How old is language

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wolram

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And did it have a sigle origin ? the few pages i have read on this topic do
not agree, some say language originated 10,000 yrs ago, others suggest
100,000.
Some say the origins came from verbalising sign laguage," i suppose it is hard
to sign in the dark", how would one say, not tonight dear ? so it would have
been better to make some noise for yes or no at least.
Did we imitate animal sounds, may be for hunting at first, but later it becomes a way to cominicate, hubby comes home after a days hunting and utters Moo, Moo, which means beef for dinner ?
Or did language start as a way of warning stranger off, some thing like
gerr owww became gerowt?
 

arildno

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Since, for example, chimpanzees (at least bonobos) use distinct warning calls for different predators, the RUDIMENTS of language should be considered to pre-date the ascent of modern man.
 

loseyourname

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Given the ability of gorillas to use sign language, we know that the mental capability to comprehend and use language pre-existed the emergence of humanity (a capability well beyond differential signals for predators, which even prairie dogs can do). I would imagine that the ability to use a vocal language emerged at the same time as the peculiar jaw structure that humans have that allows us to make the complex vocalizations that we can make.
 

wolram

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loseyourname said:
Given the ability of gorillas to use sign language, we know that the mental capability to comprehend and use language pre-existed the emergence of humanity (a capability well beyond differential signals for predators, which even prairie dogs can do). I would imagine that the ability to use a vocal language emerged at the same time as the peculiar jaw structure that humans have that allows us to make the complex vocalizations that we can make.
Given we now have the mechanical means to make complex sounds, how did
man choose which sound should have which meaninig ? and how did the,"new
vibe" spread, so as every one new what it meant ?
 

wolram

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arildno said:
Since, for example, chimpanzees (at least bonobos) use distinct warning calls for different predators, the RUDIMENTS of language should be considered to pre-date the ascent of modern man.
Do you think a mixture of signs and sounds were the rudiments ? from what
i know population were small and hunter gatherer, so how is that each family
did not have an independant language ? it must have taken ages for say the
population of england to agree on what sound meant what.
 

loseyourname

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wolram said:
Given we now have the mechanical means to make complex sounds, how did man choose which sound should have which meaninig ? and how did the,"new vibe" spread, so as every one new what it meant ?
Beats me. You're asking a historical question about pre-history. I can guess, but the guess won't be terribly educated, as I'm not a linguist. Actually, you might want to take a look at the private languages that develop between twins, or similar phenomena. I would imagine that the way in which language first developed is not that far removed.
 

wolram

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loseyourname said:
Beats me. You're asking a historical question about pre-history. I can guess, but the guess won't be terribly educated, as I'm not a linguist. Actually, you might want to take a look at the private languages that develop between twins, or similar phenomena. I would imagine that the way in which language first developed is not that far removed.
I read some thing about this ages ago, they make up a," perfectly normal",
language between them selves, but i think laguage all ready exists and they
some how modify it in a unique way.
can you imagine going to a bar and pointing to the beer you want, but the
barkeep is so alien and pointing means some thing totaly different, without
being able to grab it how could you convey what you want ?
 
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wolram said:
Given we now have the mechanical means to make complex sounds, how did
man choose which sound should have which meaninig ? and how did the,"new
vibe" spread, so as every one new what it meant ?
I think this would happen the same way anything else is decided in a community. First off, some members are always going to be more word oriented than others and will automaticaly name any new thing or concept by "feel" as it were. Other, less creative types, will simply adopt the term since it's been presented and is handy. In other cases, there will be disputes over two or more terms. All the terms may survive the dispute and be used alternatively, or some dictatorial person may be able to promote one and squelch the others.
 

wolram

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If you took just for example, england and started with a population capable
of speach but with as yet no language, how long do you think it would be
before Fred from the east coast could converse with Barney, from the west
coast ?
 

wolram

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Amoung others this paper explains an experiment where robots attempt to
form a common sound, robot A emits a signal, robot B attempts to replicate
the signal, if after several attempts robot B replicates the signal, " to within
acceptable limits", robot A marks up a hit, if however robot B fails to replicate
the signal robot A starts again with a new sigal.

http://arti.vub.ac.be/steels/coe.pdf [Broken]

The paper is highly cited, and explains other language experiments.
 
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Evo

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wolram said:
Amoung others this paper explains an experiment where robots attempt to
form a common sound, robot A emits a signal, robot B attempts to replicate
the signal, if after several attempts robot B replicates the signal, " to within
acceptable limits", robot A marks up a hit, if however robot B fails to replicate
the signal robot A starts again with a new sigal.

http://arti.vub.ac.be/steels/coe.pdf [Broken]

The paper is highly cited, and explains other language experiments.
I can't read it right now, but do they take it past replicating a sound?

The robots can't point and gesture to enable the other to connect the sound with an object or movement, etc... Also facial expressions, is the sound loud or soft, angry or happy. All of these things would have played a part in our ancestor's development of a common language.
 
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wolram said:
If you took just for example, england and started with a population capable
of speach but with as yet no language...
I doubt if there was ever a time people were capable of speech without having it. Find the first homo sapiens sapiens and you will have found the origin of language as we know it.
 

wolram

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Evo said:
I can't read it right now, but do they take it past replicating a sound?

The robots can't point and gesture to enable the other to connect the sound with an object or movement, etc... Also facial expressions, is the sound loud or soft, angry or happy. All of these things would have played a part in our ancestor's development of a common language.
They had no way of expression, the experiment was purly to find out if the
robots could, "learn", sounds and repeat them.
I will post a few clips for you busy people :smile:
 

wolram

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gestures and formant shapes evolves through cultural transmission and adaptation.
Distinctive features then become emergent properties seen in retrospect by
a descriptive linguist. The adaptation is driven by two types of selectionist criteria:
perceptual constraints such as the limitations of the human ear, maximisation
of distinctiveness and symmetrical balance, and articulatory constraints such as
expressability, repeatability and energy minimisation. Several researchers have
shown theoretically that these criteria are sufficient to constrain the kind of sound
systems that occur in human languages [40], [7], [6], [17], et.al.
However these demonstrations do not yet show whether sound systems can be
originated and acquired by local interaction between agents. This is where agent based
modeling and simulation comes in. A simulation experiment by de Boer and
Steels [15] has successfully demonstrated the self-organisation of a sound system
through adaptive imitation games. The experiment has the following structure:
1. Agent population: There is a population of agents and an in- and outflux of
agents which is independent of their linguistic performance.
2. Innate structure: There is no innate phonetic knowledge. The agents have
a synthetic articulator modeled after the human vocal tract and a perceptual
apparatus that decomposes real-time signals into formants.
3. Linguistic interaction: One agent (the initiator) produces a sound or sound
sequence from its repertoire, which is initially empty. The other agent (the
replicator) attempts to imitate the sound, which implies that he is able to
recognise the sounds produced by the initiator and instantiate a gestural
score that corresponds to the sounds. The initiator in turns interprets the
sound produced by the imitator and gives a positive feedback when the imitation is deemed to be close enough.
 

wolram

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zoobyshoe said:
I doubt if there was ever a time people were capable of speech without having it. Find the first homo sapiens sapiens and you will have found the origin of language as we know it.
Are you suggesting a sort of," inbuilt", language, sort of pre programed to
become effective when man had evolved to a certain stage?
researchers have as yet not found speech in, "genetics", AFAIK
 
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wolram said:
Are you suggesting a sort of," inbuilt", language, sort of pre programed to
become effective when man had evolved to a certain stage?
researchers have as yet not found speech in, "genetics", AFAIK
Are you saying that speech is "ungenetic"? Unnsupported by our genes? How did we manage that, then?
 

selfAdjoint

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Chomsky's generative grammar, presumably evolved in our brains, suggests how we might have it both ways, as we must (all normal human toddlers learn language, but the language each learns is a social construct).
 
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wolram said:
Are you suggesting a sort of," inbuilt", language, sort of pre programed to
become effective when man had evolved to a certain stage?
researchers have as yet not found speech in, "genetics", AFAIK
There is a section of the brain that is dedicated to language learning. We've obviously evolved to accomodate language, social construction or natural phenomena.
 

wolram

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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=8906789&dopt=Citation
VA Northern California Health Care System, Martinez, California 94553, USA. dronkers@garnet.berkeley.edu

Human speech requires complex planning and coordination of mouth and tongue movements. Certain types of brain injury can lead to a condition known as apraxia of speech, in which patients are impaired in their ability to coordinate speech movements but their ability to perceive speech sounds, including their own errors, is unaffected. The brain regions involved in coordinating speech, however, remain largely unknown. In this study, brain lesions of 25 stroke patients with a disorder in the motor planning of articulatory movements were compared with lesions of 19 patients without such deficits. A robust double dissociation was found between these two groups. All patients with articulatory planning deficits had lesions that included a discrete region of the left precentral gyrus of the insula, a cortical area beneath the frontal and temporal lobes. This area was completely spared in all patients without these articulation deficits. Thus this area seems to be specialized for the motor planning of speech.

I have read that people with brain damage that effects their speech, can learn to use other
parts of the brain
 
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wolram

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zoobyshoe said:
Are you saying that speech is "ungenetic"? Unnsupported by our genes? How did we manage that, then?
Not me Zooby, the people who seem to be the experts, i was amazed to find
out that our abillity to speek is so little understood.
 

wolram

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Primate use of language.

The subjects, Nim, Loulis, Washoe and Kanzi, all demonstrate the use of
language, don't give Nim a loaded syringe though.
 
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wolram said:
Not me Zooby, the people who seem to be the experts...
I don't think so. Obviously all the parts of our brain that contribute to speech are there because there are genes for them. There's no one "speech" or "language" gene because it's such a complex process and involves so many different things. To say they haven't found a "language" gene is like saying they haven't found a "walking" gene, or a "piano-playing" gene or a "garden-cultivation" gene. All these things are complex processes. Whatever genetic underpinnings they have are spread out over many parts of the brain.

Communication is extremely important for survival. All the members of a band of primitives were dependent on each other and you can't engage in group endeavors without each person understanding what their role is. Hunting the wooly mammoth, or whatever animal, took observation, planning, and communication among the hunters. Early man wasn't sitting around while the ability to speak developed unnoticed somehow untill someone discovered it one day. They were constantly at work trying to communicate with each other in any way they could. They had to be. Their survival depended on it.

Language is the ability to symbolize: to use one thing to refer to another. In the case of speech, this is sound. As Arildno and Loseyourname pointed out early in this thread, apes already have this ability, and it's very doubtful homonids didn't. I am sure that as soon as cro-magnon man existed as such the use of verbal symbology was very much in place and probably every bit as sophisticated as any current language in use among, say, Amazonian Indian tribes.
 

wolram

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I am inclined to agree with you Zooby, what worries me is, if humans had the
language skills for milenia before the first known written words, what were they
waiting for ?
I think the oldest written word is sanskrit some 4000yrs old ?
 
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wolram said:
I am inclined to agree with you Zooby, what worries me is, if humans had the
language skills for milenia before the first known written words, what were they
waiting for ?
The notion of symbolizing symbols is quite a bit more complex, and we know from the myriad primitive peoples who never developed a written language that the idea of breaking words into component sounds that might be symbolized by an alphabet is really counterintuitive. I suspect this was only done, when it was done, by remarkable, unusual individuals who then managed to teach others to do it. It's not something everyone, or even most people, would think of.

On the other hand "picture writing" is quite a bit more accessible, more easily developed, and forms of this were probably springing up all over the place. This is the basis of hieroglyphs and Chinese written language. Sophisticated ideas can be communicated this way, but it's not the elegant and simple phonetic writing we enjoy.
 

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