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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

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Perhaps "language" is too sweeping a term, and takes too many things for granted. There is a current myth or Zeitgeist which argues that all languages are equally elaborate and equivalent. That is not really evolutionary thinking. And theories of sudden explosions are not evolutionary either: what is evolutionary is seeing the explosion for what it is, a slow explosion in in slow motion. There must have been many primitive forms of symbolic behaviour before there was language proper (at whatever stage we choose to begin to call it language)— All in order to make language possible. Symbolic behaviour and mutual understanding (e.g. of social hierarchy) is perfectly viable without words, even among animals.

Jordan Zlatev

The present move to practically deny linguistic differences between H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens seems like an overreaction to the previous view of the first as "speechless bruits". Sure, the combined evidence, including the recent FOXP2 data (if correct) would suggest that Neandertals spoke, but isn't "uniformitariansm" the really misleading part here - in agreement with the previous comment? If we really are post-Chomsky, then there is no reason to stick to any idea of Language-you-have-it-or-you-don't. And even less so for semiotic capacities as diverse as body painting and speech. With the risk of being accused of recapitulationism: think of ontogeny: does it all come as a package?


That's so cool!!

Luke Winikates

Is there anything in the cognitive science literature comparing the parts of the brain active during linguistic activity versus those active during other "symbolic" activities?

FOXP2 seems from my inadequate reading to be more persuasive than "They painted therefore they spoke," but perhaps someone will helicopter in with a Steven Pinker quote and some brain imaging?

For my part, I remember him saying in a rebuttal to George Lakoff that the brain is not in an active "metaphorical" mode when a speaker hears or uses idioms. "Does the brain consider language to be symbolic?" is the question this poses to me.


Seem utopian and absurd. Neanderthals may live in today’s society
According to the appearance and the reconstructed skull of such people is very rare, their intellect is several times lower.
BLOGGER: I've removed a couple of suspicious links from this strange comment.

J G Miller

I have not read the book but according to Wikipedia where I found this reference --

Mithen, Steven J. (2006). The singing neanderthals: the origins of music, language, mind, and body. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-02192-4. OCLC 62090869

Mithen argues that the Neanderthal language was (to quote Wikipedia) -- an elaborate proto-linguistic system of communication which was more musical than modern human language.

Is it possible that the language used by Neanderthals was of the same form as used today in the Khoisan languages (as spoken by the Bushmen of the Kalahari)???

And is there much knowledge of the ancestry and origins of the "click" languages?
BLOGGER: Since we don't know a thing about the sounds and structure of Neanderthal speech, we cannot rule anything out. However, there is no evidence that the Khoisan languages are in any way related to Neanderthal speech.

Marcel du Pre

It seems rather absurd to assume that a group of beings that lived together in what seems to have been a quite close knit community and had at least a rudimentary social system as shown by their burial rituals did no poses some form ofspeach

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