"foster-mothers and nurses to suckle and bathe and wash the children, but in no ways to prattle or speak with them; for he would have learnt whether they would speak the Hebrew language (which he took to have been the first), or Greek, or Latin, or Arabic, or perchance the tongue of their parents of whom they had been born. But he laboured in vain, for the children could not live without clappings of the hands, and gestures, and gladness of countenance, and blandishments." - The Chronicles of Salimbeme di Adan written 13thC, about an alleged language deprivation experiment order by the then Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II
I often think of this, what the world of these children would have been like. Helen Keller born blind & deaf, was able to vividly describe her first experience of a word at age 7.
The Dunbar number indicates human's late development of our neocortex where we find most of our language sophistication, is strongly correlated to troupe or social group size, suggesting we evolved our unique human intelligence primarily to deal with our social landscape. But, birds like ravens that are not social, and octopuses/squid which are solitary, show great problem solving intelligence, higher than that of human children at equivalent development. Mirror neurons are higher among creche-rearing apes & monkeys, and is associated with more rapid learning-by-copying even where intelligence is lower - chimpanzees struggle with sharing knowledge intergenerationally, and do most of their learning while young, some monkeys the converse. Mirror neurons point to what I'd say is the core of meaning and language, intersubjectivity. Indra's Net is an ancient metaphor indicating how we can understand reality built like this, through shared subjectivity (so objectivity as only reified intersubjectivity).
Language-learning is an interesting case. We need a Rosetta stone, some amount of shared experience, to translate. We know dolphins have language at least as complex as a 3 year old human from frequency analysis, and their are indications they use a kind of 3D sonogram to communicate which may mean they are communicating more densely - dolphins are the only animal with a higher brain-to-body ration than humans but very different structure (no defined neocortex), though the small brains of highly intelligent birds cast some doubt on this metric. Tool using dolphins that use sponges over their noses while getting shellfish out of rocky sand, pass this skill only between females, in the family line, suggesting their social sttucture might impose limits. To learn dolphin, we would still expect it to need a child with high language flexibility, to experience both human and dolphin life and language, to get really good translations - though this is based on us being able to generate intersubjectivity with them which brain structure differences might prevent. Wittgenstein said "If a lion could speak, we could not understand him", about this need to have shared modes of life. He also said
"In this sort of predicament, always ask yourself: How did we learn the meaning of this word ("good", for instance)? From what sort of examples? In what language-games? Then it will be easier for you to see that the word must have a family of meanings.”
― Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations
His later views shifted from a picture model with 'atomic' words analogous to numbers, to this focus on language as use. We learn a game generally better by playing it, than from it's axioms, the rules. And when we try to constrain what 'game', means it proves to have very fuzzy edges. We might look at the role of play in development, to understand games better. "Man's maturity: to have regained the seriousness that he had as a child at play", as Nietzsche put it. This is the mode of growth, development, exploration, attained where safety and resources are not a problem, part of our self-actualising.
Split-brain experiments help us understand how the brain has multiple agents, coordinated normally into a unified salience-landscape. In particular, we seem to have a hemisphere focused on coordinating the self, and one focused on coordinating the environment (I find this interestingly parallel to the sense-gates in Buddhist thought, with sense-gates giving rise to internal-external object-consciousness pairs). We know there are brain routines focused on specific tasks, like finding edges and assigning depth, and that these get meshed into a picture of the world, and that our intentions & learning alter how we do this, and we integrate insights from processing retrospectively into our mental models. The connectome of inchworms seems to point to how very limited subroutines like 'detect body/not-body' get progressively hijacked to serve extended purposes (eg touch).
Strange loops are a very useful tool, to understand how we have feedback loops because we can model ourselves in our thinking, and alter behaviour accordingly. The hallmark of strange loops is tangled hierarchies, and games are again a good example. If the game is not good, we change the rules, the axioms are in a feedback loop, and by approaching them playfully we work through both momentary play, game output or learning, and axioms, and amend with a view to the whole system. A key point to note, is this doesn't progress from axioms alone, but a mixture with feedback, and avoids Munchausens trilemma by simply beginning wherever it starts, and working up and down a hierarchy of nested systems of knowing, in a way that tangles the hierarchy, with feedback and cross-inferences. Thus also avoiding the problems of how we are not like computers enough to avoid Godel Incompleteness issues - we just jump around in the hierarchy and tune the whole system, from awareness/subjectivity moving around like a spider with a web.
Drawing on Buddhism, I would say the core basis of intersubjectivity is that awareness, unencumbered or untaught presence with the moment - this is the strange loop quality of simply beginning wherever you are, to play and use feedback to work from there. From that, mental subroutines (& experience) construct a salience landscape, which for instance imagines alternative outcomes to our choices based on what has happened, to create the illusion of free will. Language comes from intersubjectivity, shared mental projection into each others view, that allows us to draw attention to features that add to and complicate the salience landscape - note the golden rule in morality, and the appeal of Rawl's theory of justice and fairness in general, in relation to this shared viewing predating or undergirding our self-concept (ie no cogito without learning words first, developed in community). Language develops, progressively heightening how abstractly we can conceptualise things, into more useful short-hand, drawing out core dynamics from noise, like a physicist with 'spherical cow' idealisations to identify core mechanisms. When we look at eusociality as the driver of hive-behaviour and intelligence, we have to note this quality of language to improve it's tools and pass them on in the memesphere, is a eusocial quality, it represents a kind of collective intelligence of concepts in our primarily social but also problem solving meme fitness-landscape. Meaning as relating to mental travel, 'if you were me-', 'we do x & it makes the system want to do y', and the process of story narration and narrative-grouping to get us the heristics we call causation (as we know from The Problem Of Induction we can only see patterns, causes are heuristic conceptual groupings of these based on experience, not generally fundamental).
'Atoms' and 'recipes', are part of language games that use high school science and cooking examples, to build salience landscapes in which these terms are useful heuristic narrative-groupings, which we use to narrate prcesses from different subjectivities. They result from a long process of condensing abstractions into more finely honed tools for filtering out noise, and making our world tractable to actions and communications.
Nothing is ever isolated, that is in this universe (possibly though this is why isolated quantum systems extend into Many Worlds), gravity at a point is the sum of all masses, rotational energy is defined in relation to the whole universe (or subsystem). All meaning similarly is relational, and founded in subjectivity. Objectivity is meaningless because there can be no experiencer of it, we can only integrate subjectivities, generalise experience, or views/perspectives.
Does that answer your questions? There are a great deal of views and ideas on this topic, so I just went with a set that makes sense to me. I consider a set like this a kind of snapshot of a strange loop, a kind of cosmology that jumps between modes of knowing and uses them to tune each other up, and situate ourselves, while casting an eye on the integrity of the whole structure. Apologies for not being more concise!