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Language and Culture Prof. R. Hickey SS 2006 The evolution of language. Melanie Lüth (Hauptstudium, TN) Ivo Tateo (Hauptstudium, TN) Brigitte Knocke Martina Kleinebreil (Grundstudium, TN/LN) Frauke Skrobaschewsky (Hauptstudium, TN/LN). Table of Contents. The Study of Language
Melanie Lüth (Hauptstudium, TN)Ivo Tateo (Hauptstudium, TN)Brigitte Knocke Martina Kleinebreil (Grundstudium, TN/LN)Frauke Skrobaschewsky (Hauptstudium, TN/LN)
→ only shows that parallel systems can emerge independently
→ evolutionary theory, archaeology, anatomy and physiology, ethology, psychology, anthropology
→ provided by linguistics
→ pidgins and creoles are valuable sources
hunters imitated the sounds of animals they wanted to track down
first languages were singable and more passionate – became simple and methodical
various possibilities existed and were used – in the long run certain features were more likely to be chosen
- do not have to be learned
- (Swiss army knife)
- have to be learned
- Auntie Maggie’s remedy
- innately guided behaviour
In 1859 Charles Darwin published the book “On the origin of species” in which he demonstrated that Humans are the result of a long evolution.
He explained the principle of Natural Selection with these words:
“Any variation, if profitable to an individual of any species
will tend to the preservation of that individual, and will be
generally inherited by its offspring. I have called this principle
by the term of Natural Selection ”.
Language is the result of a long process, creeping upwards in complexity over millennia, like a snail creeping up a wall. Language capacity increased very slowly.How did Language emerge?
Complexity of language
Key properties of Language
The Grooming Theory: grooming is for animals a factor of social interaction as language for humans.
Maybe language is a substitution for grooming, since:
- Humans are ‘naked apes’ with little hair for grooming
- Great groups of primates tend to abandon grooming
Key properties of language
The theory of mind
The ability to deceive may be an important prerequisite for language, which is not only confined to humans.
This process (we may also talk about ‘lying’) implicates that the individual is able to put himself into another person’s shoes and act to his own advantage.
Sign language is easier than speech
The idea that gestures are universal
Neurological connection between speech and movementsThe search for the missing link
How did language get started? Many support the gestural theory, which claims that sign language is the missing link between the primate communication and human language. These supporters emphasize four reasons:
ƀ Sound-producing ƀ Sound-receiving
ƀ Sound-planning ƀ Sound-interpreting
The human voice-box or larynx is more streamlined than that of other primates; it is also positioned lower than in other primates.
The particular position of the larynx, the complexity of the muscular tongue and the possibility to produce vowels via mouth, allow the human beings to produce three fairly extreme vowels:
[i] [a] [u]
Language appeared about 200,000 years ago and developed very fast between 100,000 and 75,000 years ago (language bonfire theory)
Language probably emerged to satisfy a need of interaction or to influence other individuals
Language probably developed from gesture. Sign language has been the intermediate between the two:
Sound-producing, sound-receiving, sound-planning,sound-interpreting mechanisms and the particular position of the larynx, among others, allow the human beings to produce sounds which are unique to our species.
The emergence of rules -
=> the grammar.
Simple rules have two requirements:
....assumes that a large number of single words accumulated. These were words of different types, some involving things, others actions. At a later stage these words were combined.
e.g. child: “mummy open” as a request for “Mummy please open this”
...assumes that words, mainly nouns, were already being combined, but that sometimes more than one interpretation was possible
e.g. the word ‘singsing’ in Tok Pisin (pidgin, Papua New Guinea)
(singsing = any festival which involves dancing and singing)
ð“mi singsing” means “I went to the song and dance festival” or “I sang and danced”
There are several possibilities as to how a firm word order might have happened in the evolution of languages
-- food was placed first: “grape eat, banana Nim eat, apple
--“more” at the beginning: “more eat, more tickle, more drink,..”
--his own name at the end
--repetition of words: “eat Nim eat, Nim eat Nim”
ðNim’s ordering resembles the process found when a language acquires new word-order rules:
mild stylistic preferences change into strong preferences which stabilize, become a habit and form a pattern which influences the formation of others.
However when his repeats and copying around were omitted, a clear word ordering preference appeared
=> he constructed many sentences according to a basic, but private, plan
Our human-mind set dictates how we see the world and create the language.
‘Ontological categories’, such as people, things, actions, events, provide a universal initial structure of the language of thought on which language is based.
The innate thought structure also covers the way in which words may be combined.
e.g. The cat sat on the mat. The dog lay under the table.
not: The mat lay under the cat. The table stood over the dog.
=> The location of ‘small onto large’ may be due to the human mind-set. Human thoughts run along certain routes,which are likely to affect the order of participants in a grammar.
It is more normal to say “Patsy was hit on the head by a ball” than “A ball hit Patsy on the head”
=> The ‘animate first preference’ is not due to any obvious linguistic factor, but the human mind-set plays an important role.
-out of ‘build-ups’: putting individual words together,
-out of ‘re-analyses’ of combined nouns.
The expansion of language –