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Ability To Use Language Is Older Than The Origin Of Homo sapiens

Origin of language has long been questioned by not only scientists, but at some point it sure has aroused curiosity in our minds, too.

Ability To Use Language Is Older Than The Origin Of Homo Sapiens

Origin of language has long been questioned by not only scientists, but at some point it sure has aroused curiosity in our minds, too. It has been one of the most controversial topic in scientific community but not anymore as Prof. Stephen Wroe of the University of New England with a team of international researchers have shown that Neanderthals, our closest relatives, were able to speak in languages not dissimilar to ours.

Many scientists have always thought that ability to use language was unique to humans and Neanderthals simply lacked the necessary cognitive capacity and vocal hardware for speech.

By using latest 3D x-ray imagining technology,  a 60,000 years old Neanderthal hyoid bone was studied. This bone discovered in Israel in 1989 became a new puzzle for scientists as its shape was different than our closest relatives, the chimps and the bonobo, but it could not be distinguished from human hyoid leading some to believe that neanderthals could speak. Others claimed that they could not, but at the time with no technology available to prove either of those claims, the matter remained disputed until now.

What scientists in this study did was that they analyzed the mechanical behavior of Neanderthal hyoid bone with micro x-ray imagining and built models of the detailed internal structure of the bone. It was then compared to the human hyoid models which showed that in terms of mechanical behavior neanderthal and human hyoid was incredibly similar with no differences at all, suggesting that they used this part of vocal tract the same way we do.

Now, this experiment might bring an ending to claims that only human posses linguistic skills. Also, it has proven that the origin of language is far more older than we thought. Further research will prove the exact mechanism by which neanderthal evolved to speak and how did the modern human inherited this ability.

[Image Credit: National Geographic]

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20 comments

  1. Neanderthals have been something of a fascination to me – their migration from opinions that they were
    basically brutes to the current findings/opinions that they quite probably engaged in artistic expression
    which suggest a multitude of other attributes to having a “spiritual” understanding and language.
    Something a of battle is being waged between linguists and anthropologists – anthropologists have a
    fixed opinion about when indigenous people “arrived” in this country/hemisphere and linguists are
    saying the time line is much older.
    Of the two I believe linguists have the greater insight.
    Always enjoy a visit to Sparkonit and come away with food for thought – well done.

  2. Just for the fun of bickering, Ghazal, some specialists classify Neanderthal as Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis. After all, we did interbreed with them?
    http://www.nature.com/news/modern-human-genomes-reveal-our-inner-neanderthal-1.14615
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v444/n7117/abs/nature05336.html
    The best approach in my opinion is to classify Homo Sapiens Idaltu and Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis as sub-species which explains the recent use of Homo Sapiens Sapiens to define our present form?
    As for speech as mentioned above by Murray, the Nature article above gives the genetic clue that if they did communicate, it was on level below ours since no gene of theirs impinged on our specific sequence for the purpose ( FOXP2 ) which means that their speech abilities were either very much below ours or much lesser and likely on a closed evolutionary path!

    Thanks for the good and steady work in any case and all the best to you and the rest of your “gang”, Tay.

  3. ” Further research will prove the exact mechanism by which neanderthal evolved to speak and how did the modern human inherited this ability.”

    The obvious hypothesis is not convergent evolution but that we both inherited an ability to speak from homo erectus.

    1. Actually, there has been some disagreement about it in scientific community, they neither knew if Neanderthals could speak nor they knew if they couldn’t.

  4. This is one instance, team, where referring to the linked article you provide has allowed me to understand better what you’re driving at. I was a little confused ….

    1. Yep, that’s the original source and it was put intentionally to help readers, in case they get confused interpreting. Glad it helped you, thanks. 🙂

  5. This is always a fascinating subject. I suspect their definition of language is narrowed to, as they say, something like what we sound like. They aren’t actually looking for language, but instead, the formation of modern vocal cords. Pretty sure the communication through sound goes through much of the homo line. – The other interesting questions I’ve read about- brain development as language increased and how one affected the other. Did articulation lead to higher brain function or just the opposite?

    1. Scientists seem to think that using language efficiently led to the better brain function but further research is required to work out what really happened. Thank you. 🙂

  6. I’ve recently finished a fascinating book by archeologist Steven Mithen called ‘The Prehistory of the Human Mind’. He seems to think that language probably existed among hominids such as Neanderthal man, but that Homo Sapiens took it to a new level.

  7. Very interesting, Neandertals are our older brothers, I just force my imagination to figure out how and about what were they talking; did their lagnuages and myths differ…

    1. Well, this research says they probably talked just like us and I guess they talked about the same stuffs we do. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

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