Re: Human Language. (long post)

Thomas Clarke (
31 Dec 1996 18:22:58 GMT

John Waters wrote:
> If H. erectus could manage without language for nearly two
> million years of its existence, why did H.s.s need
> language?

> Could it be that language wasn't actually needed by the
> species, but arrived as a result of another long-term
> evolutionary process?

I've often wondered about this. I'm not sure if I read the following
suggestion somewhere or if it just popped into my head one day de nuovo.

It could be that language is a result of sexual selection.
Consider how women like to be verbally wooed today.
If this became the case a few hundred KYA for some group of H. erectus,
then the stage would be set for sexual selection for (otherwise useless)
linguistic abilities. Those H.e males who could best vocalize sweet
nothings to the females would have best reproduction success.
Before long there would be a H.e (now H.s?) with highly evolved
ability to sing love songs. These proto-H.s would then have all
this (otherwise useless) volcalization apparatus and the stage would
be set for development of language - a behavior that made use of
anatomical apparatus evolved by sexual selection.

No doubt H.erectus had some rudimentary vocalization capabilities.
Giving warning cries and the like, and probably could use hand signals
in support of hunting and other group activities (as is done today when
quiet is paramount). Sexual selection would have worked from this
basis. Hmm. Maybe this had something to do with the ice ages.
Bundled in furs, the usual visual (and olfactory?) courtship signals
between hominids would have been obscured. Perhaps the verbal signals
evolved to take their place.

Tom Clarke