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Re: Neanderthal and PIE

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...>
Date:Monday, October 13, 2008, 19:27

On Sun, 12 Oct 2008 22:05:33 +0100, Falcata Lusa wrote:

> 2008/10/11 Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...> > [...] > > PIE probably was spoken about 6000 years ago; estimates > > of an earlier age can be ruled out (IMHO) because the vocabulary > > of PIE as it can be reconstructed reveals that the "Proto-Indo- > > Europeans" practiced agriculture, used wheeled vehicles and knew > > at least the metals copper, silver and gold. > > > We now have words for computer, cellphone, snorkel, robot, internet and > still that alone is not proof that our language appeared during the 20th > century.
You missed the point of my argument. The point is not what kinds of words *modern* Indo-European languages have, but what kinds of words can be reconstructed for *Proto-Indo-European*, and these include words for agricultural terms, wheeled vehicles and metals, which indicates that, whenever PIE was spoken, the people speaking it knew those things. Note that *no* words for computer, cellphone and all that can be reconstructed for Proto-Indo-European - of course not, because those things were unknown back then.
> [...] > Also, the Neanderthals died out and were not the ancestors of > > any humans living today, and I think there is some evidence that > > the Neanderthals were not fully sapient and probably did not > > speak a language of the same kind as the languages known to us. > > > Not yet proven either way... There's a theory that states we have bits and > pieces of Neanderthal DNA.
Theories there are many - including one that the Earth is flat :) On Mon, 13 Oct 2008 10:49:46 -0400, ROGER MILLS wrote:
> What if, by some freak of evolutionary development, the Neanderthal language > was transmitted _genetically_? That might mean that it would be difficult > for non-Neanderthals to learn it, thus, early modern humans would have > learnt it imperfectly.............
I don't consider it very likely, but possible. "Cultural" evolution among hominids before _Homo sapiens_ was incredibly slow - a hand-axe made 300,000 years ago doesn't look any different from one made 400,000 years ago, for instance, while it is just 100,000 years from hand-axes to modern technology. *Something* must have happened when _Homo sapiens_ arrived on the scene. The early hominids (up to and including Neanderthals) evidently were unable to *invent* anything, and it is well known that not a shred of evidence of artistic behaviour (which is of course an anthropological universal as for our species) has been found. They were qualitatively less creative than we are; it may indeed be the case that their behaviour was to a much larger extent genetically conditioned than ours. I also consider it unlikely that such hidebound beings had languages as complex as ours. (Which would also rule out a Neanderthal origin of Indo-European, because Proto-Indo-European, as far as we can tell, was a full-fledged human languages with all complexities and subtleties of modern languages, except, of course, words for things not yet invented or discovered back then.) On Mon, 13 Oct 2008 11:38:20 -0700, Noelle Morris wrote:
> Actually, recent research on Neanderthal DNA shows that they had a version > of the FOX2P gene very similar to ours, and they also had slightly larger > brains than ours. So, I think it's entirely possible that they had some > communicative ability; what the extent was can never be truly known, though. > As for not being fully sapient, again I think that's arguable; they buried > their dead with grave goods, after all, and some have been found with > decorative items suggesting some culture.
They definitely had "some communicative ability", probably much more than chimps can manage, but nobody knows to which extent it equalled the languages of our species. As for not being fully sapient, the case is indeed not closed yet, but "burials" or at least systematic disposal of dead bodies are known from various sedentary non-human animals including bees and some species of burrowing rodents, and the decorative items found at Neanderthal sites date from a period when Cro-Magnon humans already had arrived on the scene, not earlier. ... brought to you by the Weeping Elf


Lars Finsen <lars.finsen@...>
Eric Christopherson <rakko@...>