[PALEO,LING] ] Re: Language, gesture, etc.

Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Wed, 14 Feb 1996 16:59:38 +1000

Ania writes:
> HOW do we know what preceded what? Ron says it is clear. Not to me. I have
> never noticed that words have the role of taking over the gesture. Has
> anybody? The only field that assmes that gesture was first (sounds like
> the bible) and then came the word and then came grammar is linguistics (of
> the poor kind).

Most primates use gestures and/or "words" for communication (I
recommend Cheney and Seyfarth's _How Monkeys See the World_ for
more on the subject), so it seems almost certain that the common
ancestor of Homo and Pan also did. So there is no doubt in my mind
that gestural and vocal communication preceded grammar (which, ape
language experiments notwithstanding, no non-human animals appear
to have). Whether the latter *developed* directly from the former
is another matter, of course...

> If word came after gesture did it substitute the gesture?
> And if grammar followed the word did it substitute the word? Why couldn't
> they just have been always together?

Because many animals have vocal communication but no grammar; among them,
almost certainly, most of our ancestors.

Danny Yee.