Re: Archaic H. sapiens???

Michael McBroom (
Sat, 18 Jan 1997 09:09:09 -0800

Phil Nicholls wrote:
> (MSCob) wrote:
> >Michael McBroom wrote about the Neanderthal palate and throat:
> >
> > The morphology of the Neanderthal palate and
> >basicranial area, however, indicates that his vowel and consonant
> >inventory was much more limited than ours.
> >
> >
> > Doesn't it show that his inventory was different from ours, rather
> >than necessarily more limited? He could not produce the extreme point
> >vowels (a, i, u), as I recall, but there are lots of sounds in modern
> >languages that are not exploited as widely as they might be, which might
> >have filled out the Neantherthal phonetic inventory: tones; implosive
> >consonants; trills; clicks.
> I have often had similar thoughts when I read the Lieberman and Crelin
> stuff. It all sounds so ethnocentric -- they can't make key sounds of
> European languages, therefore they must not have been able to speak.
> Pah.

Your statement is erroneous. It may be a valid criticism of some
Indo-Europeanists, but it does not fit with Lieberman and Crelin. Most
of the world's languages contain the [i], [a], and [u] vowels and the
back consonant [k]. Even despite their claim that Neanderthal was not
able to produce these sounds, Lieberman (and I suspect Crelin as well)
has never claimed that Neanderthal lacked speech.

Michael McBroom
CSUF Linguistics