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On 21/07/2011 11:50, Sam Stutter wrote:
> Back on the eggs, I am well out of my depth on this
> subject, but here goes:
>
> What if neither "came first".

Spot on! That was precisely my thought when I read the
first email in this thread!

> I we do say that other
> great apes have sounds representing different foods, then
> is it possible to say that the "concept/word" (for "egg"
> at least or for "edible bird") predates human language
> altogether.

It is very probable IMO.

We just do not know when language began. It was, with
customary anthropocentric certainty, maintained that
language began with Homo sapiens. Even now one gets the
impression from some that before Homo sapiens there was no
"language instinct" then suddenly this new species appeared
with Deep Structured hard-wired into them! Personally I
don't buy it.

It used to be maintained that Neanderthals were physically
unable to produce human speech - in any case their society
was so simple they didn't need it.  Indeed, thirty or so
years back I subscribed to that view myself.  But it has
since been shown there is, as far as we know, no physical
reason why Neanderthals did not speak and now I believe
they could and probably did speak.

What about other earlier hominids? Some scholars suggest
that Homo erectus (1.8 million years ago) and/or Homo
heidelbergensis (0.6 million years ago) had some form of
proto-language; indeed, some would push proto-language right
back to Homo habilis in the Pleistocene period. We just do
know and will probably never know without time-travel.

But even if it is maintained that only Homo sapiens  were
'hard-wired' with language - that pushes the beginning of
language back some 100 000 years. A bit tricky, methinks, to
know what proto-speech was like - which is, I guess, why
there are so many different theories on the origin of
language.

-- 
Ray
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