Human evolution theory utilizing concepts of neoteny & female sexual selection
An etiology of neuropsychological disorders such as autism and dyslexia, and the origin of left handedness.

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 Library of Excerpts

Language Part II


"First of all, early poetry was song. ....But ancient poetry is much closer to song." (Jaynes., Julian (1976) Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Houghton Mifflin: Boston p. 354)

"Speech, as has long been known, is a function primarily of the left cerebral hemisphere. But song, as we are presently discovering, is primarily a function of the right hemisphere." (Jaynes., Julian (1976) Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Houghton Mifflin: Boston p. 365)

"Singing and melody then are primarily right hemisphere activities." (Jaynes., Julian (1976) Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Houghton Mifflin: Boston p. 366)

"I wish to expand a little upon the role of instrumental music in all this. For we also hear and appreciate music with our right hemispheres. Such lateralization of music can be seen even in very young infants. Six-month-old babies can be given EEG's while being held in the laps of their mothers. If the recording electrodes are placed directly over Wernicke's area on the left hemisphere and over what corresponds to Wernicke's area on the right, then when tape recordings of speech and played, the left hemisphere will show the greatest activity. But when a tape of a music box is played or of someone singing, the activity will be greatest over the right hemisphere. In the experiment I am describing, not only did the children who were fidgeting or crying stop doing so at the sound of music, but also they smiled and looked straight ahead, turning away from the mother's gaze..." (Jaynes., Julian (1976) Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Houghton Mifflin: Boston pp. 367-8

"Poetry is not a sort of distorted and decorated prose, but rather prose is poetry which has been stripped down and pinned to a Procrustean bed of logic." (Bateson, Gregory (1972) Steps To An Ecology of Mind. Ballantine Books: New York p. 136)

"What was extraordinary ---the great new thing---in the evolution of human language was not the discovery of abstraction or generalization, but the discovery of how to be specific about something other than relationship." (Bateson, Gregory (1972) Steps To An Ecology of Mind. Ballantine Books: New York p. 367)

"It is even possible that the evolution of verbal naming preceded the evolution of the simple negative. It is, however, important to note that evolution of a simple negative would be a decisive step toward language as we know it. This step would immediately endow the signals---be they verbal or iconic---with a degree of separateness from their referents, which would justify us in referring to the signals as "names." The same step would make possible the use of negative aspects of classification: those items which are not members of an identified class would become identifiable as nonmembers. And, lastly, simple affirmative indicative statements would become possible." (Bateson, Gregory (1972) Steps To An Ecology of Mind. Ballantine Books: New York p. 425)

"And our larynx may have arisen "for" a limited range of articulated sound needed to coordinate social life. But its physical design permits us to do more with it, from singing in the shower for all to the occasional diva." (Gould, SJ (1980) The Panda’s Thumb/ W. W. Norton: New York. p. 57)

"One fact that stands out to a detached viewpoint, but is not stressed by an of the schools, is the great and perhaps basic importance of the principle we denote by the word "meaning." Meaning will be found to be intimately connected with the linguistic: its principle is symbolism, but language is the great symbolism from which other symbolisms take their cue." (Whorf BL (1956) Language, Thought & Reality. MIT Press: Cambridge p. 42)

"When it is implicit that everything that ever happened still is, but is in a necessarily different form from what memory or record reports, there is less incentive to study the past." (Whorf BL (1956) Language, Thought & Reality. MIT Press: Cambridge p. 153)

"Very many of the gestures made by English-speaking people at least, and probably by all SAE speakers, serve to illustrate, by a movement in space, not a real spatial reference but one of the nonspatial references that our languages handles by metaphors of imaginary space. That is, we are more apt to make a grasping gesture when we speak of grasping an elusive idea than when we speak of grasping a doorknob. The gesture seeks to make a metaphorical and hence somewhat unclear reference more clear. But, if a language refers to nonspacials without implying a spatial analogy, the reference is not made any clearer by gesture. The Hopi gesture very little, perhaps not at all in the sense we understand as gesture." (Whorf BL (1956) Language, Thought & Reality. MIT Press: Cambridge p. 155)

[Describes how arts use one sense to describe another...] "The European theater and opera seek a synthesis of many arts. It may be that in this way our metaphorical language that is in some sense a confusion of thought is producing, through art, a result of far-reaching value---a deeper esthetic sense leading toward a more direct apprehension of underlying unity behind the phenomena so variously reported by our sense channels." (Whorf BL (1956) Language, Thought & Reality. MIT Press: Cambridge p. 156)

"How does such a network of language, culture, and behavior come about historically? Which was first: the language patterns or the cultural norms? In main they have grown up together, constantly influencing each other. But in this partnership the nature of the language is the factor that limits free plasticity and regidifies channels of development in the more autocratic way. This is so because a language is a system, not just an assemblage of norms. Large systematic outlines can change to something really new only very slowly, while many other cultural innovations are made with comparative quickness. Language thus represents the mass mind; it is affected by inventions and innovations, but affected little and slowly, whereas to inventors and innovators it legislates with the decree immediate." (Whorf BL (1956) Language, Thought & Reality. MIT Press: Cambridge p. 156)

"This fact is very signigicant for modern science, for it means that no individual is free to describe nature with absolute impartiality but is constrained to certain modes of ineterpretation even while he thinks himself most free. The person most nearly free in such respects would be a linguist familiar with very many widely different linguistic systems. As yet no linguist is in any such position. We are thus introduced to a new principle of relativity, which holds that all observers are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe, unless their linguistic backgrounds are similiar, or can in some way be calibrated." (Whorf BL (1956) Language, Thought & Reality. MIT Press: Cambridge p. 214)

"In the Hopi language, 'lightning, wave, flame, meteor, puff of smoke, pulsation' are verbs---events of necessarily brief duration cannot be anything but verbs. 'Cloud' and 'storm' are at about the lower limit of duration for nouns. Hopi, you see, actually has a classification of events (or linguistic isolates) by duration type, something strange to our modes of thought. On the other hand, in Nootka, a language of Vancouver Ilsland, all words seem to us to be verbs, but really there are no classes 1 and 2; we have, as it were, a monistic view of nature that gives us only one class of word for all kinds of events." (Whorf BL (1956) Language, Thought & Reality. MIT Press: Cambridge p. 215)

"And every language is a vast pattern-system, different from others, in which are culturally ordained the forms and categories by which the personality not only communicates, but also analyzes nature, notices or neglects types of relationship and phenomena, channels his reasoning, and builds the house of his consciousness." (Whorf BL (1956) Language, Thought & Reality. MIT Press: Cambridge p. 252)

"We are obliged to say 'it flashed' or 'a light flashed,' setting up an actor IT, or A LIGHT, to perform what we call an action, FLASH. But the flashing and the light are the same; there is no thing which does something, and no doing. Hopi says only rehpi. Hopi can have verbs without subjects, and this gives to that language power as a logical system for understanding certain aspects of the cosmos. Scientific language, being founded on western Indo-European and not on Hopi, does as we do, sees sometimes actions and forces where there may be only states. For do you not conceive it possible that scientists as well as ladies with cats all unknowingly project the linguistic patterns of a particular type of language upon the universe, and SEE them there, rendered visible on the very face of nature? A change in language can transform our appreciation of the Cosmos." (Whorf BL (1956) Language, Thought & Reality. MIT Press: Cambridge pp. 262-3)

"The commitment to illusion had been sealed in western Indo-European language, and the road out of illusion for the West lies through a wider understanding of lanugage than western Indo-European alone can give."(Whorf BL (1956) Language, Thought & Reality. MIT Press: Cambridge p. 263)

"To understand the evolution of language one must therefore understand the scope of the visual-kinesthetic, non-verbal, cognitive aspects in hominid communication. (Marshack, A. (1972) The Roots of Civilzation; McGraw Hill: New York p. 118)

"With respect to the origin of articulate language, after having read on the one side the highly interesting works of Mr. Hensliegh Wedgwood, the Rev. F. Farrar, and Prof. Schleicher, and the celebrated lectures of Prof. Max Muller on the other side, I cannot doubt that language owes its origin to the imitation and modification of various natural sounds, the voices of other animals, and man's own instinctive cries, aided by signs and gestures. When we treat of sexual selection we shall see that primeval man, or rather some early progenitor of man, probably first used his voice in producing true musical cadences, that is in singing, as do some of the gibbon-apes at the present day; and we may conclude from a widely-spread analogy, that this power would have been especially exerted during the courtship of the sexes,---would have expressed various emotions, such as love, jealously, triumph,---and would have served as a challenge to rivals. It is, therefore, probable that the imitation of musical cries by articulate sounds may have given rise to words expressive of various complex emotions. The strong tendency in our nearest allies, the monkeys, in microcephalous idiots, and in the barbarous races of mankind, to imitate whatever they hear deserves notice, as bearing on the subject of imitation. Since monkeys certainly understand much that is said to them by man, and when wild, utter signal-cried of danger to their fellows; and since fowls give distinct warnings for danger on the ground, or in the sky form hawks (both, as well as a third cry, intelligible to dogs), may not some unusually wise ape-like animal have imitated the growl of a beast of prey, and thus told his fellow-monkeys the nature of the expected danger? this would have been a first step in the formation of a language." (Darwin, C. (1971) The Descent of Man. John Murray: London pp. 89-90)

"All these facts with respect to music and impassioned speech become intelligible to a certain extent, if we may assume that musical tones and rhythm were used by our half-human ancestors, during the season of courtship, when animals of all kinds are excited not only by love, but by the strong passions of jealousy, rivalry, and triumph. From the deeply-laid principle of inherited associations, musical notes in this case would be likely to call up vaguely and indefinitely the strong emotions of a long-past age. As we have every reason to suppose that articulate speech is one of the latest, as it certainly is the highest, of the arts acquired by man, and as the intinctive power of producing musical notes and rhythms is developed low down in the animal series, it would be altogether opposed to the principle of evolution, if we were to admit that man's musical capacity has been developed from the tones used in impassioned speech. We must suppose that the rhythms and cadences or oratory are derived from previously developed musical powers. We can thus understand how it is that music, dancing, song, and poetry are such very ancient arts. We must go even further than this, and, as remarked in a former chapter, believe that musical sounds afforded one of the bases for the development of language." (Darwin, C. (1971) The Descent of Man. John Murray: London p. 593)

"As the males of several quadrumana animals have their vocal organs much more developed than in the females, and as a gibbon, one of the anthropomorphous apes, pours forth a whole octave of musical notes and may be said to sing, it appears probably that the progenitors of man, either the males or females or both sexes, before acquiring the power of expressing their mutual love in articulate language, endeavored to charm each other with musical notes and rhythm." (Darwin, C. (1971) The Descent of Man. John Murray: London pp. 593-4)

"The newly-discovered hyoid bone frmo Kebara casts totally new light on the speech capability of this individual. It has been suggested in earlier publications (Lieberman and Crelin 1971; Laitman 1978) that a high position of the hyoid and related larynx - as present in newborn humans, in apes and supposedly in Neanderthals - prevented a fully modern capability for speech in the Mousterian hominids. The discovery of the hyoid from Kebara shows no different anatomical relationships of this bone with the mandible, and if fact strongly suggests a low position in the neck of the hyoid and of the subjacent layynx. Viewed in anatomical terms, it would seem that the Mousterian man from Kebara was just as capable of speech as modern man." (B. Arensburg in Mellars P & Stringer C (1989) The Human Revolution. (eds. Mellars & Stringer) Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton p. 169)

"Speech allows us to transmit vocally phonetic 'segments' (which are approximated by the letters of the alphabet) at an extremely rapid rate, up to 25 per second. It is, in contrast, impossible to identify non-speech sounds at rates that exceed 7-9 items per second (Miller 1956). (Philip Lieberman in Mellars P & Stringer C (1989) The Human Revolution. (eds. Mellars & Stringer) Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton p. 392)

"The high transmission rate of human speech is thus an integral part of human linguistic ability, as it allows complex thoughts to be transmitted within the constraints of short-term memory. Although sign language can also achieve a high transmission rate, the sigher's hands cannot be used for other tasks. Nor can viewers see the signer's hands except under restricted conditions. Visual hand signs still function as part of the linguistic code (McNeill 1985), but the primary linguitic channel is vocal. Vocal language represents the continuation of the evolutionary trend towards freeing the hands for carrying and tool use that started with upright bipedal hominid locomotion. Human speech also has some lesser selective advantages; the sound of human speech are less susceptible to perceptual confusion than the sounds that other primates can make. These perceptual factors, which we will discuss below, may have had a primary adaptive role in the initial stages of the evolution of human speech." (Philip Lieberman in Mellars P & Stringer C (1989) The Human Revolution. (eds. Mellars & Stringer) Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton p. 392)

"The fundamental frequency of phonation, which reflects the rate at which the putts of air occur, determines the 'pitch' of a speaker's voice. The fundamental frequency pattern can convey linguistic information like the pitch 'tones' that differentiate words in languages like Chinese, independent of the format frequency pattern. The rapid change of formant frequencies is, however, the key to the speed of human speech." (Philip Lieberman in Mellars P & Stringer C (1989) The Human Revolution. (eds. Mellars & Stringer) Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton p. 393)

"Pongids furthermore appear to have difficulty in the intentional, voluntary control of their vocal signals. Goodall (1986), for example, notes that chimpanzees are not able to suppress food-barks, even when this is in their best interest. Chimpanzee vocalizations seem to be tied to oro-facial gestural patterns that determine their acoustic quality. The regulation of their vocalizations appears to derive from the limbic system (MacLean 1985) rather than the cortical areas that control speech in modern human beings. The acoustic quality of the call, e.g., formant-frequency lowering because of lip rounding, derives from the limbically controlled oro--facial expression. It is probable that the eleboration of the precentral cortex in the course of hominid evolution (Deacon 1985) ultimately yeilds Broca's area, which appears to facilitate the intentional control of speech signals." (Philip Lieberman in Mellars P & Stringer C (1989) The Human Revolution. (eds. Mellars & Stringer) Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton p. 396)

[Description of possible Neanderthal vocal apparatus difficulties.] (Philip Lieberman in Mellars P & Stringer C (1989) The Human Revolution. (eds. Mellars & Stringer) Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton p. 402)

"The proposition is simply that the language (or perhaps rather 'proto-language') that was spoken probably lacked certain elements typical of fully developed human languages today. We might propose that such proto-languages lacked at least tense-modality-aspect systems. Probably they also lacked the ability to form clauses, and hence displacement, in discourse. These are the elements that were proposed above as essential to such features as the elaboration of extended kinship systems, communication beyond face-to-face encounters and exchange of information beyond the here-and-now, the organization of logistical economic strategies, and the extension of the time depth of adaptation to environmental fluctuations. Therefore, all of these organizational featues may be proposed to have been absent as well, leading to the 'blocking' of human populations in this period from colonization and long-term occupation of both tundra and desert environments." (Robert Whallon in Mellars P & Stringer C (1989) The Human Revolution. (eds. Mellars & Stringer) Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton p. 451)

"Since Broca, there has accumulated, through studies of aphasia and by means of new technologies and experimental methods (such as dichotic listening, EEG's, ERP's, tachistoscopic studies, blood flow studies, etc.), increasing evidence to support models and theories of generative grammar developed by linguists on the basis of their studies of languages themselves. The linguists argue that knowledge of a language is represented by an autonomous formal grammar, finite in size and capable of generating an infinite set of sentences. This grammar consists of various components--that is, the phonology (sound system), the syntax (rules of sentence formation), the morphology (word structure), the vocabulary or lexicon, and those aspects of meaning determined by syntactic configuration. These components "form a structural system whose primitive terms are not artifacts of a system that encompasses both human language and other human facilities or abilties."" (Benson and Zaidel (Fromkin) 1985: 324, The Dual Brain)

"Apes favor the left limb for certain tasks (a mother preferentially cradles an infant with her left arm), while selecting the right limb for others (locomotion is often initiated with the right hand). When comparing data on the bonobos at the Yerkes Primate Center and the San Diego Zoo, William Hopkins, and American expert on brain lateralization, and I were excited to discover that handedness extends to gesticulation. Bonobos wave, beg, wrist-shake, or make threatening gestures predominantly with their right hands. This is the first evidence in a close relative of our that a communicatory capacity other than language may be associated with the left side of the brain. The similarity in brain specialization hints at a shared evolutionary history between gesturing and language." (De Wall & Lanting 1997: 43, Bonobo)

"The reasons have been given forthe inference that the separation cry may represent the earliest and most basic mammalian vocalization. Judged by available evidence, the separation cries of primates have certain commonalities in all species ranging form the marmoset to human beings. As illustrated by the sound of spectrograms in Figure 21-6 of the squirrel monkey, macaque, and human infant, the separation cries of primates are characterized by a slowly changing tone. The commonality, Newman points out, suggests that mechanisms controlling infant cry patterns have a "conservative evolutionary history." (MacLean 1990: 401, The Triune Brain in Evolution)

"Given an inherited predisposition to right-handedness, one can offer an explanation of cerebral dominance of speech, first noting how it would be neurologically advantageous for a midline organ of speech such as the tongue with a bilateral innervation to receive its commands from a single hemisphere." (MacLean 1990: 543, The Triune Brain in Evolution)

"This situation is to be contrasted with what is required when enunciating words with precise meanings. Since the tongue is a midline organ, there must be snychronized action of both sides if there is not to be slurring of speech. Since the cerebral hemispheres are mirror images of one another, and since delay is involved in relaying information from one side to the other, it is unlikely that both could cerebrate exactly alike and "speak as one voice." Each side of the tongue might receive impulses for the same word at slightly different times, or, worse, recieve the neural command for two different words. The result would be stammering or stuttering. Penfield and Welch have pointed out that upon stimulation of the motor cortex in human beings, the responsive movement is always on the contralateral side except for such structures as the tongue and pharynx that straddle the midline." (MacLean 1990: 543, The Triune Brain in Evolution)

"Byrne and Whiten went on to suggest that the habit of calculated deception is common in humans, occasionally inchimpanzees, rare in baboons, and virtually unknown in other animals." (Ridley 1993: 335, The Red Queen)

"A 'sign' has a meaning free of context; a 'symbol' obtains its meaning from contexts that attach it. This distiction holds, whether one is viewing the tokens of a 'chimpomat' or swastika." (Menzel ed. (Count) 1973: 16, Precultural Primate Behavior)

"To reduce these ideas to a very brief statement, I can say that for a long time before the evolutionary emergence of articulate vocal language, the early hominids probably communicated propositionally by means of hand and arm gestures, supplemented both by other nonverbal signs and by primate vocal calls not yet deserving of the term 'speech'. This proposal may seem at first hearing to be a case of creating a theory to fit some startling new experimental facts. However, the idea that articulate speech was preceded by a long phase of gestural language is quite old; by the eighteenth century, this idea had been considerably elaborated by Condillac and others. In the nineteenth century, the gestural hypothesis for the origin of language was favored by Alfred Russel Wallace and by Edward B. Tylor, one of the major figures in the formative period of scientific anthropology, and in the early twentieth century was further supported by Wilhelm Wundt, a comparably impressive figure in the history of psychology." (Menzel ed. (Hewes) 1973: 126, Precultural Primate Behavior)

"Finally, there are philosophers of language who assert that a true language is one in which prevarication is possible. Since it is unlikely that honeybees can lie to their hivemates, so the argument goes, van Frisch is wrong; and bees lack 'language'. I find this a trivial point but am willing to argue that the ability to lie is not so much a matter of language use or abuse, but of demeanor. Goffman (1971) has a good eal to say in a chapter, 'Normal appearances', on human dissembling. Prevarication or dissembling, if indeed absent among pongids, probably began to emerge in hominid behavior not only with hunting, where it is important for stalkers of game to pretend that they are not in active pursuit, but also in conjunction with the proliferation of incest taboos and similar sexual access-prohibitions. Lying is often expressed in language; but its essence seems to be an ability to conceal emotional cues, to suppress signs of one's intentions, or to fail to provide information useful to others." (Menzel ed. (Hewes) 1973: 141, Precultural Primate Behavior)

"In the course of our earliest experiments, we observed many instances in which the leaders tried to 'recruit' a following by means of glances, whimpering, arm signals, tapping a companion on the shoulder, presenting the back to solicit walking in tandem (with an arm around the waist), etc. The behaviors were both dramatic and convincing evidence to a new observer that the chimpanzees were indeed 'trying to communicate' and possessed a rich repertoire of potential ethological signals for doing so. The stark fact, however, is that two years later in the last months of research, by which time the chimpanzees were adolescent and showing their best performance in getting to the best available objects, we almost never so these impressive displays. Indeed, even in the early tests it was Bandit, the most infantile and variable leader, who did the best and most frequent displays; and he showed them only on a fraction of his successful trials. In other words, the signals and displays that would enter into the typical observational account of communication were not sufficient to explain the experimental record of group performance. Moreover, the followers, to whom these displays were directed, seldom responded to them by gettng up and following the leader. they waited until the leader oriented 'out there' and set off 'independently'. I would guess that young and inexperienced chimpanzees have a richer 'volcabulary' of humanoid-like signals than older and more experienced ones and that they are reinforced (perhaps by their companions' obtuseness) into abandoning them for something different. the success of Garner's experiment is probably due to the fact that only human beings value manual gestures and vocalizations for their own sake and can accordingly reinforce them 'appropriately'. (Menzel ed. (Menzell) 1973: 215, Precultural Primate Behavior) [the 'demonstations' referred to here is that attempts to communicate location of food]

"Only humans use complex tolls and verbal and gestural communication. All three demand sequential, time-dependent, syntactic mechanisms for flexibly generting new sequences by rule. We can accordingly link together tool use, gesture, verbal speech, he need for unilateral innervation of the unpaired articulatory organs, the need for a single executive hemisphere, the need for employment of syntactically governed rules for generating new time-dependent sequences, and the need for communication in a changing world. Language is more than just communication; it is also a cognitive and conceptual tool for categorizing the world." (Bradshaw & Nettleton 1983: 181, Human Cerebral Asymmetry)


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