Did Neanderthals have language? Let’s examine the evidence.
- For many years the only evidence we had pertaining to Neanderthal language came from our reconstructions of their speech production apparatuses. As we read last week, much of the evidence yielded from this side of the debate is highly contested. Fortunately, since communication requires a link between both speakers and listeners, oral communication is only one part of the story. It turns out that the strongest case for Neanderthal language may come from their hearing. But since our ears don’t fossilize, how can we know?
The Neanderthal language debate is old, actually quite old. Dating back almost fifty years, many of the researchers who initially began studying the topic are still heavily engaged in the subject today, and it continues to be one of the most fiery debates in paeloanthropology. Before the advent of genetics, our only way of answering the question of Neanderthal language was by looking at Neanderthal anatomy. The problem is, there are nearly a thousand ways to reconstruct a Neanderthal speech apparatus…
The most cited research pertaining to language evolution and Neanderthals is almost always the case made from genetics. The reason for this is that the information we have obtained from ancient DNA is relatively more straightforward than what we can even begin to attempt to deduce from anatomy. The only problem with this research is that as straightforward as it is, it also so happens that its case right now is one of the weakest. Continue reading “Did Neanderthals Have Language? Part 1: Language Genes”