Re: Human language (long)

Phillip Bigelow (
Thu, 09 Jan 1997 18:48:24 -0800

John A. Halloran wrote:
> I was talking about the larynx descending in the vocal tract for its value in
> producing calls that would help members of a hunting pack to locate each
> other.

The problem with this idea is that in extant animals that hunt in packs
(canids, for instance), they possess a *non*-"descended" larynx.
There is really no need for a "descended" larynx for long-range
oral communication. In fact, the plesiomorphic condition of
the carnivoran larynx makes it *advantageous* for increased
volume with an associated higher pitch. In humans, the relaxed
laryngeal structure has made it possible to produce
a wider range of pitches (including intermediate pitches that many
other animals cannot reproduce), but it also incurred a cost
(slightly less volume, when compared to carnivorans that obligatively
communicate long distances (such as canids)).

> The main factor in language as in speech or talking is the brain, not
> the vocal tract.

I don't follow. Are you claiming that the enlarged hominid brain
evolved prior to the re-arrangement of the laryngeal/pharyngeal
structure? If so, what evidence do you know of that supports this
order of development?
The only data that I know of that could (theoretically) address
this idea is the timing of the re-positioning of the foramen magnum,
and this data (ie., the condition and abundance of fossil
material and the age-dating) is equivacle.

>I would have no problem believing that women invented the
> first words of language.

It certainly would be politically-correct to think this, but
scientifically-speaking, this idea is nothing
more than fanciful speculation, and I suspect it will
forever remain that way.