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Could Neanderthals talk? – Hello Hungarian

Could Neanderthals talk?  – Hello Hungarian

The question of whether Neanderthals could talk has long been a source of concern to both scientists and the public. Although it remains a topic of ongoing debate, mounting evidence suggests that Neanderthals not only had the ability to speak, but also had a form of language, although it was not as advanced as modern humans.

To delve deeper into this question, it is necessary to distinguish between speech and language. Speech refers to the ability to pronounce sounds and words verbally, while language involves using these sounds to convey complex ideas and share information. Live sciences.

Research shows that the ability to speak could already have existed in our common ancestors with Neanderthals. According to neuroscientist Andrei Vychidsky of Boston University, intelligible speech may have evolved before Homo sapiens and Neanderthals separated from their last common ancestor between 400,000 and 800,000 years ago.

One compelling piece of evidence is the shared mutations of the FOXP2 gene between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals. This gene is essential for controlling the muscles involved in speech production, and mutations in FOXP2 can lead to language deficits in modern humans, suggesting that Neanderthals were anatomically capable of speech.

Levels of language understanding

However, being able to speak does not necessarily mean possessing a complex language. By studying modern humans with language disorders, Vishdsky and his colleagues suggest that humans evolved with three different modes of language understanding: command language, language modification, and grammatical language.

  • Command language involves understanding basic commands and probably evolved shortly after the human lineage separated from chimpanzees about six million years ago.
  • Modified language involves understanding descriptive elements such as colours, sizes and numbers, and evolved about three million years ago with the advent of stone tool making.
  • Grammatical language is the most advanced form, which includes complex narratives, tenses, and possessive pronouns, and was developed about 70,000 years ago.
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According to Vychidsky, Neanderthals likely had a modified language phenotype that allowed well-intelligible speech but lacked the grammatical complexity of modern human language. “They were probably speaking like a 3-year-old. They had clear speech, but no grammatical understanding,” he said.

Fossil evidence and hearing abilities of Neanderthals

Fossil evidence provides additional support for Neanderthal linguistic abilities. A 2021 study published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution used high-resolution CT scans to analyze bones associated with hearing in Neanderthals. The researchers found that Neanderthals and modern humans shared greater sensitivity to sounds within the frequency range of spoken language than other primates.

Rolf Quam, a human paleontologist at Binghamton University and co-author of the study, explained that similar auditory abilities indicate convergence in linguistic abilities. “Most organisms do not develop sensory abilities that they do not use,” Quam noted, suggesting that the Neanderthal auditory system was likely capable of sensing and producing speech.

Although the full extent of their linguistic abilities remains uncertain, evidence suggests that they have some language abilities. Most experts agree that Neanderthals had the anatomical and perhaps cognitive capabilities to speak, but not the grammatical complexity of modern human language.

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