Re: Origin of Language

Philip Deitiker (
28 Jul 1995 22:25:39 GMT (@#$%!?!) wrote:
>The kind of abstract, generative language we use today requires
>some physical accomodation which has left physical evidence. Among
>others, is the light weight jaw without interlocking canines that
>is seen very early, two million (?) years ago. Also, we have a
>unusual arrangement of the larnyx and esophagus. This is probably
>restricted to modern humans. Also earlier skulls do not seem to
>room for important speech centers on the left side of the brain.
>Most linguistics text books cover this.
>So it is unlikely anything earlier than Cro-Magnon was capable of
>modern speech. But, unless you assume divine intervention, such
>capabilities do not arise spontaneously. It requires a preexisting
>pressure and genetic raw material. Our speech is probably the
>product of millions of years of refinement.

Wouldn't evolution and many modern day examples (of isolated groups of
children devising their own language) predict that as soon as humans
develope the mental capacity to devise language then language developed?
According to the archeological record this should have occured 100,000 to
150,000 YA. Unless you can describe why predessesors of cromagnon man
were of lessor genetic intellect then you have to assume that they had
some functioning language.

>Physically, we are the same as Cro-Magnon, so the languages
>should also be of the same complexity. I don't know any way to
>discover whether language was immediately able to exploit the new
>anatomy or one or the other lagged. Today, all languages are of
>comparable complexity regardless of the culture using it. Primitive
>cultures (how ever you define that) do _not_ use primitive
>Another question is the relations of languages. Was language
>evolved by a single community which then took it with them as they
>spread across the globe? In that case, you would expect all
>languages to have descended from a single language. Some Russian
>linguists have been pursuing this for some time. They named the
>original language Proto-World.

There may be an intermediate hypothesis. That certain languages, which
enabled the expression of more complicated ideas gave selective advantage
to its speakers, thus the language spread and hybridize with endemic
languages repeatedly and to varying degrees, resulting in a varity of
divergent but somewhat similar languages. Thus the majority of languages
of civilized societies appear to be related and recently evolved however;
this could mask the existance of somewhat lessor 'local' languages that
predated 'modern language'. Ask yourself the question, what
representative of language do we have of pre-celtic western europe (with
the possible exception of the basque)? What langauge did the PICTS and
the Etruscans speak? How fast have modern languages changed to keep pace
with industrialization? Language appears to change with need, and for a
long period of times humans did not need a sophisticated language, but
their languages still fulfilled their needs of communicating how to build
this or that, how to hunt this or that, how to prevent this or that, ect.
IOW their language was as modern as they needed it to be.