V-words, f-words and the advent of softer foods (cooking)

jim mcnamara

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Due to softer foods (newly developed cooking), tooth wear was reduced and labio-dental sounds became easier to produce. Those sounds are the f sound and the v sound - as evidenced for English readers. Obviously other Indo-European languages could have different letters/glyphs for these sounds. But regardless everyone gets the meaning of the real title of the NPR article:

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2019/03/14/703100483/did-cooking-really-give-us-the-f-word
The first graphic shows differences for humans with/without extensive tooth wear.

The whole concept is interesting, to say the least. Validity of the study? Do not know.

However. Per one critic, some Native North American languages have F sounds without "cooking". Which I find not very credible- the "no cooking" part. I was on a dig near Ganado Lake in AZ. We found evidence of cooking - fires and burnt food dating about 12000 years BCE. AFAIK the earliest cooking fires in Africa date to circa 160000 BCE. Descendants of those earlier campers would have been part of the modern human egress from Africa, and later, during the Pleistocene, across the land bridge into North America.

Confusing.
 
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Confusing.
Without actual experience in this field what I would think worth bringing up is the age distribution of tooth wear (young people has tendency having less wear regardless of cooking while older tends to lose many regardless of cooking, and it changed only with modern dentistry appearing) and the old stone mills widely known as main source of tooth wear through the ages.
The idea feels interesting, but I just can't feel that solid background behind it yet...
 
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Klystron

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Due to softer foods (newly developed cooking), tooth wear was reduced and labio-dental sounds became easier to produce. Those sounds are the f sound and the v sound - as evidenced for English readers. Obviously other Indo-European languages could have different letters/glyphs for these sounds. But regardless everyone gets the meaning of the real title of the NPR article:

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2019/03/14/703100483/did-cooking-really-give-us-the-f-word
The first graphic shows differences for humans with/without extensive tooth wear.

The whole concept is interesting, to say the least. Validity of the study? Do not know.

However. Per one critic, some Native North American languages have F sounds without "cooking". Which I find not very credible- the "no cooking" part. I was on a dig near Ganado Lake in AZ. We found evidence of cooking - fires and burnt food dating about 12000 years BCE. AFAIK the earliest cooking fires in Africa date to circa 160000 BCE. Descendants of those earlier campers would have been part of the modern human egress from Africa, and later, during the Pleistocene, across the land bridge into North America.

Confusing.
Confusing, yes; but thought provoking. I do love linguists, "'salt' of the earth" to extend the NPR metaphor. While easy to dismiss language development studies from lack of aural evidence -- I was taught that we are unsure how Latin sounded 2k years ago -- comparing fricatives to mandibles at least gives research hard data to anchor comparative linguistic analysis.

The linked article emphasizes fermentation -- gruel and yogurts (and bread ?) -- before cooking as helping to reduce dental wear. While briefly mentioned, the connection with signing languages and swearing (for want of a better term) seems as important as average dentition though not preserved in the fossil record. Food for thought.
 

jim mcnamara

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@Rive - they are talking about actual wear on the tooth enamel. Not tooth loss. Incisors become truncated.

The PHS dentists at Sage Memorial Hospital in Ganado AZ could tell if an adult Navajo came from the drier very sandy western part of the reservation or from the less sandy Eastern part. Based on tooth wear. Grit in food happens when sand gets blown into dinner. Very slightly gritty frybread tastes just fine, I think.

The Navajo Reservation is larger than some US states and EU countries, ~7100km2. There are soil and climate differences in different areas.
 

jim mcnamara

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Thanks for the move, @DrClaude.
 

256bits

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actual wear on the tooth enamel
Which tooth?
sorry/ It was just begging to be said.:oops:

Continuing on,
Don't people, young ones more so I suspect, just want to try to do new and odd things, such as sticking pencils up their nose, showing off how they can roll their eyelids and look like a mutant, or competitions of tongue rolling. I could just as well suspect that some ingenious groups got together to show off their 'pfpfpff" and ' vvrvvvrr ph' sounds they can produce, and it continued as a means by which words could be made to describe an object. The irrationality of the human mind does not necessarily need an impetus to get it going off on tangents, with others following along ape-ing the behavior. The 'f' and 'v' sound could just as well have been invented and progressed from there rather than as a result of physical change. Some things catch on just because they seem cool to do.

If the linguistics can explain the origins of whistling and yodeling through physical changes in the mouth rather than by imitation, than there might be more credence to the proposal, imo.

Edit; A strong statement, not necessarily what I wish to imply.
 

BWV

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Does this hold for languages of arctic people’s like the Inuit who predominantly ate raw meat?

Just googling seems to support this, do not see f or v in phonetic spellings of Inuit or Eskimo words
 

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