Proto-Human language

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JANKO GORENC
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Proto-Human language

Post by JANKO GORENC » 09 Mar 2016 16:54

A few days ago I found an interesting site:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto-Human_language
In which said Proto-Human language.
I want to know if there is anything related to the language(s) Neanderthalens?
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sangi39
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Re: Proto-Human language

Post by sangi39 » 09 Mar 2016 17:14

As far as I'm aware, the closest we can come to describing the language/languages of the Neanderthals is that they might have existed, and in all fairness, the same is probably true of a Proto-Human language since (as far as I know) the idea of monogenesis is still debated, i.e. we don't know if there was one single language that was the ultimate ancestor of all recorded human languages or if human languages have an origin that is more complex than this.
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Thrice Xandvii
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Re: Proto-Human language

Post by Thrice Xandvii » 10 Mar 2016 18:06

sangi39 wrote:As far as I'm aware, the closest we can come to describing the language/languages of the Neanderthals is that they might have existed, and in all fairness, the same is probably true of a Proto-Human language since (as far as I know) the idea of monogenesis is still debated, i.e. we don't know if there was one single language that was the ultimate ancestor of all recorded human languages or if human languages have an origin that is more complex than this.
Based on the fact that there were more than one human-esque species that existed at various times... well, it is possible that language cropped up in some proto form or another more than once. Its also possible that language as a concept has been born and died several times only to have it re-emerge. Now, this last point wouldn't necessarily leave any trace on our current languages since these various proto-forms I am proposing would have died off, but it does call into question what one means by "proto-human language." If it happened more than once and each survived into our modern versions of language, which is the first one? Perhaps that is a meaningless question? I dunno, but this whole train of thought certainly is interesting.
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sangi39
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Re: Proto-Human language

Post by sangi39 » 10 Mar 2016 19:44

That actually kind of makes me wonder. Human beings, as a species, evolved as a group of interconnected communities, the same way any species evolves, i.e. there was no "first human" in the same way that there was no "first bird", so it's possible that language capability evolved once (and I think Zompist has a good approach to how this may have occurred) but the number of languages that emerged may have been greater than one. The same could be true of the Neanderthals if our common ancestors also had the capacity to speak or even if speech in Neanderthals developed independently.
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Re: Proto-Human language

Post by Ælfwine » 10 Mar 2016 20:28

It is worth noting that humanity was once at a bottleneck of 15,000 or so people, so it's likely that any "proto-human" language would evolve from them. As for language before that time, I'm afraid it's all speculation past that point.
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Re: Proto-Human language

Post by Vlürch » 10 Mar 2016 22:14

I imagine the Neanderthals had more than one language, maybe even several different families. They had larger noses and jaws than modern humans so their languages might've been more nasal and may have even had more possible places of articulation enabling velar trills, velar sibilants, glottal trills and/or flaps, etc.
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KaiTheHomoSapien
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Re: Proto-Human language

Post by KaiTheHomoSapien » 11 Mar 2016 00:31

I find this a fascinating concept but I don't know how convincing it is. It certainly would lend some credence to the Tower of Babel story. But sometimes the arguments are hard to take seriously (like the whole "ma" as the proto-world word for "mother", it seems more likely to originate from infant speech). Sometimes the time is just too deep to know, but it would be really interesting if it were true.

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Re: Proto-Human language

Post by Isoraqathedh » 11 Mar 2016 01:20

JBR attempted a sketch of what a truly prehistoric language may look like, which also contains a pertinent warning for anyone thinking of seriously attempting to derive proto-Human (or as it is sometimes known, proto-World):
There have even been attempts to reconstruct a vocabulary for “Proto‐World”, the hypothetical shared ancestor of all modern human languages. [...] Language evolution can be remarkably orderly in the short term, but in the long term it's a process of unpredictable reshuffling and reorganisation on every level. Once you're looking far enough back to unify the dialects of Wagga Wagga and Ouagadougou, any pattern in the static is guaranteeably a hallucination.

Mind you, whether the optimists working towards “Proto‐World” get anywhere or not, their target isn't the primordial hominid Ursprache. [...] [T]he furthest back [reconstruction] can possibly take us is the Most Recent Common Ancestor of the world's attested languages (that is, the latest language that all others can trace a line of descent from). And that's a retrospectively conferred title, not a mark of any special intrinsic property. [...] [A]s minority languages disappear, the MRCA moves closer and closer…
I have cut out a hypothetical in that last set of dots there, but it is well worth reading, so do read the link.
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Thrice Xandvii
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Re: Proto-Human language

Post by Thrice Xandvii » 11 Mar 2016 01:33

JBR? Is that someone I should have heard of?
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Isoraqathedh
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Re: Proto-i·umën language

Post by Isoraqathedh » 11 Mar 2016 01:58

JBR, while not exactly the most famous conlanger, still has some local fame. Those are his initials, but I have a love-hate relationship with names, especially ones that you might see floating about in real life sometimes.
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Re: Proto-Human language

Post by masako » 12 Mar 2016 02:38

Ælfwine wrote:It is worth noting that humanity was once at a bottleneck of 15,000 or so people, so it's likely that any "proto-human" language would evolve from them. As for language before that time, I'm afraid it's all speculation past that point.
It was most likely far fewer than that.

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