I know, lame title. And since I don’t read articles on my own, I am once again linking us to a Hawk’s blog post because his summaries seem to be all I’m willing to skim.
However, this is a neat paradigm shift, and one I know a little about having written an arch 1 paper on this topic. It is now concluded by A LOT of people, that Neandertals DID have human-like language. Hawks even goes so far as to say “I do not see how anyone can maintain the hypothesis that Neandertals … did not have language.”
I’m willing to bet Richard Klein (long-time supporter of the silent neandertals hypothesis) will continue to argue for language being a human development, but the evidence (summarized by Hawks) seems to be against him.
My own opinion is that it seems like Neandertals had language, but I’m still unsure if we can make the jump to “human-like language” – I mean, we talk a lot. It seems difficult to identify what good evidence for human-like language would look like. And (unlike Hawks) I don’t think that having a throat capable of language, using pigment and making decorative ornaments necessarily constitutes proof they talked like we do now. That assumes a mind change that may not be present – we just don’t know. We also don’t know why they used pigment or made decorations. Hawks plans to post more on the pigment evidence, so perhaps he will sway me (I admit I have not read much on pigment usage as evidence for language). But for now, I’m surprised everyone is willing to jump so quickly from one extreme (Neandertals were dumb) to another (Neandertals talked like we do today), without even considering that maybe they had some sort of intermediate language ability.
OK, everyone I took arch 1 with, this is where you should chime in and correct me b/c I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of this stuff we talked about last semester.
Also, don’t forget to comment on Kristen’s post about summer-reading, below.