> Date:         Sun, 17 Jun 2001 12:46:54 -0400
> From: Andreas Johansson <[log in to unmask]>
> In most articles etc that I've read on the genesis of human speech th author
> seems to assume that "Proto-World" was isolating, and did at the earliest
> stage lack any means for expressing number, case, tense etc - it'd've
> consisted only of stems strung together to form rough sentences, along the
> lines of "I hunt fox"="I hunt/hunted/will hunt fox(es)". If this is correct,
> inflection really is something "later that must be explained", but I don't
> know whether this view is commonly accepted among linguists.

Well, if human speech means language spoken by people with the same
innate skills as we have --- i.e., modern humans --- experience tells
us that it takes exactly one generation to get to a creole; and those
are in all respects modern stable languages, with ways of marking
person, number, tense, aspect, near/far distinction, and so on.

Any group of modern human children is perfectly capable of taking any
lexical material at hand and creating those features, without having
experience of another language that has them.

If people want to talk about how some earlier homo not-quite-sapiens
spoke, the field is wide open. To my mind it's utterly uninteresting,
though. Just define that you're talking about people who were unable
to use this or that feature, and conclude that they didn't use it.

Lars Mathiesen (U of Copenhagen CS Dep) <[log in to unmask]> (Humour NOT marked)