Tools and Hominidae

Fri, 17 Feb 1995 13:45:22 CST

Though the connection--long championed by R. Holloway--between tool use
and language remains (by his own admission) somewhat obscure, it is
surely tantalizing. Roger Fouts, following Darwin himself, calls
attention to the neurological linkage between precise manual dexterity
and control of the tongue. (Darwin observed how regularly British
schoolboys stuck out their tongues while learning to write.) With my
usual penchant for parsimony, this argument--and others, such as Sue
Savage-Rumbaugh's emphasis on the possible role of bipedalism in
consonant production--makes me imagine an entire "package deal" in the
divergence of hominids from the pongid line: bipedalism, canine
reduction, language, and brain expansion--all triggered (not necessarily
exactly simultaneously) by increasing reliance on making and using
tools. The question is not whether this can be proven; the question is
whether it is the simplest explanation, consistent with the evidence at
hand (pun intended), for the hominid divergence. --Bob Graber