When Did Human Speech Evolve?

Balanced critique by Barbera J. King for NPR of a study that reveals strong correlation between brain processes for technology use (flint knapping) and those for language. The study itself uses fTCD to show brain activity while engaged in language and tool-use tasks, with remarkably consistent patterns for both.

The authors suggest that  ‘tool-making and language share a basis in more general human capacities for complex, goal-directed action’. The critique linked here provides grounds for being wary of drawing firm conclusions of this nature because there are other confounding factors (we already use language so it is possible that we are using it to conceptualize how we go about using tools) and the fTCD approach is a bit coarse. However, the study’s results accord well with the widely held view that language is a technology. Whether tool use or language use evolved first is still up for debate, though I strongly suspect that they evolved in tandem. Language is a technology that makes other technologies possible and vice versa: all technologies are mutually constitutive assemblies, evolving as a result of being combined and recombined.

Address of the bookmark: http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2013/09/05/219236801/when-did-human-speech-evolve?ft=1&f=

I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology and teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems, of which I am the Chair. I am married, with two grown-up children, and live in beautiful Vancouver.

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