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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

« Leading Cognitivists Reject Natural Selection | Main | Origin of the Species 150 Years On »

Comments

Roberto

Sorry I didnt follow:"So we will hear no more blather about language being less that 100 thousand years old.." care-or have time- to comment?

L

Likewise, the presence of lizards on the Galapagos proves once and for all that iguanas are capable of language.

Michael

I think he refers to researchers who claim that sea voyages are the earliest evidence of language and complex planning. William Noble and Ian Davidson, for example, have argued that the earliest evidence of linguistic and truly modern behaviour is the colonization of the Australian Region about 40,000 years ago. (See also Balme et al. 2009: "Symbolic behaviour and the peopling of the southern arc route to Australia" where they say that: "he crucial point is that colonisation of the southern arc is itself evidence for the existence of complex information exchange systems, planning depth and symbolic conceptualisation."). In the New York Times Article the archaealogists say that to go to Crete by sea you must have "have had the cognitive ability to conceive and carry out repeated water crossing over great distances in order to establish sustainable populations producing an abundance of stone artifacts."
And you would probably also need language to communciate about and coordinate such complex plans involving many people.
Iain Davidson has argued that the small sea voyages we find before 40,000 yars ago don't require language and that the colonization of Australia is still the earliest evidence of linguistic communication (Davidson 2001, The requirements for human colonisation of Australia.In I. Metcalfe, J.M.B.Smith, M.Morwood & I. Davidson (eds) Faunal and floral migration and evolution in SE Asia-Australia.pp. 399-408. Swets & Zeitlinger, Lisse, Netherlands.)
It would be interesting if the evidence presented here would convince him or if he would maintain that travelling from Greece to Crete was possible without language.

Jesús Sanchis

The implications of this discovery, if finally confirmed, are potentially far-reaching. It has generally been assumed, for example, that the Strait of Gibraltar acted as a barrier for population spread in the Paleolithic, and in fact DNA studies tend to support this view. However, if sailing techniques were available at such early date, it would be difficult to explain why there were no human populations crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, a mere 14-kilometre at its narrowest point. They had plenty of time to make the decision!

David Fried

Maybe this discovery will tend to put paid to the rampant "splittism" of the archaeologists. Let's see: We now have four overlapping, if not contemporary human species with one Acheulian culture: Homo erectus, homo heidelbergensis, homo neanderthalensis, and homo sapiens. Five if you count homo antecessor, and homo ergaster makes six. Now it turns out that members of this culture could plan and execute voyages of colonization, which plainly implies human speech. As Milford Wolpoff has rather daringly argued, maybe our one and only human species is 1.8 million years old?

J. Goard

As a linguist, I've never thought of 100,000 as a figure for the origin of language. Quite to the contrary, I took it as a rough point for the divergence of linguistic communities and their coevolved populations of linguistic constructions, since which point the relevant homo sapiens traits have been practically undifferentiated, while the linguistic constructions have evolved and diversified massively. 100,000 is useful to me as a rough guide to how quickly we can get to Yoruba, Quechua, and Korean from a similar starting point, which can be compared with what we see on historical and observational time scales.

The Fodor-Piatelli book rather infuriates me. It is astounding how many scientists in other disciplines (who know their evolution!) still seem to think that the burden is on them to accomodate Chomskian nativism in linguistics.

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