Naked Science Forum

General Science => General Science => Topic started by: thedoc on 24/11/2016 19:53:01

Title: What came first, speech or writing?
Post by: thedoc on 24/11/2016 19:53:01
kristian bruce asked the Naked Scientists:
   What came first, speech or writing?
What do you think?
Title: Re: What came first, speech or writing?
Post by: alancalverd on 24/11/2016 22:04:57
All animals talk, very few write. So it's probable that we evolved from a talking but non-writing species.
Title: Re: What came first, speech or writing?
Post by: Semaphore on 24/11/2016 22:12:28
Grunting, followed by speaking, followed by painting and then writing.

And much later by grammar....
Title: Re: What came first, speech or writing?
Post by: Colin2B on 24/11/2016 22:32:38
And much later by grammar....
Much, much later. Some time in the future maybe.
Title: Re: What came first, speech or writing?
Post by: Ethos_ on 24/11/2016 23:26:07
And much later by grammar....
Much, much later. Some time in the future maybe.
Truly Colin................If the current trend is any indicator, we may need to go "Back to the future". Good grammar appears to be a thing of the past, if I might say.
Title: Re: What came first, speech or writing?
Post by: chris on 25/11/2016 08:45:52
Speech is what we call the series of animal calls made by our species. It's something that we are innately able to do, superimposed on which is added detail passed on through generations of refinement and learning. So it's a meme on top of an innate skill. Writing is not really that different in the sense that more primitive people certainly appreciated the importance of visual signals and used such for the purposes of tracking prey (following a trail), finding their friends, marking territories and showing the way to resources like water and so on. It's not so unlikely that people would have extended the repertoire of signals they drew or made to communicate more things, and then ultimately established a grammar so that the burgeoning array of such signals and messages continued to mean the same thing to everyone.

I am not a linguist of an anthropologist, but I would speculate that actually the two probably evolved side by side on a background of our basic abilities in sound and vision.
Title: Re: What came first, speech or writing?
Post by: puppypower on 25/11/2016 12:04:26
Writing is new and was invented about 3200 BC. Speech goes way back to the pre-humans. If you do the math, writing more or less times out with the time scale of Genesis of the bible.The bible says, in the beginning was the word and the word was God. It is possible that the word "God" was the original written word, analogous to, "Watson can you hear me", being the first message over a telephone. The time of the invention of writing could well make Genesis the first published scientific theory of cosmology, geology and life.

Written language allowed civilization to persist and altered the human psyche to form modern man. To explain how, consider a student going to class where there is no writing so you can take notes, no writing on the blackboard to see what the teacher decides is important and no written textbooks  to take home for study. All you can do is listen to the teacher for 1 hour. Without writing, there will be no consistency in terms of what students absorb, comprehend or remember, since there is no tangible record. At test time, it may come down to hearsay, might is right, or con artists rule. Before 3200 BC there were signs of civilization, but these all aborted. The children could not agree on the creative elements of their fathers, causing them to return to instinct. This is called paradise, since it was creative anew, while being an instinctive time for the pre-humans. This is like children at play with new toys.

With the invention of writing, the ideas of the founding fathers could persist. Mesopotamia, who invents writing,  becomes the first persistent civilization. The negative side affect was, with memory able to be reinforced by writing, natural instincts become repressed. Instinct will try to erase memory but the written word allows one to learn anew.

The result unconscious potential and impulses begin to appear due to the repression of instinct. For example, the needs of the group may require all people store food, and not eat as they go, like a natural hunter gatherer. This cause a repression of hunger. If you get hungry enough, you become more agitated and may start to steal food. New rules appear in the written record, which compounds the problem, since these lead to repression of the solutions to repression of natural instinct. Before writing, natural instinct could gradually erase memory and allow natural instincts to reappear.  But with writing, this can't happen. Instead a new type of human emerges, who has will power and choice, apart from instincts, which leads to a different set of problems. 
Title: Re: What came first, speech or writing?
Post by: evan_au on 25/11/2016 21:45:02
We have examples of pictures and sculpture that were used long before the earliest examples of writing. (30,000 years vs 5,000 years).

Civilizations around Mesopotamia wrote on clay tablets, which are rather temporary when damp - until their cities burnt down, baking their post-it notes into pottery.  Older civilizations may have written on even less-permanent materials, like dirt (the Greeks), knotted strings (central America) or bamboo (Asia), which have not been preserved.

There have been (debatable) claims of what may be tally-marks (numbers) associated with cave-art pictures. If proven, this would be an earlier symbolic representation than Mesopotamia.

...but I think speech preceded them all (as suggested by the imprint left by our speech centers on the skull cases of hominid fossils).

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_of_Forgotten_Dreams
Title: Re: What came first, speech or writing?
Post by: syhprum on 11/12/2016 20:35:30
I think that "boobs" as a source of sexual stimulation is a relatively recent development much later than Eve.
Mermaids did not have bras pre Disney
Title: Re: What came first, speech or writing?
Post by: snorkfort on 12/12/2016 05:11:24
And much later by grammar....
Much, much later. Some time in the future maybe.
Truly Colin................If the current trend is any indicator, we may need to go "Back to the future". Good grammar appears to be a thing of the past, if I might say.

This is incorrect. The current population is more literate and more educated than at any time in history, and there are currently more people with good English grammar than at any time in the past. In the past, "educated" people had good grammar, but very few people were educated. And the "uneducated" people did not tend to communicate often in writing. What you have now is a greater number of relatively illiterate people communicating in writing than ever before, via social media, etc. By "illiterate", I mean people who tend not to read books. So people with bad grammar are now more visible to those with good grammar. In addition, we also have a greater number of ESL (English as a second language) speakers than at any time in history. The combined presence of relatively illiterate people and ESL speakers on social media may result in some evolution in our language. Languages are constantly evolving. English tends to be slightly intolerant of deviation and unconventional
syntax in comparison to some other languages, but current evolutionary trends may result in an increased tolerance of such deviation after several decades.
Title: Re: What came first, speech or writing?
Post by: syhprum on 12/12/2016 21:13:22
I am always amazed by the attitude of the media to boobs, an "actress" can show 90% of her grossly enlarged artificial boobs but if a nipple is shown shock horror.