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Lars Mathiesen wrote:
>
> > 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.

We-ell, I was refering to the very origin of human speech, presumebly spoken
by some earlier hominid*. The point is, one can make a reasonable guess at
what concepts the first speakers were capable of.

* The term "Hominid" includes pretty much everything from Lucy and forwards.
Since, as you say, modern humans have always had about the same language
skills as we, and it is inconceiveable that something so mind-numbingly
complex as human language evolved overnight, language must (leaving
creationism aside) have arisen among some ancestor species. The strongest
candidate is probably Homo Ergaster (or some similar erectid), but some
researchers believe it occured as late as among the archaic Homo Sapiens.

                                                       Andreas
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