Re: Neanderthal "voice boxes"?

MSCob (
19 Jan 1997 17:29:53 GMT

Jenie wrote:
Someone raised an interesting point a few threads up from here - about
Bickerton's suggestion that the neanderthal brain was bigger than ours
but less well organised, because they were using a large-vocabularied
form of pidgin without any grammar. Thus the language was unweildy and
needed a big brain just to do basic language. But the modern human had a
better organised, grammatical language so needed less brainpower to do a
lot more.

It has been some time since I have read much about the organization
of the brain, but I have a strong impression that the large human brain
contains more grey matter, involved with conscious reasoning, than those
of other mammals. Language, especially using grammar, to a lesser extent
using vocabulary, is an extremely unconscious function. Amnesiacs retain
language along with the ability to walk, drive cars, shave, and do other
habitual activities of that kind. Doesn't this suggest that language is
an ancient ability in the hominid line? Not any specific language, of
course, because human language is by its nature highly flexible and
changeable, like the songs of many birds. But the language activity,
including grammatical complexity, must be quite old, not post-Neanderthal.
Mary Coberly