The origins of storytelling gives evidence of a shared cultural historyThe origins of storytelling

The power of an engaging story can change the world or keep it on its tracks. In this perspective fairy tales that lived on for hundreds of years has shown to be a powerful timeless source to influence societies. Recent research from Durham University anthropologist Dr Jamie Tehrani, and folklorist Sara Graça da Silva, from the New University of Lisbon, shows that fairy tales like “Beauty and the Beast” is much older than before was commonly thought. They could be traced back to prehistoric times, which means between 2500 and 6000 years old, according to the researchers.  This theory origins from Wilhelm Grimm of the Brothers Grimm in the 19th century. They believed many of the fairy stories that they popularised came from a shared cultural history. That many originated from the birth of the Indo-European language family in Europe and Asia.

The metaphors and languages

Languages develop over time, but we have little knowledge about how. To decrease this deficit the first large-scale study of researching the evolution of words has been published. It includes 5000 English metaphorical mapping records within the time-scope of the past 1100 years.

Metaphoric abstraction

The results show that from the beginning a word is something that describes something immediate about the world. It is physically experienced and emotionally neutral. Then the metaphoric abstraction increases over time to a large extent in a predictable way. Even though “cultural conditions and communicative needs” in many cases have shaped the metaphoric development.

A shared cultural history

In this spirit, storytelling in different forms is not only a powerful force to shape people’s’ minds and actions. It also develops the language over time towards more abstraction. The original fairy tales followed the language development into many different paths that cultures developed along. But in its origins, the stories, the fairy tales, comes from a shared cultural history.

Written by
LarsGoran Bostrom©

Royal Society Open Science journal.  


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