As I see it, the object or concept expressed by a sound is always discovered or formed before the sound; the mind’s comprehension always internalized before externalized.
Imagining myself a prehistoric being, before language, looking up at a mountain, seeing the much-ness of it, the awesome size of it; and living this impression I imagine giving birth, in my own comprehension, in my own conscience, to the concept—the overwhelming presence of—big. Now, to me at this time big might have many other connotations than just size. I might feel threatened, or frightened, I might feel miniscule, but the overriding and all-encompassing concept is big.
I may then utter to myself, overcome by the moment, bhaas, and in the next moment make a conscious connection between my feeling of the size and the noise I’ve just made. I say it again, bhaas, bhaas, bhaas, this sound that now, for me, means the size, the fear, the trepidation I feel.
Now, moving down the eons of human contact and communication bhaas may sound totally different today, which is beside the point and rather the subject of linguists and studies of derivation of our current language. The point is that the feeling, the discernment, the comprehension, the concept gave birth to the utterance, it pre-existed the sound.
Looking at the reverse sheds perhaps even more light on this concept. Say I woke up one morning in my cave or under the stars in some desert and heard a cry of a bird or an animal sound like bhaas. I do not believe that my next thought would have been: “Bhaas, hm, interesting sound. Let’s see if I can find a thing or a concept somewhere to attach it to.”
If words are external and concepts internal it follows that the internal always precedes the external. Externalizing my feeling before the bulk of the mountain bhaas escaped by lips. Maybe someone else was there, too, with me, who heard me and looked me in the eyes, then looked back at the bulk and nodded, yeah, sure, bhaas, knowing with me what we both felt at the size of the thing.
Later, back with the tribe, we gesticulate with our arms, depicting huge, large, enormous, saying bhaas, bhaas, and eventually the entire tribe will know the word.
Just a thought.