Re: Some questions on phonology
|From:||R A Brown <ray@...>|
|Date:||Wednesday, October 15, 2008, 19:23|
John Vertical wrote:
> On Mon, 13 Oct 2008 14:50:50 -0400, Carl Banks wrote:
>> Falcata Lusa wrote:
>>> If we could go back in time and see (and hear) the first speaking hominids,
>>> what do you think their sounds could be like?
>> Quack, woof, howl, tweet, hiss, etc.
>> What kind of animals lived in Europe back then that people might
>> imitate? Those are probably the sounds they'd use. Keep in mind the
>> climate in Europe at that time was much colder.
> I believe you missed one major animal group of the area from your list: the
> hominids :)
Also, of course, the first hominids emerged in Africa, not Europe, so
what animals existed in Europe is somewhat irrelevant, methinks.
> When discussing the origins of language, there commonly seems to be some
> kind of an assumption that before the advent of speech, humans didn't
> vocalize anything.
Sigh - indeed, this does often seem to be so. But I have argued strongly
against this before on this list. It seems to me that animals have a
very long history of communication, starting way, way before even
> But take one look at chimpanzees, and they certainly seem
> to still use their larynxes a lot... who's to say that "pre-language" didn't
> develop alongside ancestral warning calls & the like, heck, those could've
> even serv'd as fodder for emerging linguistic evolution. I gess the thought
> may remind a bit too much of stereotypical Cavemanese (ooga booga nom-nom
Quite so - that was exactly my reaction also.
> but why would humans need to have ever been the, to hijack a
> comment from the Proto-Indo-Neanderthal discussion, mammalian counterpart to
Exactly - no reason at all! In fact if early hominids were "mammalian
mockingbirds" that would surely imply a reversion to a state inferior to
chimps and, I suspect, (most) other primates.
I have not read much on the language acquisition of infants. But I
recall my grandson (now three) who from a very early age 'spoke' almost
non-stop as soon as he could articulate a reasonable range of sounds.
The only trouble was that to those around it was a continuous stream of
'nonsense' - and the variety of sounds was quite surprising; it included
consonants not found in English. Eventually, of course, meaningful words
began to appear and now all his "pre-language" has gone, giving way to
fairly standard English.
It's said by some that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. I wonder if in
a similar way my grandson's language behavior didn't to some extent
recapitulate glossogeny. What I mean is that out of a matrix of
chattering, somewhat chimplike, with a very wide range of sounds, early
hominids eventually came to give certain sounds more and more specific
meanings until we got words which grammatically related to one another
in meaningful utterances.
Of course, without time-travel, I guess we'll never know.
Frustra fit per plura quod potest
fieri per pauciora.
[William of Ockham]