Re: Crossing the language threshold was Re: First Language

Richard M. Alderson III (
Tue, 29 Aug 1995 21:41:27 GMT

In article <>
(Ralph T. Edwards) writes:

>As a result crossing the language threshold is a potential speciation event,
>that is, something that creates a boundary between one species of premodern
>humans and another. I seem to recall that there is fossil evidence that the
>larynx is undescended in Neanderthals, can anyone confirm or deny?

There was a paper claiming this in the early 1970s. It appears that it was
based on data known to have been misinterpreted even at that time.

A good source on current thinking on Neandertals is Trinkhaus & Shipman, _The

>Of course acquisition of language may not be one event, but many, perhaps
>nouns first, then adjectives, then verbs, then grammatical relationships.

Since nouns, verbs, and adjectives are not necessarily distinct in all
languages, such an acquisition pattern is unlikely.

>Of course even if language acquisition is the speciation event for modern
>humans, it may have occurred in more than one place, and then merged.

Why "merged"?

>Simplicity suggests the contrary to me.

Simplicity suggests Euclidean geometry, too...

>Warning, I've cross posted the above to sci.anthropology.paleo (from sci.lang)
>I hope that's not a mistake :-) or :-(.

It usually is.

Rich Alderson You know the sort of thing that you can find in any dictionary
of a strange language, and which so excites the amateur philo-
logists, itching to derive one tongue from another that they
know better: a word that is nearly the same in form and meaning
as the corresponding word in English, or Latin, or Hebrew, or
what not.
--J. R. R. Tolkien, _The Notion Club Papers_