What was early human language like?

A pair of researchers think they’ve reconstructed early human syntax from as early as 50,000 years ago. But have they got it right? How can we know about languages that no longer exist?

UWA linguist Daniel Midgley surveys the evidence on this week’s Talk the Talk.


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Show notes

A link to the Ruhlen/Gell-Mann paper at PNAS
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/10/04/1113716108.abstract

Or a shorter run-down
http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-10-physicist-teams-anthropologist-ancient-linguistic.html

An example of an article in the popular press that completely missed the point. They hear “Yoda” and they run with it. It’s not just the HuffPo that sucks. Many many journalists do this with science reporting. Understanding things is hard.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/14/yoda-language-study_n_1010720.html

But some get it mostly right.
http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2011/10/origins-of-human-language-word-order-subject-object-verb/1

Mark Ellison comments on my blog about this
http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=21186777&postID=2467846985629102819