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Re: Origin of human language (was Re: Some questions on phonology)

From:Herman Miller <hmiller@...>
Date:Thursday, October 16, 2008, 1:03
Jörg Rhiemeier wrote:

>>> but why would humans need to have ever been the, to hijack a >>> comment from the Proto-Indo-Neanderthal discussion, mammalian counterpart >>> to >>> mockingbirds? >> 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. > > Right. There is no valid reason to assume a "mockingbird stage" > in hominid language evolution. _Australopithecus_ probably > communicated in a way similar to modern chimpanzees; from there, > the systems of calls gradually became more complex and more > grammatical until the first full-fledged languages emerged > about 100,000 years ago or so. It is possible that early hominids > used calls reminiscent of other animals' sounds to refer to the > animals in question, just as there are onomatopoeic words in > modern human languages, but that's not the same as a "mockingbird > stage".
I think you're all taking the "mockingbird" comment out of context. It's an analogy to how the language of modern humans (non-genetic) differs from the proposed genetic language of the hypothetical Neanderthals in this alternate reality who survived up to the point where modern humans picked up some of their language.