Re: Homo erectus

29 Jun 1995 13:07:52 GMT

Responding to Ralph Holloway:


Vervets have a vocabulary of at least 22 different vocalizations, and
gorillas are sufficiently verbal that they seem to be able to discuss
'where to do lunch' prior to departing in a coordinated manner for a
specific feeding location. Neurobiologically, language seems to involve a
process of converting a mental state (or at least its physical realization
as an emergent state distributed over the brain) into a vocalization via a
motor program. Broca's and Wernicke's areas seem to be involved, but that
begs the question of what those areas are specifically for any given
individual. They're quite variable in a number of senses. (One of my
committee members has written extensively on this, and has indicated he
expects me to know it all in a year 8) This vocalization then interacts
with the expectations of the listener (in a rather interesting process
that is related to my dissertation research) to crudely or accurately
reconstruct the mental state (in an emotional sense, at least) for the
listener. This reconstruction program seems to involve the same motor
areas that would be used in speaking. If my cat can do that at a very
basic level, primitive hominids certainly could with great sophistication.
Was it symbolic language? Probably not to any great extent until the last
100 KYr or so, but it functioned well enough for their purposes.

Harry Erwin
Home Page: (try a couple of times)
PhD student in comp neurosci: "Glitches happen" & "Meaning is emotional"