for the others.
It would be easier to pinpoint the most likely stimulus for the evolution of human language if one could identify when language emerged. Obviously the joint human-chimp ancestor did not speak, or chimps would too. And all human races can speak equally well, so that fully articulate, modern language must have evolved before modern humans left Africa. This means language would have emerged after 5 million years ago and before 50,000 years ago. Paleoanthropologists have made strenuous attempts to pin down the development of language through anatomy, by looking at the shape of the brain as implied by interior casts of old skulls, or features such as the hy oid, a U-shaped bone that supports the tongue muscles, and the hypoglossal canal, a passageway through bone for the nerve bundle that wires up the tongue muscles. But these studies have not yet brought a great deal of clarity to the problem. Paleoanthropologists have tended to favor the idea that language started early, with Homo erectus or even the australopithecines, followed by slow and stately evolution. Archaeologists, on the other hand, tend to equate full-fledged modern language with art, which only becomes common in the archaeological record some 45,000 years ago. Their argument is that creation of art implies symbolic thinking in the mind of the artist, and therefore possession of language to share these abstract ideas. Other archaeological facts favor a late start for language. To look at the rough stone tools of the Olduwan (made between 2.5 and 1.7 million years ago) they seem to be just chipped pebbles, made with no particular design in mind. But the tools of the Upper Paleolithic, which began 45,000 years ago, are precisely shaped and so well differentiated from each other that it seems plausible their makers had a different word for each, and therefore had language. "It is as though Upper Paleolithic flint workers were saying 'This is an end-scraper: I use it as an end-scraper, I call it an end-scraper and it must therefore look like an end-scraper,'" writes the archaeologist Paul Mellars. He argues that the makers' evident emphasis on the precise visual shape of their tools "is probably exactly what one would anticipate if Upper Paleolithic groups had a much more complex and highly structured vocabulary for the different artifact forms." Given their much cruder tool kit, the Neanderthals might also have had language, Mellars thinks, but with a much simpler vocabulary.^4
If fully articulate modern language emerged only 50,000 years ago, just before modern humans broke out of Africa, then the proto-language suggested by Bickerton would have preceded it. When might that proto-language first have appeared? If Homo ergaster possessed proto-language then so too would all its descendants, including the archaic hominids who reached the Far East (Homo erectus) and Europe (the Neanderthals). But in that case the Neanderthals, to judge by their lack of modern behavior, appear never to have developed their proto-language into fully modern articulate speech. That might seem surprising, given the advantage any improvement in the language faculty would confer on its owner, and the rapidity with which language might therefore be expected to evolve. So perhaps the Neanderthals didn't speak at all.
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