How old is language

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wolram

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I can not agree entirely with you Zooby, the time span is just so vast, if humans
had language milenia ago it is counter intuitive for me that the written word only
emerged in the last four thound or so, i would expect to see some high degree
of sophisticated cave drawings at least.
 
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wolram said:
I can not agree entirely with you Zooby, the time span is just so vast, if humans
had language milenia ago it is counter intuitive for me that the written word only
emerged in the last four thound or so, i would expect to see some high degree
of sophisticated cave drawings at least.
So you believe human language is no more than 4000 years old?
 

wolram

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zoobyshoe said:
So you believe human language is no more than 4000 years old?
No Zooby i think human language is much older, but the written word is only traceable to 4000yrs ago, i think if humans had language milenia ago the
written word or some sophisticated form of depicting instructions or some such
should be apparant but that is not so, that is my only concern.
I can not believe our ancestors could not advance from crude paintings over
such a vast time span, unless some outside influence repeatedly halted their
progress.
 

Evo

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Think of how many cultures found that had verbal language but no written language. Think about tribes in the Amazon, in Africa, American Indians, etc... Written lanuguage is not something that happens quickly after verbal language, or at all.
 

wolram

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Evo said:
Think of how many cultures found that had verbal language but no written language. Think about tribes in the Amazon, in Africa, American Indians, etc... Written lanuguage is not something that happens quickly after verbal language, or at all.
Over a few hundred or even a few thousand years i agree, but not tens of thousands, the written word or some symbology would be an invaluable tool,
a way of recording the best hunting sites ,what plants not to eat, where water
could be found etc, etc, and we are not talking about local peoples, i can not
think that over milenia some one some where did not think of leaving messages.
 

Evo

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wolram said:
Over a few hundred or even a few thousand years i agree, but not tens of thousands, the written word or some symbology would be an invaluable tool,
a way of recording the best hunting sites ,what plants not to eat, where water
could be found etc, etc, and we are not talking about local peoples, i can not
think that over milenia some one some where did not think of leaving messages.
But we have living proof that these people didn't have written languages. Everything was passed down through oral traditions.
 
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Evo said:
But we have living proof that these people didn't have written languages. Everything was passed down through oral traditions.
Absolutely true. The fact that there are today tribes in the amazon with no written language proves there is nothing particularly inevitable about it.
Written language arises in very settled, well established, large civilizations that also have such things as engineering and advanced agriculture. So long as a peoples are hunter-gatherers they don't seem to get beyond cave paintings and petroglyphs. That, as we know from the present day Amazonian Indians, can go on indefinitely.
 

wolram

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zoobyshoe said:
Absolutely true. The fact that there are today tribes in the amazon with no written language proves there is nothing particularly inevitable about it.
Written language arises in very settled, well established, large civilizations that also have such things as engineering and advanced agriculture. So long as a peoples are hunter-gatherers they don't seem to get beyond cave paintings and petroglyphs. That, as we know from the present day Amazonian Indians, can go on indefinitely.
The very fact that language is considered easily passed through sparsley populated peoples and some form of agreement is reached as to what a
word means is an attestment to human learning ability, do you think that
learning is one track, amazonian indiands are a second in human evolution
not a millenia.
So language would have to come from well established large civilisations.
is that what you mean or are you putting some handicap on the power
of human evolution and ability?
 

wolram

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Evo said:
But we have living proof that these people didn't have written languages. Everything was passed down through oral traditions.
If what you say is true then you are using some sort of divine intervention, a
spark that informs the peoples on earth that, let there be writing, we need it now, but never before, if the peoples that inhabited the earth could comunicate
verbaly for thousands of years, why the heck does it become so important in
later years to be able to record what has been said?
 
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wolram said:
amazonian indiands are a second in human evolution not a millenia.
Incorrect. Amazonian tribes represent the same 40,000 years of human history that we do.
So language would have to come from well established large civilisations.
is that what you mean or are you putting some handicap on the power
of human evolution and ability?
I'm saying this is where written language always develops. Stone and clay tablets, scrolls, and delicate parchments don't travel well. Writing develops among people who stay put, and who have the engineering abilities to construct permanent buldings, to quarry stone and make kilns to fire clay, and to make parchments, papers, and inks.
 

wolram

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zoobyshoe said:
Incorrect. Amazonian tribes represent the same 40,000 years of human history that we do.
I'm saying this is where written language always develops. Stone and clay tablets, scrolls, and delicate parchments don't travel well. Writing develops among people who stay put, and who have the engineering abilities to construct permanent buldings, to quarry stone and make kilns to fire clay, and to make parchments, papers, and inks.
Amazonian indians represent a branch of human evolution, a people that lived
in the main in isolation.
I would think that a hunter gatherer life style would be a huge reason to develop writting, people on the move would leave messages, or would want to record where they found water or caves.
Along with speech comes learning, i think it would be incredible that a people
that had speech for 10, 20, 30, "1000 years" would be blind to the fact that
a picture is worth a thousand words.
 

wolram

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http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2002-03/uoca-eie032102.php

The Kostenki sites, which date beyond 40,000 years ago, may have hosted Neanderthals as well as modern humans, he said. “It looks like there were two separate industries at work here. One culture was advanced in terms of bone and ivory tool-making and decorative figurine art, while the other produced little more than crude stone tools.”

A 40,000yr old spring board for writting ?
 
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wolram

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http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1753326.stm

70,000yr old abstract art.

Dr Christopher Henshilwood, from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, says: "They may have been constructed with symbolic intent, the meaning of which is now unknown.

UNYSB
Dr Christopher Henshilwood believes the items are significant
"The engraving itself is quite a complex geometric pattern. There is a system to the patterns."

"We don't know what they mean, but they are symbols that I think could have been interpreted by those people as having meaning that would have been understood by others."
 

wolram

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http://donsmaps.com/indextools.html

A 30.000yr old musical instrument, evidence for stone age use of maths.

Seems our ancestors were not as savage as depicted in some books, and
they had a good understanding of abstract art.
 
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wolram said:
Amazonian indians represent a branch of human evolution, a people that lived
in the main in isolation.
Before the European occupation of the Americas no Native Americans had a written language except the Aztecs and Mayas (I think). I believe the same is true of all African peoples except the Egyptians. Australian Aborigines: no written language.
All these people come from the same ancestor, and it proves that the development of written language is not an inevitable concommitant of spoken language. Written language seems only to have arisen from a certain kind of society.
I would think that a hunter gatherer life style would be a huge reason to develop writting, people on the move would leave messages, or would want to record where they found water or caves.
Along with speech comes learning, i think it would be incredible that a people
that had speech for 10, 20, 30, "1000 years" would be blind to the fact that a picture is worth a thousand words.
You are thinking like someone who has had written language handed to them, which is what you are. Just because you can learn such a concept relatively easily doesn't mean you could have developed it yourself. As I said before it's not something anyone could have though of, in all cases where it developed, I'm sure it was the work of remarkable, unusual individuals, and it caught on because it serves a purpose in a particular kind of society.
Hunter-gatherers, who generally move their whole band at least twice twice a year to follow game and take advantage of what different areas have to offer in different seasons, are concerned with the portability of their necessities. Other bands are their competition for resources. They aren't about to leave them messages about where they found game or water or shelter.
It is an unusual, counterintuitive step from spoken language, which anyone can develop, to written language, which seems to require an unusual, especially symbol-oriented mind. Spoken language predated written language by millenia, and it is never inevitable that written language is developed at all.
 

arildno

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As I see it, the main cause behind the development of a written language is the establishment of relatively stable power structures that have a sufficiently wide sway.

A case in point is the so-called redistribution economies that prevailed in Mycenean times (and also, in Pharaonic Egypt):

Basically, you had the big guy in the middle of the region who had underlings spread through the region. On regular times, people travelled to the big guy's palace with their own produce, and was a given a proportionate amount of other goods stored in the big guy's house.
This was actually a rather rational form of division of labour; the inhabitants could get more varied goods out of this organization than if they had kept to a strictly local barter economy on the village level.

But this type of societal structure requires that the palace administration has efficient techniques to store goods, and not the least, have some record of what goods they have, and where they once had placed them..

Thus, a written language will be very advantageous for the palace officials to develop for their own and their community's benefit.
 

wolram

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If you do not mind Zooby i will leave this open, i have some personal ideas that
peaks in human learning may have been lost in the mists of time, there are clues
but the interpritation of them is vague. empires have come and gone in a few
hundred years, who knows for sure that our ancestors did not have the same
but more catastrophic problems.
 
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arildno said:
Basically, you had the big guy in the middle of the region who had underlings spread through the region. On regular times, people travelled to the big guy's palace with their own produce, and was a given a proportionate amount of other goods stored in the big guy's house.
Exactly, Arildno. If I'm not mistaken most cuneiform tablets are "bills of goods". Written language may well, in all cases, have arisen as a flourish to the pedestrian usage of "keeping talley".
 

arildno

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zoobyshoe said:
Exactly, Arildno. If I'm not mistaken most cuneiform tablets are "bills of goods". Written language may well, in all cases, have arisen as a flourish to the pedestrian usage of "keeping talley".
That's basically what I think...
I have at times, wondered why, say, the massive lore the druids were to learn was never written down as some sort of memnonic aid.
I think that the very fact that they remembered and knew so much personally was a key factor to their social position.
After all, who would you admire the most:
The guy who can answer straightaway on your question who your family's ancestors were and seems personally familiar with your great-grandfather's heroic actions, or the one who says "Uhm, well, yeah, I didn't bring that book with me, I'm sure your great-granddad is worthy of remembrance"

From this perspective, I would think that the idea of writing down your knowledge as a memory aid will just seem as if you are willing to let mediocre individuals become Druids.

But think of a storage clerk in a palace:
It wouldn't enhance his social position a lot if he rattled off at a social gathering how many barrels of wheat were stored in his employer's palace..:wink:
 

wolram

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arildno said:
As I see it, the main cause behind the development of a written language is the establishment of relatively stable power structures that have a sufficiently wide sway.
A case in point is the so-called redistribution economies that prevailed in Mycenean times (and also, in Pharaonic Egypt):
Basically, you had the big guy in the middle of the region who had underlings spread through the region. On regular times, people travelled to the big guy's palace with their own produce, and was a given a proportionate amount of other goods stored in the big guy's house.
This was actually a rather rational form of division of labour; the inhabitants could get more varied goods out of this organization than if they had kept to a strictly local barter economy on the village level.
But this type of societal structure requires that the palace administration has efficient techniques to store goods, and not the least, have some record of what goods they have, and where they once had placed them..
Thus, a written language will be very advantageous for the palace officials to develop for their own and their community's benefit.
None of this prohibits a lost culture, there was plenty to barter for 100,000yrs
ago, if you look at some of the links, you will note," centers of industry", were
in place about 40,000 yrs ago
 

arildno

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wolram said:
None of this prohibits a lost culture, there was plenty to barter for 100,000yrs
ago, if you look at some of the links, you will note," centers of industry", were
in place about 40,000 yrs ago
No, but I haven't read most of the previous posts in this thread..:blushing:
 

wolram

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arildno said:
No, but I haven't read most of the previous posts in this thread..:blushing:
That is forgiveable as most people do not have the time to weigh the evidence,
and search through endless web sites.:smile:
 
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wolram said:
None of this prohibits a lost culture, there was plenty to barter for 100,000yrs
ago, if you look at some of the links, you will note," centers of industry", were
in place about 40,000 yrs ago
"Industry" in this context refers to a style of toolmaking, not manufacture for trade.

This mention of "lost culture" makes me think you have a theory that written language could have been developed farther back than 4000 years ago, but the culture was lost. Is that what you're leading up to?
 

wolram

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Zooby, we have only just recovered from a historical decline in civilisation,
and around the wolrd there have been many. anywher people gather en mass
could be a starting point for human learning, trade, art, the evidence for art is
found in artifacts, "if the link abve is correct", 100,000yrs ago, music 30,000
there is also mention of a counting system, time is not kind to artifacts and
archeaology is not well funded or wide spread so apart form decay of these
things they are not even looked for. and sever climate changes could have
destroyed most of the evidence, my personal view is that over 100,000yrs
there is every chance for culture to peak and decline, many times.
 
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I don't have any objection to the notion that someone developed a writing system prior to the sanscrit one you mentioned but which we haven't unearthed, or which may have been so impermanent that the traces are gone forever. Old, unknown cities have turned up from time to time all over the place, and it is sometimes a matter of conjecture linking them to the written record.
Homo Sapiens Sapiens, that is us, only go back about 40,000 years at the very most, though. Before that it was all Neanderthals and other homonids, who have only left the crudest form of stone tools, examples of the Mousterian industry. Art, beads, bone flutes, ritual burial, sophisticated tool making, are all more recent than 40,000 years ago, and are from Cro-Magnon and more recent Sapiens Sapiens sites.
However all tribal people encountered by Europeans around the world had art, beads, bone flutes, ritual burial, and sophisticated tool making without also having written language. So, while it's possible that in some lost city written language was developed in the past, say, 30,000 years, but the evidence has perished, it isn't inevitable as you seem to think. That lost city might have existed, but it doesn't have to have existed to account for anything at all. We know of too many diverse peoples who have come from cro-magnon times to the present without developing written language to know that it is, really, an unusual thing to develop.
 

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