Re: Origin of Language

Philip Deitiker (
2 Aug 1995 00:06:49 GMT


First off, the dating of 50,000 years represents the oldest fossils
found such that the timing could have been significantly longer than
50,000 years. There are other issues besides transport, these people
apparantly brought art and culture with them.
As far as the landcraft is concerned, a single individual could have
constructed such a craft without language, but to build such a craft
_probably_ requires advanced training (as observed in all cultures that
build such craft) and thus implies language. However there are
additional arguments. How many people does it take to colonize a
new land? Suppose, I build build five craft and I desire you and 8 of
your friends to come with me, do you think pointing at the crafts making
hand jestures and crude utterances is a convincing argument to risk your
life? There should be more likely possiblities.

1. that the immigrants accidentally discovered the new land (i.e. on
hunting/fishing expeditions) and either immediately or subsequently
settled, and were at that time reasonable masters of marine/aquatic
travel. This then begs the question does mastery of aquatic travel
require language. (and free will). (ever try a 2-man conoe with out

2. They (as a group) were forced off their land (by nature disaster or by
humans) and utilized the first floating thing they could find. This may
not require language, but it requires alot of preconditions. First, If I
was forced off into the water (without craft) I wouldn't venture out to
sea for my salvation, instead I would search for a safer point on the
land horizon to reland myself. I would fail in this if currents were
unfavorable and would be forced to find other land or perish; however, I
think for a sixty mile journey the attrition rate for individuals in the
group would be very high, so I think this is a very unlikely scenario.
Individual (independent) crossings. It is plausible that a single
pregnant female could colonize a new land provided her offspring was male
and assuming that she lived long enough to produce a second (female)
offspring sired by her son, and her son lived long enough to procreate
with his own offspring or that more offspring of the son were born by his
mother. This is really asking a lot of the founder since she would have
to have been sexually mature age when isolated and she would have to wait
until her son's sexual maturity to procreate again (and possibly
again)(minimally age 28, realisitically alot older), all the while,
providing for both the needs of herself and her offspring. Otherwise, you
have to weigh the probability of 'freak' individual crossing of member of
the opposite sex, within reproductive time frames and within a
geographically narrow region (which is also highly improbable).
Therefore, the most likely founders were members of a group, which was
represeted by both male(s) and female(s). A considerable challenge if the
individuals are incapable of advanced communication with one another.

The other arguments concern artifacts and art found in the colonized
regions. We assumed cro-magnon had language because of the artwork
produced, assuming that the art functions in the culture for ceremonial
or instructive reasons. In australia, similar 'cave' art has been found,
although somewhat less depictive than the cro-magnon art, still implies
advanced communication skills. Finally, Customs, culture, ect. The
habitation of the new land must have also required a certain amount of
technology and communication, particularly in solving the problems of
locating water, finding food, ect. The aboriginal solutions to finding
water have been previously described, and represent a form of map
making/coding. Just as with the art the paleo-austalians need not have
had langauge when they arrived; however, the artifactual evidence
suggests that they must have had it or developed it soon after.

Singly, none of the evidence suggest that langauge had to predate their
arrival; however, taken together the evidence is extremely implicit that
they did. In addition, as stated earlier, morphological evidence suggests
that humans had the capability predating 50 KYA (examining the brain
cavities that are responsible for langauge and logic), and behavioral
studies reinforce this by suggesting that (given 2 individuals within
close proximity to one another for an extended period of time) simple
languages are quite easy to generate. The real speculation surrounds the
extent of time and conditions which promote the conversion of simple
languages to the more advanced languages characteristic of the different
cultures of the world. Since the happenstance human experiments have
never been allowed to proceed beyond one generation the answer is not all
together obvious. In addition prehumans might have achieved (via cultural
evolution) very simple languages which might have coevolved with the
expansion of the human mental capacity, making language immediate with
cognative and communicative capacity. I think this is certainly the case.