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Hallo conlangers!

On Saturday 23 July 2011 08:36:59, R A Brown wrote:

> On 22/07/2011 17:16, Gary Shannon wrote:
> [...]
> > I think that like all evolutionary changes, small changes
> > accumulated gradually allowing each generation to
> > communicate more effectively.
> 
> On that point you are I seem to be in complete agreement.

So am I.

> The question is when did the evolution of language begin.
> Some consider it began only with the emergence of Homo
> sapiens; others, like me, see it as part of an evolutionary
> process that probably began earlier.

Again I agree with you.  Probably, the communicative behaviour
of _Australopithecus_ was not much different from that of
chimpanzees, but early _Homo_ certainly developed some more
complex "linguistic" behaviour, while fully developed language
with recursive grammar may have been reached only by the first
_Homo sapiens_.
 
> Obviously the two different views will have an impact on
> how we see the Homo sapiens Ursprache - that's the point
> I was making.
> 
> > I find it inconceivable
> > that early man woke up some Tuesday morning with fully
> > developed language.
> 
> Yep - I agree. Much the same as I find it inconceivable
> that Mitochondrial Eve was puzzled that her mother wasn't
> human and couldn't speak      :)

One needs to point out here that "Mitochondrial Eve" is an
unfortunate naming leading to many misunderstandings in the
popular press.  While there is evidence that _Homo sapiens_
went through a genetic bottleneck perhaps about 100,000
years ago, that bottleneck still involved a population of
a few thousand individuals.  It was never down to a single
man and a single woman.

And certainly, the change from "not yet fully developed
language" to fully developed language was gradual.
 
> > It's very possible that the language
> > of 200,000 years ago was well developed and very
> > sophisticated. But how did it get to be that way?
> > Certainly not all at once. At some point, maybe 100,000
> > years earlier, there was some not-quite human animal that
> > had some not-quite-a-language. And the transition from
> > not-quite language to real language did not happen in 24
> > hours, and must have taken place through many
> > transitional stages.
> 
> It seems to me that we are in complete agreement on all
> this.

Yes.  This can hardly be doubted.  There is no way language
could have appeared suddenly and spontaneously within a
single generation!
 
> [snip]
> 
> > On a tangent regarding cartoon caveman speak...
> > 
> > "ME LIKE YOU PLENTY" is misleading because it is
> > ungrammatical in English,
> 
> Misleading? Do you mean (a) that my example is a misleading
> representation of 'cartoon caveman speak', or (b) that
> cartoon caveman speak itself is misleading?
> 
> If (b), then I agree entirely - if (a), I disagree.
> 
> That it is ungrammatical is part and parcel of such
> nonsense.  It is meant to show that primitive Homo sapiens
> was too stupid to manage grammar - even though the words
> are strung together in a more or less English word order!

Amen.  This kind of stereotypical caveman speech certainly
has less in common with actual _Homo erectus_  communicative
behaviour than _Asterix_ comic books with the reality of
Roman-occupied Gaul ;)
 
> [snip]
> 
> > There is a vast difference between the transcript of the
> > vocalizations: "Food give" and the transcript of the
> > entire sentence including the sign language component:
> > "That apple, give to me."
> 
> Yep - and I think the "food give" stage was pre-Homo-sapiens.

Certainly.  Fully developed human language with recursive
grammatical structure is an absolute universal within our
species (controversial claims about Pirahã and similar
cases notwithstanding), and it is certainly as old as
our species itself.

> =====================================================
> 
> On 22/07/2011 18:20, Jörg Rhiemeier wrote:
>  > Hallo conlangers!
> 
>  > On Friday 22 July 2011 07:48:18, R A Brown wrote:
> [snip]
> 
>  >> command general acceptance.  As for Mitochondrial Eve's
>  >> vocabulary, that can only been speculation at best.
>  > 
>  > Indeed, indeed.
> 
> Yep - nor was I meaning just the "mouth sounds", as Gary
> puts it; I meant her inventory of concepts for which she
> had words.

Sure.  We do not know exactly where, when and how the first
_Homo sapiens_ lived; though it was certainly in Africa,
probably in a savanna environment, and somewhen between
200,000 and 100,000 years ago.  And of course, the first
_Homo sapiens_ did not have words for things not yet known
to them.  One can certainly make some guesses what those
people had words for and what not; but the reconstruction
of their forms is out of the question.  All we can do is
to invent a conlang with a vocabulary restricted to
Paleolithic concepts - and a grammar that works *exactly*
like those of modern languages.
 
>  > Proto-Indo-European was spoken about
>  > 5,000 or 6,000 years ago; that is much much younger than
>  > the first _Homo sapiens_.  The deepest we can look by
>  > means of the comparative method is perhaps 10,000 years;
>  > the latest common ancestor of Indo-European and Uralic
>  > may be that age, but that is still only 1/20 of 200,000
>  > years.
>  > 
>  > Several attempts at the reconstruction of "Proto-World"
>  > have been published on the Web;
> 
> Yes - and in the printed word long before the Internet
> was around.

Of course.

>  > none of them does even
>  > get close to being worthy of serious discussion (at
>  > least, none of those I have seen), and many were just
>  > barking mad.
> 
> I agree.

Some of them at least come up with something that *could have
been*, but with such a low probability that we should better
ignore them (for instance, Ruhlen's protoforms), but many have
proposed things that are outright impossible (such as Patrick
Ryan's oligosynthetic language, once presented on a GeoCities
web site which of course is now gone).  Let alone those who
claim that the first _Homo sapiens_ spoke Hebrew, Sumerian
or whatever.

The whole notion of a "Proto-World language" of course rests
on the assumption that the first _Homo sapiens_ population
was compact enough to have spoken a single language.  Genetic
evidence indeed points at a "bottleneck event" during which
the size of the population was reduced to a few thousand
individuals, probably in a region of limited extent; such a
population could indeed have spoken a single language, but
there is no way knowing from the currently available evidence.
 
>  >> ========================================================
> 
> On 21/07/2011 18:16, Piermaria Maraziti wrote:
>  >>> On 19/07/11 08:31, Gary Shannon wrote:
>  >>>> The first question would be which are the
>  >>>> "day-one" words? Words that
>  >>> 
>  >>> /DELURK
>  >>> 
>  >>> Check this:
>  >>> http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/valk/OG_REV.html
>  >> 
>  >> I have, and am somewhat under-impressed.  It merely
>  >> perpetuates standard caveman stereotype of modern urban
>  >> myth.
>  > 
>  > Well, it is just a satirical RPG meant to have fun with
>  > clichés about pre-sapiens hominins.  I think the authors
>  > do know quite well that those caveman stereotypes are
>  > wrong-headed and that "cavemen" never lived
>  > contemporaneously with dinosaurs ;)
> 
> Well, yes - which is why I was puzzled by the reference to
> it in this thread.  One thing is certain, namely that it
> has no relevance whatsoever to what Gary is trying to do.

Yes.  It is simply irrelevant to this discussion.  No scholar
worth his stripes believes in that sort of ideas any more.
 
> [snip]
> 
>  >> Umm - rather less vocabulary than that used by the UK
>  >> Chanel 4 Neanderthals!
>  >> http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/N/neanderthal/
>  > 
>  > I have noticed that some of the words listed there sound
>  > vaguely Indo-European; in reality, there certainly was
>  > no connection whatsoever between Neanderthals and
>  > Indo-European languages (this was discussed here in
>  > October 2008).
> 
> Obviously not. But the Neanderthal language was not, I
> think, an attempt to reconstruct actual Neanderthal, but
> to give them something that was a bit more realistic then
> 'cartoon caveman speak.'

Sure.  It is not meant as a linguistic reconstruction; it is
just a *conlang* meant to add flesh to a fictional representation
of the Neanderthal race.
 
> One would have liked some information about the grammar
> used and some specimen sentences from the script for the
> programs.  Does anyone on the list know anything about
> Anthony Burgess' language for the film 'Quest for Fire'?
> 
> I think Gary will have to do what the makers of the programs
> did, i.e. make a decision among the differing theories and
> go for it.
> 
> I would make a start with the vocabularies and grammar of
> of known communities who were still living in a stone-age
> hunter gatherer culture and look for some commonality; then
> decide where this early community resides and go from there.

Exactly.  That is, I think, the best approach to a plausible
"first _Homo sapiens_" conlang.

--
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