on 22 November 2011
I bought this book to check on one tiny item which appeared to have been missed by Speech and Language experts in the United States. The item in question was the Long-birth interval "multi=age brood" characteristic which is unique to the human specie. According to palaeontologists this human characteristic evolved about two million years ago. In this context it can be shown that the multi-age brood led directly to the gradual acquisition of physiological characteristics needed for the pronunciation of more and more consonants. This was achieved by the normal process of genetic variation and natural selection.
I had previously purchased a book called The Origin of Speech by Professor Peter Macneilage which also omitted any reference to the multi-age brood characteristic. When I contacted Professor Macneilage, he admitted complete ignorance of the Long-birth interval multi-age brood.
There is a similar omission in this book which raises questions about the people involved. Are they living in an ivory tower? Or is this a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing?
Of course, the evolution of the Long-birth interval multi-age brood may have had nothing to do with the evolution of Speech and Language, but it should have been considered.
In this context, it is fair to say that just about every other proposal for the evolution of Speech and Language is considered in this book: and this makes for a erudite and readable account.
on 16 January 2012
Jean Aitchison is an awfully good guide to this potentially tricky (and dry) territory, helped out with eclectically chosen quotations (Douglas Adams, Charlie Brown), jolly pictures and diagrams of questionable utility. The's nary a shred of bio on her in my Canto edition but I'm pretty sure she's a she, not a Frenchman, in fact I suspect she's an australienne, and she's a jolly good egg as she steers us firmly but lightly between clashing theories across murky regions of almost pure surmise, more interestingly to the non-specialist on speech's origin (Ug!) than its evolution
Postscript: returning to this lucid, ordered world after flailing around in Wired for Culture (reviewed 26/2/12) is like coming within sight of dry land!