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  #1  
Old 09-18-2011, 08:47 AM
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Origins of human language

I woke up early this morning and was thinking about the widespread appeal of speaking in tongues in our world and why it began and remained for a long time in the working classes. This in turn got me thinking about the general origins of human language and the transition from a non-speaking species to a speaking species. It dawned on me that human language must have arisen from a mutated set of identical twins because language is inherently social and conveys no evolutionary benefit to a solitary speaker. Identical twins have been known to invent languages between them. I've read virtually nothing on the evolutionary origins of spoken language. Has anyone here? Does anyone know if this hypothesis has been examined?

Do other primate species have twins?

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  #2  
Old 09-18-2011, 10:10 AM
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I am not sure how your twin theory works but I have a couple of comments:

1. Other species do communicate verbally and with body language. I suspect the key to humans is our freakishly large brain. The need to communicate in pack animals in order to capture the prey animal would lead to spoken language if the ability to make different sounds is there and the brain to translate it.

Clearly certain birds can mimic human words but lack the brain to use them the way we do.

2. Given how twins are formed I would say it is inevitable that other species have them too.

Intersting subject!
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Old 09-18-2011, 11:16 AM
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If I recall correctly there are some New World Monkeys that commonly have twins, also some Lemurs. Other than that, twins do occur among apes but with less frequency than among humans.
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Old 09-18-2011, 11:30 AM
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I jumped on the twin theory because in order for language to provide an advantage, two people have to be able to use it since words and their meaning are a shared phenomena. One speaking hominid wouldn't have the same advantage as in earlier times, one animal did by mutating an opposable thumb or color vision. Not only would speaking twins have an advantage, but the mutation would spread more quickly as a result of having two original versions.
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Old 09-18-2011, 11:52 AM
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I jumped on the twin theory because in order for language to provide an advantage, two people have to be able to use it since words and their meaning are a shared phenomena. One speaking hominid wouldn't have the same advantage as in earlier times, one animal did by mutating an opposable thumb or color vision. Not only would speaking twins have an advantage, but the mutation would spread more quickly as a result of having two original versions.
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  #6  
Old 09-18-2011, 12:24 PM
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I jumped on the twin theory because in order for language to provide an advantage, two people have to be able to use it since words and their meaning are a shared phenomena. One speaking hominid wouldn't have the same advantage as in earlier times, one animal did by mutating an opposable thumb or color vision. Not only would speaking twins have an advantage, but the mutation would spread more quickly as a result of having two original versions.
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Old 09-18-2011, 12:56 PM
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Is that the reason for your double post?
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Old 09-18-2011, 12:58 PM
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I studied linguistics in college, and one of the few things I manage to remember is that the main purpose of human language is to communicate our culture.

The teacher explained to us that almost anything can be relayed via non verbal communication; 2/3 of human communication is non-verbal anyway.
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Old 09-18-2011, 01:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuan View Post
Is that the reason for your double post?
Maybe they were triplets?
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Old 09-18-2011, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by suginami View Post
I studied linguistics in college, and one of the few things I manage to remember is that the main purpose of human language is to communicate our culture.

The teacher explained to us that almost anything can be relayed via non verbal communication; 2/3 of human communication is non-verbal anyway.
Is that a verbal species communicating non-verbally or a non-verbal species communicating non-verbally? Are the limits different and what are they? Looks like Neanderthals probably had spoken language.
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  #11  
Old 09-18-2011, 01:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kerry View Post
Is that a verbal species communicating non-verbally or a non-verbal species communicating non-verbally? Are the limits different and what are they? Looks like Neanderthals probably had spoken language.
I'm a little confused on the question, but 2/3 of human communication is non-verbal, and despite our skepticism about the main purpose of human communication in relaying culture, she was able to point out how much can be communicated without words.
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  #12  
Old 09-18-2011, 01:48 PM
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There 's a rich scientific literature on the origin and evolution of communication.

Not my field.

There was an article in Science within the past year.
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Old 09-18-2011, 02:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by suginami View Post
I'm a little confused on the question, but 2/3 of human communication is non-verbal, and despite our skepticism about the main purpose of human communication in relaying culture, she was able to point out how much can be communicated without words.
I was trying to ask if non-verbal communication was easier for verbal animals.
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  #14  
Old 09-18-2011, 02:21 PM
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My understanding of our current speech abilities is that they need to be exercised beginning early in life and if they aren't they don't develop very much. If that component of our speech ability goes back to the first time a Homo started speaking, then a solitary mutant would not develop his or her speech ability. You'd need two mutants of roughly the same age to get speech going.
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  #15  
Old 09-18-2011, 03:39 PM
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Ignoring the literature and paying attention only to the argument, I believe you are correct if we assume that spoken language is atomic -- it is either a full compliment of syntax and vocabulary, etc or it is not. Because if spoken language is atomic then it absolutely requires two people to communicate and stimulate the brain before that part of the brain responsible for speech recognition is fully developed in the maturation process.

Is there any evidence to suggest that speech is, or is not atomic?

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