BIO 358 Lecture Notes - Lecture 14: Behavioral Modernity, Homo Erectus, Homo Heidelbergensis

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Topic 14: Human language cooperation and information exchange Part 2
Key Terms:
1. Language: We will use this term to refer specifically to the highly evolved capacity of humans to exchange
information using spoken and gestural symbols (Chapter 9). Human language is characterized by extensive
semantic content (word/object and word/action relationship) as well as elaborate compositional rules,
including phonology (meaningless short sound segments), morphology (combining phonological elements to
make meaningful words), and syntax (combining words into complex sentences). As a result of these
properties, human language is said to be capable of producing an effectively infinite number of sentences
expressing a nearly infinite number of thoughts, ideas and pictures. Thus, language is generative. We will
argue that language results from the redeployment and refinement of ancient properties of the universal
ancestral animal mind rather than invention of any qualitatively new capabilities (Chapter 9).
a. Noun phrase
b. Verb phrase
c. Sentence
2. Design information controlling behavior: See Chapter 13 Key Terms.
3. Culturally transmitted information: See Chapter 13 Key Terms
4. Gestural communication and the gestural theory of language origins: This theory proposes that all animals,
including ancestral humans, communicate most fundamentally by using salient movements of their bodies and
parts of their bodies. There is very good reason to believe that animal brains are shaped by natural selection
to allow this form of communication. In the human lineage, this mode of gestural communication is proposed
to have been dramatically expanded and refined early in our evolution (Chapter 9). Speech communication
might then have evolved secondarily or in parallel. The nested, hierarchical structure of spoken grammar is
supposed to have been based on the previously existing structure of gestural communication which, in turn, is
based on the fundamentally hierarchical nature of animal perception (see geon; Chapter 9).
5. Parse:
6. Larynx: See Chapter 13 Key Terms
7. Hyoid bone: A small, horseshoe-shaped bone high in the throat just under the tongue. This free-floating
bone is anchored to surrounding large structures through ligaments and is thus relatively mobile. It then
anchors many of the muscles of the tongue. This allows motion of the tongue to be independent of the lower
jaw. This capability evolved originally in ancient animals to support complex mouth/tongue movements during
eating, drinking, and the like. In humans, this movement has been expanded to also play a role in control of
sound generation during speech (Chapter 9). As a result, the human hyoid bone is bigger, more robust, and
somewhat redesigned relative to our pre-human ancestors. This bone is relatively small and delicate -
compared to a femur or a pelvis - and does not often survive in fossils. However, we have a few fossil hyoids
and we can use them to assess some details of the evolution of human speech (Chapter 9).
8. Lyre bird: See Chapter 13 Key Terms
9. Broca’s area: A region in the left cerebral hemisphere of most contemporary humans (see Figure in Chapter
9) along the lower portion of the cerebral hemisphere about a third of the way back from the front of the
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brain. This region is intimately ioled i elite hua ouiatio. Boa’s aea ad assoiated stutues
are noticeably enlarged in humans compared to the other apes, even in proportion to our overall larger brain
size. We can use this enlargement to score when humans evolved language, depending on how we define
language (Chapter 9).
10. Combinatoriality nested combinatoriality
a. Nested combinatoriality: The fundamental strategy used to build complexity throughout the
biological world (Chapter 2). It refers to the fact that each new organizational level (multicellular animals, say)
emerges by simple combination of the units from the level immediately below (cells, in this case). Moreover,
the elements or members of this level can combine to form still higher organizational levels (animal social
aggregates, in this case). This relatively simple strategy is profoundly powerful. Understanding it is one of the
key steps to being able to comprehend the elegance and ultimate simplicity of the biological world.
11. Hominids: We will use this term to apply collectively to all the members (surviving and extinct) of the
bipedal African great apes. Thus, hominids include our relatively recent non-human ancestors (or cousins to
those ancestors) including australopithecines, but do not include bonobos, chimps or gorillas. We will also
use the term to include all members of the genus Homo including our human ancestors and ourselves. We will
avoid using the roughly synonymous term hominins, popular among professional taxonomists for reasons that
need not concern us.
a. Homo sapiens: The name given to the species represented by all currently surviving humans.
This species is probably at least several hundred thousands years old, including both anatomically
modern humans and behaviorally modern humans (Chapter 11). Our brains average around 1350cc
and range from 1100-1500cc with a few individuals outside of this range, both larger and smaller.
b. Homo heidelbergensis: This species evolved from Homo erectus or a similar earlier human,
probably around five hundred thousand to seven hundred thousand years ago. This animal had a still
larger brain than erectus and approached modern brain size (around 1200-1400 cc; while modern
humans range up to 1500cc with a few individuals having larger brains; see Homo sapiens). Homo
heidelbergensis is distinguished from later humans largely on the basis of subtle morphological
characteristics, including things like facial shape. These animals probably continued to make Acheulean
tools for some time. However, they ultimately made slightly different tools, including the so-called
Mousterian or Levallois stone tool traditions. These animals apparently spread through virtually all of
Africa and Eurasia, displacing other human species - including erectus - as they went. They were
apparently ancestral to all later humans, including us
c. Homo neanderthalensis: One of two major species that probably evolved from Homo
d. Homo rudolfensis: The name given to one of the earliest known larger-brained hominids
(Chapter 7). This human also lived around two million years ago. Based on its larger brain and its
postcranial skeleton, this animal is a plausible candidate to have been our direct ancestor. This animal
may have been ancestral to Homo erectus. Homo rudolfensis individuals may have made the so-called
developed Oldowan stone tools, mostly simple flakes, and manuports (including throwing stones).
Homo rudolfensis have brain sizes around 850cc, significantly larger than apes and australopiths (350-
450 cc).
e. Australopithecus africanus: These are now-extinct hominids that include our immediate
ancestors after the divergence of our lineage from our last common ancestor (LCA) with modern
chimps and bonobos. These australopiths were bipedal (walking up on two legs), much like we are,
athe tha eig elatiel uadupedal kukle alkes like ode hips ad ooos. The
genus name for these animals is Australopithecus. A well-known early species is Australopithecus
afarensis (includes the famous Lucy fossil) and a more recent one is Australopithecus africanus.
Australopithecus garhi will also be of particular interest to us. See figures in Chapters 6 and 7 for
additional details.
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Document Summary

Topic 14: human language cooperation and information exchange part 2. Key terms: language: we will use this term to refer specifically to the highly evolved capacity of humans to exchange information using spoken and gestural symbols (chapter 9). Human language is characterized by extensive semantic content (word/object and word/action relationship) as well as elaborate compositional rules, including phonology (meaningless short sound segments), morphology (combining phonological elements to make meaningful words), and syntax (combining words into complex sentences). As a result of these properties, human language is said to be capable of producing an effectively infinite number of sentences expressing a nearly infinite number of thoughts, ideas and pictures. There is very good reason to believe that animal brains are shaped by natural selection to allow this form of communication. In the human lineage, this mode of gestural communication is proposed to have been dramatically expanded and refined early in our evolution (chapter 9).