings of infancy
were over, what word they would first articulate. It happened as he
had anticipated. The herdsman obeyed his orders for two years, and at
the end of that time, on his one day opening the door of their room
and going in, the children both ran up to him with outstretched arms,
and distinctly said "Becos." When this first happened the herdsman
took no notice; but afterwards when he observed, on coming often to
see after them, that the word was constantly in their mouths, he
informed his lord, and by his command brought the children into his
presence. Psammetichus then himself heard them say the word, upon
which he proceeded to make inquiry what people there was who called
anything "becos," and hereupon he learnt that "becos" was the Phrygian
name for bread. In consideration of this circumstance the Egyptians
yielded their claims, and admitted the greater antiquity of the
     "That these were the real facts I learnt at Memphis from the
priests of Vulcan. The Greeks, among other foolish tales, relate that
Psammetichus had the children brought up by women whose tongues he had
previously cut out; but the priests said their bringing up was such as
I have stated above. .."

Pity that Phrygian is a dead and mostly lost language, or we could
find out the answers to all your questions, Nik, by checking the
syntax and structure of Phrygian. :)

Ed Heil                                    [log in to unmask]

Nik Taylor wrote:

> Hese Kiel wrote:
> > Lots of stuff universal of all languages become propably from this
> > behaviour.
> I imagine this (admittedly unethical) experiment:
> An extremely wealthy linguist gathers together hundreds of extremely
> young infants [ideally newborns], whom he gives to the care of mute
> parents (who don't use any form of communication, either signed or
> spoken).  They are placed on a distant island, no contact whatsoever.
> He then has hundreds of cameras around the island to observe the
> children, and observe how they create language.  Even better, he has a
> few dozen such islands.
> I wonder what kind of language would evolve.  My guess, if spoken:
> CV syllables (children prefer those)
> SVO or perhaps SOV
> Small vocabulary
> Many compounds
> Isolating?
> --
> "If all Printers were determin'd not to print any thing till they were
> sure it would offend no body, there would be very little printed" -
> Benjamin Franklin
> ICQ #: 18656696
> AIM screen-name: NikTailor