From Mark Pagel at New Scientist:
If H. sapiens has always had language, could other extinct human species have had it too? Some believe that Neanderthals did – which would imply we both inherited it from our common ancestor some 500,000 or more years ago. This theory is consistent with the discovery that FOXP2, a gene that is essential to speech, is identical at two key positions in humans and Neanderthals but different in chimpanzees. But a single gene is not enough to explain language. And recent genetic evidence shows that the Neanderthal brain regulated its version of FOXP2 differently.What’s more, language is inherently symbolic – sounds stand for words that stand for real objects and actions. But there is … More.
… there is a paywall. Doubtless interesting info on the fact that humans have always had language, but the best explanation is then that language did not evolve.
But that raises some questions well beyond the remit of pop science.
As Michael Denton puts it,
Yet however it is derived during development, there is no doubt that a unique deep structure underlies the languages of all members of our species. It is because of the same underlying deep structure that we can speak the language of the San Bushman or an Australian aborigine, and they in turn can speak English. The fact that all modern humans, despite their long “evolutionary separation” — some modern races such as the San of the Kalahari and the Australian aborigines have been separated by perhaps 400,000 years of independent evolution — can learn each other’s languages implies that this deep grammar must have remained unchanged since all modern humans (African and non-African) diverged from their last common African ancestor, at least 200,000 years ago.
That’s a hard one to talk around.
See also: Michael Denton on the discontinuity of nature
Can we talk? Language as the business end of consciousness
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