Re: How old is language?
Tue, 03 Aug 1999 05:56:12 +0000

At 11:39 PM 08/02/1999 -0400, Dick Fischer wrote:
>As I remember the Japanese colonized Korea.

Yeah, during World War II.

Phenotypically the Japanese
>and Chinese people are obviously close, and probably shared common ancestry
>only a few thousand years before a few bold venturers set out to sea and
>Japan was settled. Yet the languages are totally unique. Certainly there is
>no more than 20,000 or 30,000 years since the two cultures were united, but
>we find no similarities in linguistic style, grammar or syntax. I would
>that they didn't speak any useful language capable of expressing thoughts or
>ideas before they separated.

I gave you my sources for placing Japanese in the Turkic branch of the
Eurasiatic language family (Chinese is in the Sino-Tibetan language family)
and I gave you a reference attesting to the relation between the Koreans
and Japanese (and ultimately the NE Siberians). If you choose to believe
your recollections rather than scientific analysis and data, there isn't
much point in discussing this further. If I recollect that I am a
billionaire, it doesn't make it so.

>>Here are some word comparisons in which the Japanese word is clearly
>>similar to that of other languages showing that it is NOT unrelated:
>Yes, and there are French words in the Vietnamese language too. You
>can't overlook the effect conquering armies have on indigenous populations.
>Do Brazilians not speak Portuguese?

You really miss the point of the water analogy. I posted the entire list a
few months ago. Almost every language family in the world has the same set
of sounds for digit and water. We are not talking about occasional
resemblances or even borrowed words, but phylogentically related words. To
take your position would lead to the absurd conclusion that French and
Spanish (or Chinese and Mongolian) have similar words by chance or
borrowing. This simply isn't true.

>I wouldn't be surprised if there are certain words for basic objects that do
>extend into antiquity - maybe even when man came out of Africa 100,000 years
>ago - water, sun, moon, rock, finger, hand, spear, etc. And these basic
>may very well have endured in widely separated cultures. That wouldn't
>me at all if it were true.

Is this then an admission that your initial claim that Japanese is
unrelated to Chinese is erroneous and that your belief that language among
the Japanese people goes no further back than 10000 years is also
erroneous? Let me refresh your memory of what you wrote:

Not to be contrary, but the Japanese islands were settled not more than 10,000
years ago (not including the Ainu), and the Japanese language is totally
unrelated to any of the Chinese dialects, even though the Japanese people
are obviously related to the Chinese. So I would guess that among these
peoples, language goes back no further than about 10,000 years. And
written language goes back the Sumerians who can be traced no further than
about 6,000 years ago. So "80,000 years" sounds way out of the ball park.
**************end quote***************

But to call a few verbal names for basic
>everyday objects
>or parts of the anatomy "language" is a reach in my opinion.

Dick, water and a parts of the anatomy are not the only words that these
folks had. I think you are letting your firm belief in your theological
view filter what facts you let in the window.

>But do I think that a Homo erectus or Australopithecine could have said,
>"My punishment
>is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from
>the face of
>the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and
>a vagabond
>in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me
>shall slay me"?

Do you have a problem with being related to someone who looks different
than you? Do you look on the outer man rather than on the heart? I really
don't care what Adam looked like or even what label we place on him. In
the last century, Christians held that there were multiple Adam's--a
European Adam, an African Adam, etc. They did this because they couldn't
understand how an African could have said, "My punishment is greater than I
can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the
earth; . . ."

For a reference on this see Stephen J. Gould, The Mismeasure of Man, (New
York: W. W. Norton,1981), p.39

And concerning the language ability of H. erectus, I would point you to
what he was able to accomplish. Language is a symbolic representation of
the world by vocal sounds. In order to have language one must be capable of
symbolism, something chimps are very poor at. But 3 million years ago an
australopithecus recognized the symbolism in a stone that had a face on it,
picked it up and carried it at least 3 miles back to his cave. The
interesting thing about the Makapansgat pebble is that the archaeologist
picked it up in 1925 because he saw a human face on it. It almost 50 years
before it was discovered that looking at it upside down it had an
australopithecine face on it! (R.A. Dart, "The Waterworn Australopithecine
Pebble of Many Faces from Makapansgat," South African Journal of Science,
70(June 1974), pp 167-169) That is evidence of symbolic ability.

THen there is the Berekhat Ram figurine (Golan Venus) in which an erectus
modified a stone to make it look like a female figure. ONce again symbolism.
Bahn writes:

"However, the real breakthrough in the subject has come about recently
through analysis by American researcher Alexander Marshack of new or
hitherto neglected pieces of evidence from the Near East: in particular,
from the Acheulian site of Berekhat Ram, Israel, a small shaped piece of
volcanic tuff that dates to somewhere between 233,000 and 800,000 years
ago. The fragment bears a natural resemblance to a female figurine, and
seems to have grooves around its 'neck' and along its 'arms'. Much rested
on the question of whether these grooves were natural or humanly made; but
Marshack's microscopic analysis has now made it quite clear that humans
were responsible. In otherwords, this was an intentionally enhanced image,
and indisputably an 'art object." Paul G. Bahn, and Jean Vertut, Journey
the Ice Age, (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1997), p.
23- 24

Finally, language is required in order to accomplish some of their deeds.
Bednarik writes:

"One of the most significant finds in the history of
Pleistocene archaeology is the discovery that hominids
800,000 years ago managed to cross the sea to colonise a
number of Indonesian islands. The islands easst of Bali
(Wallacea) have never been connected to either the Asian
orthe Australian plate, but they were found to have been
occupied by Homo erectus as well as by several endemic
species of Stegondontidae at the end of the Early
Pleistocene. The seafaring capability of this hominid,
first proposed in this journal, effectively refutes the
widely accepted hypothesis of a very recent origin of
language and 'modern human behavior'." Robert G. Bednarik,
"Maritime Navigation in the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic,"
C.R. Academie des sciences, Paris, 328(1999):559-563, p. 559


" Replicative experimentation has shown unequivocally
that island colonisation by maritime navigation is
impossible without numerous interdependent technological
capabillities, long-term forward planning, the support of a
social system, and effective communication. Such replication
studies have resulted in the complete rejection of the
concept that the settlement of Wallacea could have occurred
unintentionally or accidentally. We can only know about sea
crossings that resulted in successful colonisations capable
of being visible on the very coarse and taphonomically
distorted 'archaeological record'. To achieve such
crossings, a sufficient number of males and females to found
a new population had to survive the journey, in each and
every case. This required adequate vessels to convey these
people, their supplies and equipment. To suggest that such
sea-going vessles were built without a deliberate plan, and
that an adequate number of people was in each case swept out
to sea on them against their will is not just illogical, it
is symptomatic of a discipline that perceives hominids as
culturally, technologically and cognitively inferior, much
in the same way Europeans once treated indigenous peoples in
other continents. These kinds of minimalist arguments,
which permeate many aspects of Pleistocene archaeology,
indicate a lack of knowledge about the practical aspects of
the human past. To appreciate the circumstances in which
the 'archaeological record' formed requires understanding
derived from practical experimentation with the materials in
question, under the conditions in question, and involves
appreciation of taphonomic processes and metamorphological
biases." Robert G. Bednarik, "Maritime Navigation in the
Lower and Middle Palaeolithic," C. R. Acad. Sci. Paris,
328(1999):559-563, p. 563

THey might not have spoken English but they had some kind of language.


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