Honestly (and this is more scientifically than philosophically), the "egg"
came first, because the chicken would have evolved from a different (albeit
similar) species. How long it took beats me, but I have the feeling that the
"true chicken," "today's chicken" came AFTER the egg, both scientifically
and with evolutionary (if that's a word) study.

Now, if you think about it linguistically, that's a different question: my
opinion is that the chicken came first, in this case, because the chicken
might have evolved into what it is today before our idea of language did, at

If you look at it philosophically, there really is no answer; although, if
you think about it in the sense of "ideas -> products," you'd get "the egg
came first," if the "egg" is the idea for the product (whether (these days)
patent-able or copyright-able). Granted, if the "chicken" was an accidental
invention or story, then you'd get "the chicken came first."

Just my two cents, after not reading the WHOLE post from Gary, but getting
the gist.

On Tue, Jul 19, 2011 at 1:31 AM, Gary Shannon <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> A recent reply to one of my post got me to thinking about something
> that probably can never be decided, but I thought it might be fun to
> take a shot at it anyway. I'm sure this has already been done to one
> extent or another, but I can't help but wonder what it would look like
> to put words on a chronological timeline. Not with absolute dates, of
> course, but with relative positions on the timeline. For example, we
> know we can place "telephone" earlier on the timeline than "Internet",
> and "fire" earlier than both, and probably "water" earlier still.
> It might be interesting to start by dividing words into groups such as
> words a hunter-gatherer would probably know, words an early farmer or
> animal herder would know, words a monument builder would know, etc.
> One could start with a list of fairly common words and scratch off all
> post-industrial revolution words, and then start shuffling them
> around, asking of each pair: which came first? "chicken" or "egg"?
> The first question would be which are the "day-one" words? Words that
> we can call the oldest words that must have belonged to even to most
> primitive of people? Things like "sun" "moon", "food", "water",
> "pain", "birth", "death", and so on. Before we had words for "pig" and
> "goat" was there a word for "animal"? Did language start out generic
> and then become more specific, or did it start out specific with "pig"
> and "goat" and only later develop the concept of generalizations like
> "animal"?
> Since this is for conlanging purposes, and just for fun, I don't feel
> the need to be academically rigorous, so I can take flights of fancy
> in the name of con-worlding. So the theory of language development I
> come up with doesn't have to be true in this world, but could,
> instead, be the basis of a proto-proto-UR-conlang or Proto-Sapiens in
> an imaginary conworld. I think it would be fun to try to build a
> conlang from the "first words" of a semi-sentient hunter-gatherer
> species.  (Didn't I read something a few years back about Neanderthal
> language?) I had in mind more a grossly over-simplified version of
> early proto-language, perhaps more like the movie "Caveman" than like
> real life.
> --gary

Sam Weston