The La-La Theory


I've seen it explained and attributed in different ways, but here's what I know about "the la-la theory." During the nineteenth century, scientists and philosophers were interested in figuring out the origins of language. Some of their theories were pretty fanciful and were given silly names. The pooh-pooh theory, for instance, suggested that human speech came from the instinctive sounds early people made out of frustration and anger. The la-la theory put forth that language was borne of the human need to express music, poetry and love. Both Darwin and a Danish linguist named Otto Jespersen thought that emotion inspired music, which they believed could have been the predecessor to language. Jespersen wrote, "[Love] inspired many of the first songs, and through them was instrumental in bringing about human language."

I read about this in some old linguistics book and I liked it so much, it inspired me to start a zine about language. I published the first issue of The La-La Theory zine in 2005 and even though I don't put it out as often or as enthusiastically as I once did, the name is forever intertwined with the way I think of myself and my writing.