Date: Tue, 25 Nov 1997 16:07:09 +0100
To: Evolution of Language 
Subject: Re: EvolLang: Talking Hunters??? or, What is it FOR?

> From: "Marshall"
> However, it's surprizing to me that some people think that hunters and
> gatherers won't gain by sharing knowledge, or that language (spoken or
> gesticulated) won't make sharing knowledge more effiecient.  Maybe
Animals, particularly mammals have been transmitting and sharing hunting and gathering knowledge since pretty far below primate levels of closeness to humans. It goes without saying that human language obviously facilitates know-how transfer in general quite efficiently. But I think it must have first reached some not inconsiderable level of sophistication, before it could do this. Try explaining how to distinguish a poisonous berry from an edible one in Latin (unless you speak that fluently). So I don't think the advantage language gave in hunting and gathering could have been the natural selective factor promoting the development of language. It would furthermore also not explain why change is such an important feature of human language, distinguishing it from animal signalization as well as from machine language.
> to less advanced.  As someone remarked about Neaderthal grey matter,
> Homo has spent a tremendous amount of evolutionary energy on it, it
> must have been good for *something*.  Personally I think it is very
> plausible that one facet of that advantage was that it made us more
> efficient hunters and foragers, particularly in our ability to rapidly
> invade new ecologies.
Whereas culturality of social structure is a feature distinguishing humans from non-humans, culturality of economy is not. Not only have different chimp communities living in equivalent ecological environments been observed to prefer different favourite foods and herbal medicine, but rhesus monkeys have been found to change their diet on being moved to a different natural environment. So the ability to rapidly adapt foraging habits upon invading new ecologies seems to be a more widespread feature among primates, and not restricted only to humans.
> However the *other* thing that is very noticeable about modern man is
> his ability to form extremely various complex stable societies.  I
> don't mean so much 20th century industrial civilization, which is the
> society-formation process run amuck if you want my opinion, but the
> subject matter of classical anthropology.  Language is by no means the
> whole description of the process, but I will make the claim that the
> process by which human societies cohere is mediated through language,
> and would be impossible without it.
I sure agree with that!!