i recently finished the singing neanderthals, i mentioned it before, and it was a very good read. many good ideas in that book.
the main one was that both language and music come from a single evolutionary precursor. the author calls this form of communication Hmmmmm because the 1st thing about it is that its Holistic in nature, meaning it is made up of utterances/gestures that mean something like a full sentence but cannot be broken down into lesser parts to make new meanings. all the mmm’s each stand for some other feature it has, but i only remember a few of them off the top of my head so i will just say that the author must be a silly man for naming a language/music combo “hm,” but that is excellent, always a good sign.
an example he uses of a word in modern day usage that is like this is “abracadabra,” which means “i hereby invoke magic!” but the word itself has no meaning. he also uses examples from the musical qualities if Infant Directed Speech (baby talk).
language that humans use today is composition, that is, that its made up of parts that can be rearranged into infinite meanings. thus, it is a far more effective way to transfer information than Hmmmmm ever could be. music has its advantages in emotions and bonding too, but i dont want to get into everything that the book does. So. in his theory humans did not start really making art or innovating in their tools until language allowed them to open their thoughts to new ideas.
i really like this idea because it really brings humans down to earth i think. “Why did humans do all the creative things they did, and others not? they are just so much smarter and better at everything.” No! we had a very specific set of cultural and environmental pressures and it slowly allowed us to develop the optimal way of navigating them. ehhhh it could be worded better than that but…
his idea was that neanderthals/maybe some of the other ones didnt make art or develop more diverse tools was because they used the Hmmmmm and couldnt move things from one “category of intelligence” to another very well. he said that humans made language after/before/the same time as they started having to deal more with ‘strangers’ and trading. he also talks about how we had times where an entirely new weapons would be found (ex throwing spears) but then they would completely disappear from the record and nothing like them would be seen again for thousands of years. the prevalence of language can come and go, culture can be lost.
he thought that neanderthals would have had the most complex version of Hmmmmm then all that came before them based on all that the DID do, but that since they lived in small relatively isolated groups, as did other Homo, they didnt have a need to be able to make new ways of giving each other information that no one had ever heard of before.
now this book was published in 2006 and there have been many new discoverys about neanderthals in just the past couple of years, so i wonder if his mind would change at all with the new information? but i find his theory here very compelling, and i like his view of neanderthals because he suggested that maybe as they were going extinct they might have started their own language making process (called segmentation) but that time was not on their side.
this is very exciting to me because it begs me the question if they could be TAUGHT language like human children are, and then grow up to be just as flexible in mind as a modern human? this lands me squarely in the ultra turbo speculative fangirl weirdo zone yet again but that never stopped me from eating food off the floor and it wont stop me from expressing my opinions on the internet.
this makes me very! happy! because it effectively gives me permission to have neanderthal characters that dont have to have their character development becompletely (still keep it in mind tho) bogged down by even more speculative “how did the neanderthals think” stuff. which is also turbo-nerdy, and is hard to relate to in a character, without going into “doesn't understand metaphors” territory which has been done before and is not scientifically accurate in the slightest because all of language is a symbol for something. if you can develop language you can make metaphors. and i think the idea of neanderthals thinking like autistic people do is a taddddddd albiest and/or grasping at straws-y.
neanderthal characters for me anyway are more like metaphors in and of themselves of people who are set apart and always underestimated in the things they can do and they believe it. got to come to terms with shit and stuff…
that type of character could also be done with real life marginalized groups but… this is more fun………………… :y