Re: Early Hominids Language

Eric Shook (Panopticon@oubliette.COM)
Fri, 5 May 95 13:28:19 CST

In article <3o8ut5$c9f@tardis.trl.OZ.AU> (Jacques Guy) writes:
> Quoth I forget who:
> I found Discover magazine at
> The current issue has an article on the possibility that the
> first language may have been a sign language.
> If I recall correctly, this info was basicly based on the
> fact that pongids have been taught a limited form of sign lang.
> so ,therefore they (?) conclude that due to the larger size of
> a pith's brain (compared to that of a modern great ape) it is
> POSSIBLE that an early hominid might have been able to comm.
> with an early form of sign.

To the original poster of the above:

Thank you for your pointing out this interesting article. As a new student
in anthropology I must admit, that the idea of signing as being the first
language had not yet occured to me. Of course, every time I've been in a
foreign country it has been _my_ first means of communication, but I
believe that we all have a tendency to forget that a language need not be
verbal. It would seem, also, that the term "first" conflicts with our
predisposition to think of signing as a second language to or for those who
are deaf. The term "first" probably makes some folks bark at the moon in
complaint, being that they subconsciously would associate the idea of
"first" with "best."

While I am now more open to the obvious liklihood that signing was the
first language, I look forward to examining what evidences become available
in favor of this theory.

I hope, too, that I have given reason why your post may have been so poorly
reacted to with all of the sighing below. Some folks simply can't get into
the spirit of exploring reasonable theories prior to having HARD evidence
slap them in the face, first. As well, they have a tendency to act like
anyone who is proposing a theory to the scientific community, based in sound
reasoning alone, would have to be one of those avid, fruitcake speculators.
Whereas, it is well known that discussion of this sorts allows for all of
the possibly supporting evidence to be brought to bear. The hysterical
point is that this type of honestly open discussion not only allows for
pro evidence to be offered by others in the field, but it also allows for
conflicting evidence to be revealed. In this way we would not be likely to
waste out time upon exploring a theory easily disproven, therby wasting our
resources, both intellectual and physical, upon fruitless searches.

Occasionally, however, some ass must attack this process as being mere
speculation. In this case, it is always important to observe what evidence
they bring to the party. Most often they have nothing to offer. No negative
evidence, but often just negativity. Zero. Nothing of worth to us!

Of course, this may been seen as an attempt to make up some evidence for the
record alone:

> They could have communicated by smell, too. By farting, for instance. Short
> of a time machine, these are nothing but empty speculations. It used
> to be the language of Adam, or of the angels before the fall. Now
> it's early hominids. This thread belongs in and the
> Urantia Book (tm).
> Oh yes, they could have communicated by dancing, too. Or by grooming,
> like someone somewhere (was it here?) claimed chimps had been found to
> (was it on April 1st?). And if they caught birds and stuck feathers in
> their arses, their could have communicated like peacocks do. *sigh*

This thread belongs in at least an anthropological newsgroup, as it
refers to linguistics.

-- Eric Nelson --
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee: