20314Re: [evol-psych] Bushman click languages
- Aug 31, 2002
I hate to do this, but...
I have written parts of these on various mailing lists and Usenet newsgroups, but not all together
in one piece. Perhaps it is time to tie some pieces together in a more coherent fashion...
Larry Trask wrote:
--On Friday, August 30, 2002 7:13 am +0200 Marc Washington <best@...> wrote:
At the turn of the 19th century, one could encounter literature speaking about the similarity between the click language of the hamdryas baboon and through imitative mimickry, the click language of the Bushman. I've not been able to find anything recent. Can anyone refer me to literature on the click language of the Khoisan and its possible relation to the click language of African apes? Is there literature which discusses the points of contention between those who say there is and those who say there isn't a relationship between the two.
First, baboons are not apes, but monkeys.
Second, baboons do not have a "language". It may well be true that hamadryas baboons emit some click-like noises, but those noises do not constitute a language.
1. formal languages (e.g. finite state grammars, context-free languages, etc)
2. natural human languages (e.g. English, Japanese, etc)
3. artificial human languages (e.g. Esperanto)
linguists do not certify (and never did) what "language" is.
I suggest you get used to this.
Third, the term 'click' is being used purely impressionistically here, and no content has been identified. By what criteria do we decide that a given noise is, or is not, a click?
Ridiculous assertion. "Click" is unusual in world's natural human languages. And it is just as good a
way to describe such languages as anything else, e.g. agglutinative, inflective, etc.
Fourth, the African peoples who speak the so-called "Khoisan" languages do not have a "click language", in the sense of a language consisting of clicks.
Usual nitpicking nonsense.
I already suggested that linguists should think deeply about what is meant by "areal" too
all of them are descended from a common ancestor. Click consonants in southern Africa are what we call an "areal feature".
many times to repeat.
Fifth, the so-called click languages are all spoken in southern Africa, while all the sources in my office agree that hamadryas baboons are found only in northeastern Africa and in Arabia.
As I have already indicated on this list and on newsgroups, McEvedy shows (among other things)
that the these languages were originally spoken all the way up north to Egypt and along Eastern
Africa before the Bantu speakers pushed them south.
Actually some of this got started a few years ago when I joined discussion on a an Internet/Usenet newsgroup
This doesn't look very good for an "imitative mimickry" scenario -- not that I would in any case take seriously a proposal that a human language is modelled on animal noises. That stuff, I'm glad to say, went out the window generations ago.
about the reasons why Egyptians painted themselves red (males), their females yellow, Asiatics
white and Negroids black. I suggested that they (like Native Americans and Asians) lacked certain
pigmentation and that they turned red (copper colored) in the sun, while the women (being at home
in the shade) had a yellowish tint. Soon after that (a few weeks at most) genetic evidence was
posted that some of the peoples of the Southern Sudan (and naturally the Bushmen) were the
most representative (e.g. most perfect average) amongst all humans. Now, it is well known that
the Bushmen are short, have epicanthic folds, and have the pigmentation that produces a yellowish
or reddish skin tint. I suggested at the time, that it is too ridiculous to think that humanoids who
evolved in Africa for millions of years would not be black. Hence, I thought that these people were
actually the descendants of mixing of Neandertals and Africans (not Negroids). There is much
confusion of what is African and what is Negroid. I attest this to the confusion amongst the
researchers to think clearly about what matters without feeling guilt about what was done to
West Africans (Negroids) by Europeans, and efforts to compensate for such guilt feelings.
It is clearly not necesary for all Africans to be Negroids. It seems like a real simple idea
but exactly because it is such a simple idea it seems to escape people so eager they are
to lump all Africans together into a big mess.
However, it is clear that just as the Neandertals were an extreme mutation, it is quite possible
that the West Africans (Negroids) were also an extreme mutation and that other "Africans"
(presumably some of whom migrated out of Africa) were not Negroids at all. Some of those
that stayed behind likely got mixed with the Negroids (presumably Bantu speakers).
Sixth, while I haven't seen the 19th-century literature mentioned, I can't believe it's anything other than ignorant and offensive racist nonsense. If this literature has dried up -- and I hope it has -- then maybe that's just a piece of evidence that we are learning to put racist rubbish behind us.
I do not know what you are referring to but I do not see why insinuating that humans might have
started off their "speaking" by some acts similar to what our relatives do is offensive to anyone.
Some of our predecessors were all too eager to see links between Africans on the one hand and apes or monkeys on the other. It's long since past time to forget about this stuff. If somebody shows that the booming snorts emitted by elephant seals involve nasal resonance, what would you think of a proposal to link the "nasal languages" of elephant seals and Frenchmen? ;-)
I do not see any reason why what some of our precedessors did is relevant. Where does it say that
Africans (by which most people mean Negroids) are animal-like? The books on origin of human languages
are probably almost all total speculation, most of them bad. So the proposal is no worse than books already
published (e.g. Lieberman).
It is not a good idea to project one's feelings onto others. Freud certainly would have called a spade a spade.
-- M. Hubey hubeyh@... /\/\/\/\//\/\/\/\/\/\/http://www.csam.montclair.edu/~hubey
- << Previous post in topic Next post in topic >>