Archive for the 'language' Category

15
May
13

Book Review: Singing Neanderthals

The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and BodyThe Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body

by Steven Mithen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have avoided this book in the past because my personal interest extends to an earlier time than Neanderthals, but I shouldn’t have. The title is misleading in that he extends to man’s earliest Homo habilis days, not those relatively-modern Homo neanderthalensis times. He explains the importance of music to man’s ability to use symbols, to express ideas without the vast lexicon we currently possess. He shares his definition of music as ‘human sound communication outside the scope of language’ (borrowed from Bruno Nettl) and describes a believable scenario for the co-evolution of music and language. All in all, a well thought-out book with lots of factually-based opinions.

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06
Apr
11

Book Review: Singing Neanderthals

The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and BodyThe Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body

by Steven Mithen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have avoided this book in the past because my personal interest extends to an earlier time than Neanderthals, but I shouldn’t have. The title is misleading in that he extends to man’s earliest Homo habilis days, not those relatively-modern Homo neanderthalensis times. He explains the importance of music to man’s ability to use symbols, to express ideas without the vast lexicon we currently possess. He shares his definition of music as ‘human sound communication outside the scope of language’ (borrowed from Bruno Nettl) and describes a believable scenario for the co-evolution of music and language. All in all, a well thought-out book with lots of factually-based opinions.

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08
Feb
11

Book Review: The Unfolding of Language

The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest InventionThe Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind’s Greatest Invention

by Guy Deutscher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Dr. Deutscher has done a scholarly, thorough discussion on the roots of language, but I believe he started too late in time. I’m of the persuasion that language involves more than the spoken word. I find body language (which proponents argue communicate half of what we speak), facial expressions (think FACS, FBI, microexpressions), movement to be as telling of a person’s intentions as words. Sometimes more so. Continue reading ‘Book Review: The Unfolding of Language’

26
Jan
11

Understanding Early Man

Some twenty years ago, I began a quest to understand man. Why are we the way we are? Can we be a kind and caring species that voluntarily takes care of our brother without asking for

anything in exchange, or is that contrary to our nature, to survival? Were those traits bread in to us so we as the small creature on the savanna without thick skin, without claws and tearing fangs, without the speed of a leopard, could work as a group to out-size, out-muscle the predators that controlled our environ? Did it require the violence that has dogged our existence since modern man emerged, our seemed inability to be kind just for the sake of kindness?

I have no answers, but my curiosity drives me to study our earliest ancestors, starting with the first creatures we considered to be predecessor–Australopithecines. To date, I’ve reached Homo erectus. Along the way, I’ve read a slew of wonderful books by brilliant scientists:

13
Jul
10

What About Our Kids Endangered Minds

Endangered Minds: Why Children Don't Think And What We Can Do About ItEndangered Minds: Why Children Don’t Think And What We Can Do About It

by Jane M. Healy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I discovered Dr. Jane Healy’s 1987 book, Endangered Minds, researching a novel I was writing on early man. I wanted to better understand what parts of our brain show significant evolution since our species appeared (like the increasing size of the frontal lobe, and the evolution of the Wernecke and Broca areas). I admit, part of it was also I was a new mother and there are so many competing opinions about when kids should read, write, what they should learn when, I didn’t want to make a mistake and mess up my kids. Continue reading ‘What About Our Kids Endangered Minds’

24
Mar
10

I am Part of a Lost Generation. I Refuse to Believe…

I love palindromes. I named my AI Otto. My favorite girl name is Hannah.

But I never thought of a palindrome movie. Watch this. Continue reading ‘I am Part of a Lost Generation. I Refuse to Believe…’

10
Dec
09

Extrem-ophile Communication from Antarctica

Greetings From Palmer Station, Antarctica

Residents of Palmer Station, Antarctica, used their bright red United States Antarctic Program parkas to send ground-to-air greeting to scientists and flight crew aboard NASA’s DC-8 flying science laboratory as it flew over the station during Operation Ice Bridge. Operation Ice Bridge is a study of Antarctic ice sheets, sea ice and glacial recession. One of three U.S. environmental research stations on the continent, Palmer Station is located on Anvers Island halfway down the Antarctic Peninsula. Continue reading ‘Extrem-ophile Communication from Antarctica’
08
Dec
09

Pan Paniscus or Homo Paniscus–You Decide

Kanzi’s language comprehension has been demonstrated in research using novel sentences — phrases that preclude the learning of specific responses. Visit http://www.greatapetrust.org to learn more about Kanzi and the other great apes at Great Ape Trust. Continue reading ‘Pan Paniscus or Homo Paniscus–You Decide’

02
Dec
09

Great Quotes About Man, His Evolution and His History

Why do people love quotes so much? Simple. They speak paragraphs in a few brief words. They evoke emotions, make connections, draw on our collective history to prove a point. For me, I read them when I need to get centered.

For those anthropologists, paleoanthropologists, and amateurs out there, read on: Continue reading ‘Great Quotes About Man, His Evolution and His History’

18
Nov
09

How Man Communicated Before He Had Words

early language

Comic credit: UserFriendly.org

There is much debate over when early man began to speak–with words, that is. Paleoanthropologists discuss the development of the brain and the throat–when was it evolved enough to support the formation of words and the thought that goes into syntax.

Me, I think when man was clever enough to live in groups, he had to come up with a way to communicate with each other. This isn’t a leap. Chimpanzees do it, pretty much communicating all of their basic needs. The difference is, we presume Man the Thinker must have had deep thoughts, plans, ideas, symbolic representations for his world. This, we will never know. What we do know is that there was no reason that Early Man couldn’t communicate to his group about what was important to his life. As more became important, I’m sure language adapted.

Here’s a primer, from chimpanzees: Continue reading ‘How Man Communicated Before He Had Words’




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Discover the sizzle in science. It's not that stuff that's always for the smart kids. It's the need to know. The passion for understanding. The absolute belief that for every problem, there is a solution. The creative mind seeking truth in a world of mystery. The quest for the Holy Grail.

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Books I’m Reading

Great Science Books

Assembling California
Born On A Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant
The Forest People
Geology Underfoot in Southern California
The Land's Wild Music: Encounters with Barry Lopez, Peter Matthiessen, Terry Tempest William, and James Galvin
My Life with the Chimpanzees
Naked Earth: The New Geophysics
Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are
The Runaway Brain: The Evolution of Human Uniqueness
Sand Rivers
The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body
The Tree Where Man Was Born
The Wildlife of Southern Africa: A Field Guide to the Animal and Plants of the Region
The Worlds of a Maasai Warrior: An Autobiography


Jacqui's favorite books »
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RSS Fact and Fiction about Early Man

  • The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention January 12, 2014
    author: Guy Deutscher name: Jacqui average rating: 4.18 book published: 2006 rating: 3 read at: date added: 2014/01/12 shelves: early-man, research review: Dr. Deutscher has done a scholarly, thorough discussion on the roots of language, but I believe he started too late in time. I'm of the persuasion that language involves more than the spoken word. I […]
    Guy Deutscher
  • She Who remembers November 3, 2013
    author: Linda Lay Shuler name: Jacqui average rating: 4.17 book published: 1988 rating: 4 read at: date added: 2013/11/03 shelves: early-man review: […]
    Linda Lay Shuler
  • The Runaway Brain: The Evolution of Human Uniqueness July 25, 2011
    author: Christopher Wills name: Jacqui average rating: 4.14 book published: 1993 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: science, early-man review: In my lifelong effort to understand what makes us human, I long ago arrived at the lynchpin to that discussion: our brain. Even though bipedalism preceded big brains, and we couldn't be who we are […]
    Christopher Wills
  • The Origin Of Humankind July 25, 2011
    author: Richard E. Leakey name: Jacqui average rating: 3.90 book published: 1981 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: early-man, history review: If you're interested in man's roots, there are several authors you must read: Birute Galdikas Dian Fosse Donald Johanson GHR Von Koenigsman Glen Isaacs Jared Diamond Ian Tattersell Lev Vygots […]
    Richard E. Leakey
  • Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind July 24, 2011
    author: Donald C. Johanson name: Jacqui average rating: 4.10 book published: 1981 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: early-man, science review: I read this book when I was writing a paleo-historic drama of the life of earliest man. My characters were Homo habilines, but they cohabited Africa with Australopithecines, so to understand the co-st […]
    Donald C. Johanson
  • Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe July 24, 2011
    author: Jane Goodall name: Jacqui average rating: 4.25 book published: 1990 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: early-man, science review: I have read every book that Jane Goodall wrote. She has an easy-going writing style that shares scientific principals easily with the layman. Probably because when she started, she was little more than a no […]
    Jane Goodall
  • In the Shadow of Man July 24, 2011
    author: Jane Goodall name: Jacqui average rating: 4.32 book published: 1971 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/23 shelves: early-man, science review: I read Jane Goodall's In the Shadow of Man (Houghton Mifflin 1971) years ago as research for a paleo-historic novel I was writing. I needed background on the great apes so I could show them acting appr […]
    Jane Goodall
  • Timewalkers: The Prehistory of Global Colonization January 29, 2011
    author: Clive Gamble name: Jacqui average rating: 3.50 book published: 1993 rating: 4 read at: 2010/02/07 date added: 2011/01/28 shelves: early-man review: It's a difficult question. Why did earliest man leave Africa and migrate to new areas. Mostly, animals evolve suited to their environment and they don't stray far. They may have several areas th […]
    Clive Gamble
  • Gorillas in the Mist January 26, 2011
    author: Dian Fossey name: Jacqui average rating: 4.16 book published: 1983 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/01/25 shelves: early-man review: […]
    Dian Fossey
  • The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body January 26, 2011
    author: Steven Mithen name: Jacqui average rating: 3.75 book published: 2005 rating: 4 read at: 2009/07/28 date added: 2011/01/25 shelves: early-man, reference, research, science review: I have avoided this book in the past because my personal interest extends to an earlier time than Neanderthals, but I shouldn't have. The title is misleading in that he […]
    Steven Mithen
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