Re: Homo erectus

J. Moore (
Sat, 1 Jul 95 16:44:00 -0500

Rl> The 3rd inferior frontal convolution, where one finds Broca's region are
Rl> fully developed and not "primiitive" in appearance, and since we have a
Rl> nice looking one in KNM-ER 1470 as well as 3883 and 3733, it would be
Rl> far-fetched to claim that H. erectus was lacking them. Along with stone
Rl> tools made to standardized patterns, it all suggests to me that they
Rl> would have been capable of some primitive language, using arbitrary
Rl> symbols. As for their throats and sound production, this isn't my area
Rl> of expertise, but I tend to believe that even if they didn't have a
Rl> fully modern laryngeal morphology, they could still make enough sounds
Rl> to have language. In short, nothing I see in the brain endocasts rules
Rl> out language. Chaio. Ralph Holloway.

As Tanner pointed out (several places over the years, but these quotes
are from *On Becoming Human*, 1981): "it is only because the discussion
has been phrased in terms of (1) language rather than communication and
(2) gestural language versus vocal language that there appears to be a
controversy. An intergrated communicatory system, including a wide range
of nonverbal communication modes with speech, is what has evolved in the
human instance." (pg. 128), and also "What must be stressed regarding
chimpanzee communication is that, although the mode is expressive,
information about the environment is both sent and decoded. There is
therefore reason to assume that the ancestral population already
possessed some of the underlying mental capacities necessary for further
communicatory development, particularly with regard to the referential
function." (pg. 129).

In other words, most of the arguments about whether or not early
hominids, at whatever stage, had "language", present false dichotomies
while making their arguments. Since chimpanzees do fairly well at
communicating relatively sophisticated information, ala Menzel's
experiments in the 70s, or the Savage-Rumbaugh 1977 report on bonobo
gestural communication regarding positioning for sex, we don't need to
assume there's no usefulness to gradually improved skills in both vocal
and non-vocal non-verbal communication in these early populations.

And though, if we knew exactly what was going on at all these times
(get out your time machines), we might not say it was language *like
ours*, we would likely find reason to say they spoke *some sort* of
language, just as we now try to think of their lifestyle as not just
a pale imitation of our gathering/hunting, but as their own special
brand of g/h.

Jim Moore (

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