? Polygenesis, Out of Africa

X99Lynx at aol.com X99Lynx at aol.com
Wed Aug 25 19:48:48 UTC 1999

On Fri, 20 Aug 1999 ECOLING at aol.com wrote:

<<Just one point on the discussions.  It is EVEN possible (though not the
simplest explanation from some points of view, Nature need not be simple)
that Neanderthals had several languages, from independent sources...>>

In a message dated 8/25/99 12:28:27 AM, larryt at cogs.susx.ac.uk wrote:

<<...So, if Neandertals had language, then surely so did
the common ancestor of Neandertals and modern humans,...>>

Why does that follow?  Why couldn't language could have started during the
existence of Neanderthals.  With much respect, I don't think there is any
evidence for this.

<<...and no appeal to "borrowing" from Neandertals is necessary or

Again, I don't think there is any evidence for this.

<<The position of the Neandertals in our family tree is still much
debated, but the majority view still sees them as *not* being among our
direct ancestors. >>

You may not be aware that rather recently the reverse process actually went
on in the scientific community.  Based on a stream of work starting with
Solecki, in fact, with much fanfare - Homo neanderthalensis was rechristened,
in most textbooks I guess, to Homo sapiens neanderthalensis.  It even made
Time back in around 1993 or so.  That status is being challenged again

As to the "majority" you refer to, I'd suggest that you might want to take a
second look when you use that term.  I suspect that a head count in this
arena would be difficult to take, and even that "a majority" might not
include opinions you would want included.  (If you are refering to some kind
of actual survey, however it would be good to know about.)

Most researchers would honestly say I think that there are no clear
probabilities in tracing the Neanderthal's relatedness or unrelatedness to
humans.  Any strong opinion would be fairly worthless as a matter of sheer

I'd like to refer you to Naming our Ancestors (Meikle and Parker,
1994).   Its a very useful reference on the terms and principles of hominid

<<Anyway, our ancestors could not have acquired language unless they
already had a language faculty.>>

I'd ask you to look at this statement again and consider its meaningfulness.

There really is no way to ascertain what a language faculty is or would look
like without evidence of language - of which there is none at this early

<<And, if they had a language faculty, then surely they would already have
possessed language themselves.>>

Again I'd ask you to look at this.  Logically, if a language faculty is
different than language, then yes they could have had the faculty and no
language.  One doesn't follow the other - unless they are one and the same

Back in the 1980's when Broca's area in the brain was widely promoted as the
essential element to language (since that time its been fairly well proven
that it is not essential at all) an identification in the bones was made that
may be of interest here:

<<The bulge of Broca's area, essential for speech, is visible in one habilis
brain cast, and indicates it was possibly capable of speech. Homo habilis is
thought to have been about 127 cm (5'0") tall, and about 45 kg (100 lb) in
weight, although females may have been smaller. >>

This is to my knowledge the only correlation made between the actual physical
evidence and some notion of a brain based language "faculty."  It would date
language significantly earlier than anything mentioned on this list.

The only current dialogue I know of that actually pertains to the physical
evidence is the jaw nerve canal studies at Duke and UC that I mentioned
earlier.  These seem to indicate a capability for complex speech comparable
to modern (current) humans, though the findings have been challenged on
averaging grounds.

Steve Long

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