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Re: <nettime> Disordered thinking through the origin of language
Alan Sondheim on Thu, 7 Sep 2006 04:35:01 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Disordered thinking through the origin of language

Songs don't explain it; they just slide the register. The problem is 
associative - sound with action/object, more or less along the lines of 
proto-language. Given that there would be fuzzy symbols associated with 
fuzzy meanings, and gestures associated with the same, it doesn't seem a 
far cry from this to simple sounds associated with these other registers. 
So there are bee stings, indicating a hive; one notices it, others notice, 
the swelling is associated with bee/hive, it's there written on the body, 
and I think that given communal behaviour that a sounding - just a grunt 
for example - would be associated, and passed on accordingly. The issue is 
then the differentiation of sounds; this would be different modulations as 
information is transmitted to those who didn't see the sting in the first 
place, or those who wanted to recall it. Language on this level isn't all 
that much different from alarm-calls of animals and birds, which can also 
be somewhat specific; the difference is in the relative plasticity of 
primate behaviour coupled with the body already as palimsest. I hope I'm 
not begging the issue here by the way.

In relation to singing, field calls were used in the manner you describe, 
and I certainly think that the register of singing is important here - for 
example humming or cooing to an infant; I think that primates might also 
do this. The issue for me is the leap into language, written or spoken - 
in other words, the leap into the symbolic, which seems qualitatively 
different between hominids and other primates or animals. Or further, 
given that all animals possess culture (which I believe), how did this 
'leap' - whatever it is - evolve?

- Alan

On Tue, 5 Sep 2006, Michael H Goldhaber wrote:

> Alan's account seems plausible, but still leaves question of where spoken 
> language came from. My earlier  thought has been that singing was the 
> essential step. Different songs for different activities would then lead, 
> implicitly and directly to verbs. My back is turned but I hear the eating 
> song or the chipping song, or the running song and I know what that other is 
> doing. Nouns arise as  verbs that go with persons or things.

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