Re: Silent memes

Date: Sun 06 Jul 2003 - 15:09:07 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "Re: Memetic trapping and wars."

    Thanks for sharing this reference Keith,

    Being new on this discussion and not having had the time to read a lot of previous discussions, I hope my post will not repeat some ideas that have been already discussed.

    Concerning silent memes, and learning without verbal expression, there was an excellent contribution made by Michael Corballis on the "building up of language". In his 2002 book(1), Corballis defends the idea that language may very well have started by sign language, and only later on moved to verbal expression.
     His theory is in opposition to that of most evolutionary psychologists
    (Apenzeller 1998 (2), Klein 2002(3), Mithen 1999(4), Tattersall 2001(5)) who tend to believe in a fundamental change in cognitive function of Homo Sapiens Sapiens circa 50 K years ago enabling the rather quick acquisition of language. Corbalis on the contrary argues for a progressive acquisition of language starting from the first Homo Sapiens Sapiens circa 150 to 200 K years ago.

    This last theory seems to me to be more in line with a memetic view of how languages evolved. Corbalis makes a short reference to memetics himself.

    Language may have evolved from very simple non verbal memes, followed by ever more complex ones, getting more and more freedom from the model being imitated(6), up to the point where verbal expression became a far more efficient means of memes transmision/replication, or at least of complementing gesture imitation.

    Comments welcommed.

    Paul Trehin

    (1) M. C. Corballis, "From Hand to Mouth, The Origins of Language", Princeton University Press, Princeton 2002
    (2) T. Appenzeller, "Evolution or Revolution?", Science 1998 282: 1451.
    (3)R.G. Klein, B. Edgar,"The Dawn of Human Culture", John Wiley & Sons, inc, NY 2002
    (4) S. Mithen, "The Prehistory of the Mind: The Cognitive Origins of Art, Religion and Science", Thames & Hudson; ISBN: 0500281009, 1999
    (5) I. Tattersall, "How we came to be human", Scientific American, December 2001, Volume 285, Number 6 (pp 42-49)
    (6) I wrote some notes about memes classification according to these two criteria : complexity of the model, distance from the model :

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