Re: Durkheim redux

From: Bill Spight (
Date: Thu 21 Apr 2005 - 21:14:28 GMT

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    Dear Ilfryn,

    Syntax at the phonemic, morphemic, and lexemic levels is largely about temporal order. As with the evolution of anything, there is no particular reason to assume that it arrived full blown. (I do think that the evolution of human language was rapid, however.)

    Vocalization is necessary for the evolution of human language (as we know it), but not for syntax. As far as information is concerned, most information is conveyed by the consonants, as writing systems which are mostly consonants indicate. A language with rudimentary vocalization but with clicks and smacks could convey a great deal of information. (Modern click languages have on average about *twice* as many phonemes as the average for other languages.)

    Other primates communicate with lip smacks, hoots, grunts, howls, drumming and slapping their own bodies. I do not know if temporal order makes a difference, but it could. (Temporal order seems to be a problem for primates who have learned to sign, however.)

    BTW, as far as pitch is concerned, primitive melodies can largely be classified into two types: monotonic chanting and keening, with the pitch starting high and dropping. Note that hoots and grunts could be used for monotonic melody, while howling could be used for keening.

    Not quite random thoughts. :-)



    > Subset of verbalisation surely. As far as I know we are the only
    > primates with the configuration of vacal chords for complex sound
    > making and a propensity for music and drumming (which is not to say
    > drumming lead to language rather than vice versa) but part of the
    > samer general proposition
    > Best
    > If
    > ________________________________
    >>> Dear Ilfryn,
    >>> Where does the selection pressure for innate grammars etc come in
    >>> if you do not have verbalisation ability.
    > Music. (Cf. Jackendoff.) Drumming.

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