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Neanderthals May Have Shared Speech And Language With Modern Humans
Posted: 24 August 2013 04:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
Total Posts:  5840
Joined  2007-01-03

lingual constructions evolve only to effect the transfer of survival information to the clade

It’s not that simple, not by a long shot.

First, it assumes that language is a trait that is governed solely by natural selection. While it certainly is true to a great degree, it’s not necessarily true that development is 100% dependent on natural selection. For instance, sexual selection can play a role (i.e., the silver-tongued caveman got all the girls; Cyrano, for a more modern version). Also at some point in the development of humans, culture, rather than genetics, took over part of the the survival mechanism as humans started shaping their environment rather than the other way around. Language played a huge role in this. (It is arguable that today in the twenty-first century we are largely free from natural selection. Future human evolution will be of our own devising, not nature’s.)

Also, there is more at stake than the “transfer of survival information.” Language increases the possibilities for social interactions in ways that are exponentially greater than simple communication. These interactions are not usually directly beneficial to survival (e.g., strengthening social bonds rather than “there’s a saber-toothed tiger behind that bush"), but in aggregate increase the chances of survival of the clan.

It’s also possible that the genes responsible for language have other functions that are beneficial, and language developed as a freebie that has little to do with survival. For example, the FoxP2 gene, which has a role in language, also is fundamental to our basic motor control and undoubtedly evolved originally for that purpose with language coming along later. Of course, language confers a survival benefit too, but analogous situations often appear in the gene pool where an anti-survival effect persists because the genes that cause it are beneficial overall.

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