I wonder how many other people after watching the entertaining Fry's Planet Word on BBC on Sunday, were left with the same question as me: when does a series of grunts move from being 'just' communication to being a language?
Fry argued, as many before him have, that it is language which sets humans apart from other animals. And, indeed, uniquely on this planet, we appear to have genes specifically geared towards making language acquisition a natural process, as well as the specialised vocal apparatus.
But what is language? Our nearest cousins in the primate world communicate with each other, and can be taught to use symbols which communicate with us. However, this is not language, according to Fry, because it is merely responding to an immediate emotion or need in the present moment.
So, in that case, when I request a glass of water or say, 'I'm scared', have I dropped from the pinnacle denoted as 'language' to the base 'communication'?