Human evolution; our complex speech mechanism (Introduction)

by dhw, Thursday, May 09, 2019, 12:10 (16 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: Before humans developed spoken language there were massive anatomic changes compared to the earliest homos: a dropped pharynx. a protective epiglottis, an arched pallet, special tongue and lip muscles and their brain controls, along with specialized breath controls. All of this appeared before speech. […]

dhw: As usual you try to make it sound like a fact that all the changes took place BEFORE the actions were possible, whereas I keep proposing that the changes took place BECAUSE the actions were required.

DAVID: If humans arrived 300,000+ years ago with the anatomic changes for speech now in place well before language developed (per current experts) your statement is entirely false. Did earlier homos and early sapiens speak? Of course they did, but the development of complex language syntax, forming 30 specific different sounds (phonemes) all required the anatomic changes and the larger brain to allow the appearance.

The development of syntax has nothing to do with anatomy and phonemes, and there is no expert on earth who can verify that all the anatomic changes took place before early homos and early sapiens began the process of trying to form new sounds.

dhw: And I would suggest that the new way of living REQUIRED better means of communication, and that the cell communities responded to that need as our ancestors invented new sounds […]

DAVID: I view your response a denial of the fossil history as we know it. Reading 'The Ape that Spoke', John Mc Crone, 1991, will explain the points I am making.
From Tuesday, May 07, 2019, 22:44:
"'The emergence of language occurred earlier than we thought, and certainly earlier than we suggested.....Riny Huybregts ... concludes that the language faculty emerged with Homo sapiens, or shortly thereafter, but externalization in one form or another must have been a later development, and quite possibly involved little or no evolutionary change."

How early is irrelevant to your theory. The question is whether the anatomy changed before the different sounds were available, or the anatomy changed because a wider variety became necessary, and the need for change engendered the process of change (as with pre-whale legs turning into flippers). What does “externalization” mean? All forms of language are externalizations – otherwise there would be no communication!

DAVID: Riny Huybregts is saying what I have said from McCrone. Anatomy first
Furthermore our sapiens anatomy allow for this language discrimination:
"Phoneme Segmentation
What are phoneme segmentation skills?
Phoneme segmentation is the ability to break words down into individual sounds.
For example, the learner breaks the word run into its component sounds – r, u, and n."

Obviously! What does that have to do with my proposal that the attempt to create different sounds would have resulted in anatomical change, as opposed to anatomical change preceding the ability to make sounds. However, this is all too rigid. I am not saying that every attempted sound meant/means anatomical change. This is self-evident from the fact that every language stems from the now established anatomy: many sounds made in English are very different from those made in other languages, and vice versa. The question (as with whale flippers) is what CAUSED the anatomical changes in the first place. I propose cell communities responding to the effort to create new sounds, you propose your God’s 3.8-billion-year-old computer programme for epiglottis change – along with every other evolutionary innovation – or your God personally performing operations on a group of individual epiglottises. I find that pretty far-fetched.


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