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Dunderman
10-04-2006, 07:23 AM
No, I'm not going to ask what Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon called each other; I know we don't know. What I do want to ask is if there is any particular reason that the names of primitive people would be more along the lines of Ug and Zog than Marianna Carlotta Mononda de Francesco. Do we have any reason to believe anything at all about the names of people who lived 40000+ years ago? Do we know enough about primitive languages, through deduction or otherwise, to make an educated guess?

Stentor 2.5
10-04-2006, 07:39 AM
Look at the tribal societies of the American Indians, the Australian Aborigines, and the Aboriginals of Papua New Guinea at the time of first contact. Those names are probably the ones most similar to what a cro-magnon "caveman" would have called himself.

The Neanderthals are a different story. Despite the fact that they had a wide range, they apparently exhibited little cultural diversity between tribes. Neanderthal artifacts from Spain look pretty much like Neanderthal artifacts from Turkey. I'd venture that if Neanderthals showed little creativity in creating tools, they'd also show little creativity in choosing names for themselves or their family members. Completely arbitrary, easily pronounced words such as "Ug" and "Zog" may well have been the preference, although I'm not sure if scientists have been able to theorize which phonemes the Neanderthals were capable of pronouncing.

CalMeacham
10-04-2006, 07:40 AM
I think that most caveman names that we hear come from comic-book writers, pulp writers, and screenwriters, folks not always known for the depth of their research, and that they therefore used single-syllable nonsense words that suggested their idea of primitive speech. The alternative has been "literal translations" of names -- "Thinker", "Wolf-Face", etc.


I don't know of any writers who looked into real "primitive" names to try to come up with a plausible set of names (I never read Jean Auel's books. Did she do this?) I do know that even good pulp writeras trod the first route above. Robert E. Howard came up with impressive names based von classical models most of the time, but when faced with coming up with "primitive"" names he fell into thudding similarity -- "Thak" was the ape-man in "Rogues in the House", and "Thog" was a primitive demon-creature.

The Great Sun Jester
10-04-2006, 09:00 AM
I always liked "Thak" as a name. I wanted to name my son Thak, but mom would have none of it.

WhyNot
10-04-2006, 09:48 AM
I don't know of any writers who looked into real "primitive" names to try to come up with a plausible set of names (I never read Jean Auel's books. Did she do this?)
Auel was following a theory at the time that Neanderthals (The Clan) were capable of only very limited verbal speech, but had a rich sign language. Their personal names were spoken words, though. Most of their speech is described as gutteral and rolling, with swallowed sounds. Her spelling is fairly Anglicized. A name spelled "Creb" is described as sounding like "Grrrrrrrrrrrrub", with a long rolled "r" sound surrounded by two swallowing sounds. (But it's always "Kreb" in my head.) The protaganist, a Cro-Magnon, has a much longer and more linguistically gymnastic name, but we never find out what it was originally. The closest the Clan can come to saying it is "Ayla", though most of them say it more like "Arrrgghaa", and Ayla becomes her name.

Other Neanderthal names in her books: Broud, Brun, Iza, Uba, Zoug, Dorn, Durc

Her Cro-Magnon names vary by culture, and each group of people have a distinctive pattern to their naming. It's easy to tell a Mamutoi from a Zelandonnii just by name. Mamutoi names: Deegie, Latie, Tronie, Tulie, Thonie (for women), Talut, Ranec, Frebec, Manuv, Barzec (for men.) Zelandonnii names: Jopalaya, Marthona, Marona, Jonayla (for women) Jondalar, Thonolan, Dalanar, Joharran (for men).

John Mace
10-04-2006, 11:07 AM
Do we have any reason to believe anything at all about the names of people who lived 40000+ years ago? Do we know enough about primitive languages, through deduction or otherwise, to make an educated guess?
It's probably not correct to use "primitive" to describe the language spoken by our ancestors 40,000 years ago, and it certainly isn't accurate to call any extant language "primitive". In the vernacular, the word "primitive" means simple or unsophsiticated. In the scientific sense it simply means "older" or "not derived". Scientifically, one might call Old English "primitive" English simply because (modern) English is derived from it. But it would incorrect to assume that older languages are less sophisticated (unless we were to go back further than 40,000 years) and no linguist would call any extant language "primitive".

We certainly don't know what names were like 40,000 years ago, but it's unlikely anyone would have a name like "Marianna Carlotta Mononda de Francesco", since people lived in small groups with no need to designate where someone was from or who their parents are. There is also no reason to assume that people used short, gruntish names for people since names were probably derived from words in the langauge, and there is no reason to assume that the language was made up of only short, gruntish words.

Excalibre
10-04-2006, 02:49 PM
Look at the tribal societies of the American Indians, the Australian Aborigines, and the Aboriginals of Papua New Guinea at the time of first contact. Those names are probably the ones most similar to what a cro-magnon "caveman" would have called himself.
Oh, wow. Um, what in the world do you base this guess on? And what common features do you see there being between those (rather large) groups that could possibly be similar to the speech of "cavemen"?


The Neanderthals are a different story. Despite the fact that they had a wide range, they apparently exhibited little cultural diversity between tribes. Neanderthal artifacts from Spain look pretty much like Neanderthal artifacts from Turkey. I'd venture that if Neanderthals showed little creativity in creating tools, they'd also show little creativity in choosing names for themselves or their family members. Completely arbitrary, easily pronounced words such as "Ug" and "Zog" may well have been the preference, although I'm not sure if scientists have been able to theorize which phonemes the Neanderthals were capable of pronouncing.
It strikes me that any guess about how Neanderthals talked at all - let alone how they named each other - is based on very little. Most of the articulatory organs are composed of soft tissues that don't fossilize well; any guess at all about what sounds the Neanderthals made, or if they had any capacity for speech at all (since it requires brain adaptations as well as adaptations in the articulators) strikes me as rather imprudent.

caveman
10-04-2006, 03:03 PM
For the record, my name's Russell

Rysdad
10-04-2006, 08:55 PM
For the record, my name's Russell

Pronounced: Urrrrslgh

Derleth
10-04-2006, 09:46 PM
Oh, wow. Um, what in the world do you base this guess on? And what common features do you see there being between those (rather large) groups that could possibly be similar to the speech of "cavemen"?Because they're both human groups that either still live in tribal groups or lived in tribal groups within recorded history. Names are a function of culture, and the cultures are similar.

Beware of Doug
10-04-2006, 09:52 PM
Other Neanderthal names in her books: Broud, Brun, Iza, Uba, Zoug, Dorn, DurcHey, I'd fit right in!

Monty
10-04-2006, 09:54 PM
Because they're both human groups that either still live in tribal groups or lived in tribal groups within recorded history. Names are a function of culture, and the cultures are similar.
Huh?

Excalibre
10-04-2006, 10:02 PM
Because they're both human groups that either still live in tribal groups or lived in tribal groups within recorded history. Names are a function of culture, and the cultures are similar.
Except you're comparing modern cultures to ones from tens of thousands of years ago. None of them are going to be particularly similar. You're assuming that all non-agricultural societies are somehow inherently similar - similar to the point of having similar naming customs! That's just not the case. As I hinted at in my earlier post, there's no obvious similarities to be found amongst all the modern-day languages and naming customs that Stentor referenced - so what does that tell us about people thirty thousand years ago? What do modern languages tell us about this? Imagining that the languages spoken in Australia, the Americas, New Guinea, and every other part of the world with hunter-gatherer communities are somehow similar to each other - or any more similar to each other than they are to European languages - is simply mistaken.

And further, linguistics doesn't know anything about language that far back. It's something pretty well-understood within linguistics that all modern languages are essentially equal - not identical, but similar in their complexity and in the scope of what they can express (which is essentially unlimited.) But we also know that at some point in history, proto-humans without language existed. Presumably, for some period in the middle, humans spoke some sort of proto-language. We have absolutely no knowledge of what that language could be like. We can conjecture a few things based upon features that tend to be more common among languages, but you have to recognize that that's an incredibly limited tool. And the other question - about Neanderthals - is even worse, since we have no evidence at all about how - or if - they spoke. Perhaps artifacts of their culture indicate that they very likely had some sort of language (I'm not an archaeologist; I wouldn't know) - but they certainly don't tell us anything about them.

The style of names used in comic books in the like alluded to by Priceguy is only a matter of custom; they're just what appeal to people as somehow "primitive". There's an enormous variety of different cultural practices among all the groups Stentor mentioned, and their languages aren't similar to one another either. Which tells us that the languages of ancient hunter-gather groups from tens of thousands of years ago are probably also not particularly similar to modern-day hunter-gatherer groups. What similarities do you imagine exist between these languages that we can assume apply to cavemen?

Derleth
10-05-2006, 10:11 PM
Excalibre: All I was doing was trying to explain what was going on in Stentor 2.5's head. I didn't intend to defend it in any way. It's possible I was wrong, but that would only be the case if Stentor 2.5 was trying to make a different point.

susan
10-05-2006, 11:15 PM
Marianna Carlotta Mononda de Francesco
:eek: You guessed my real name!

Sleel
10-06-2006, 02:59 AM
There's no way we could go back far enough to even make an attempt at guessing what names 40,000 years ago would be like. This is pretty close to asking what the "oldest" language is. There really can't be a meaningful answer because we don't know a whole heck of a lot about languages of the past and anything we know about present languages has almost no bearing on the past. Modern "primitive" languages might have been substantially more complicated 1,000 years ago. We just don't know.

The guessing games linguists have played, like piecing together a hypothetical Proto-Indo European language, have given us a possible pronunciation guide and limited vocabulary. There's a slightly jargon-heavy overview (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto-Indo-European_language) from Wikipedia with probably more detail than you'd want. According to some theories, names recorded in Vedic literature might represent some of the oldest names we have a good idea of how to pronounce properly.

Most of what we know about Sumerian, which is the oldest written language we know of, is a guessing game when it comes to pronunciation, since the key to deciphering it was through Akkadian. For all we know, that might be like deciphering English through Japanese loan words; it's very uncertain to what extent reconstructions are influenced by Akkadian features that may not have mirrored Sumerian ones.

Chinese has the longest continuous written tradition. The sounds have changed, but scholars have a good idea what the originals were. I don't know if 3500 year old Chinese names are good enough to satisfy you though. Basque, a language isolate, might provide some clues as to what ancient names were in their area since they've been there for a really, really long time, but again, nowhere near 40,000 years. Khoi-San languages are sometimes proposed as the earliest language branch, but that's mostly speculative.

The problem is that unless you can find ways of comparing different languages to each other at various points in time, you can't find out how they're changing relative to each other. If you can't do that, you can't track changes back and play any guessing games about what earlier forms of the language are like. The only way to compare old languages is through writing, and the oldest writing we've got, Sumerian, is only about 5,200 years old.

So, take your pick. Your ancient names could sound like Sanskrit, Sumerian, Khoi-San, Basque, Chinese, or something else entirely. They could be grunts or poetic phrases. Here's one area where your guess is entirely as good as an expert's because there's basically no way to know what names were really like then.

Blake
10-06-2006, 03:23 AM
So, take your pick. Your ancient names could sound like Sanskrit, Sumerian, Khoi-San, Basque, Chinese, or something else entirely. They could be grunts or poetic phrases. Here's one area where your guess is entirely as good as an expert's because there's basically no way to know what names were really like then.

While we can't be certain what names were like then we can be reasonably confident that they weren't grunts. We can assume that because we have various groups in Australia and New Guinea that have been approximately isolated for >40, 000 years. These groups don't speak in grunts, they have perfectly "normal" langauges.

So from that we can assume that languages 40, 000 years ago were already 'modern' in all important repsects, and not primitive grunts and mimery. And if the language is normal it follows that the names will be just as normal.

zagloba
10-06-2006, 03:39 AM
What I do want to ask is if there is any particular reason that the names of primitive people would be more along the lines of Ug and Zog than Marianna Carlotta Mononda de Francesco.

Perhaps the cavemen were Albanian royalty (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zog_of_Albania).

Dunderman
10-06-2006, 04:38 AM
Lots of interesting information here, thanks everybody.

While we can't be certain what names were like then we can be reasonably confident that they weren't grunts. We can assume that because we have various groups in Australia and New Guinea that have been approximately isolated for >40, 000 years. These groups don't speak in grunts, they have perfectly "normal" langauges.

So from that we can assume that languages 40, 000 years ago were already 'modern' in all important repsects, and not primitive grunts and mimery.Having been isolated for 40.000 years doesn't necessarily mean that language hasn't evolved for 40.000 years, does it? That those people don't grunt now doesn't mean they didn't grunt 40.000 years ago.

Monty
10-06-2006, 11:34 AM
No, it doesn't mean the language evolved. It means the langauge changed. All the evidence we have so far indicates that languages aren't evolving. There are things in language change called cycles. My personal favorite cycle is the Cycle of Negation.

Lemur866
10-06-2006, 12:05 PM
My personal favorite cycle is the Cycle of Negation.
No it isn't.

John Mace
10-06-2006, 01:04 PM
Lots of interesting information here, thanks everybody.

Having been isolated for 40.000 years doesn't necessarily mean that language hasn't evolved for 40.000 years, does it? That those people don't grunt now doesn't mean they didn't grunt 40.000 years ago.
Generally we assume that if two isolated populations share a characteristic, then that characteristic was present in the ancestral population. Australian languages are every bit as complex as other languages around the globe, so we assume that the folks who arrived in Australia 40k years ago were capable of fully articulate and complex speach.

Now, having said that, let me offer 2 caveats:

1. While Australia has been largely isolated for the last 40,000 years, it would be incorrect to say that it was completely isolated after the first people arrived up until the Europeans first landed.

2. One must be careful about drawing these types of conlcusions about human behaviors. Farming, for instance occurs in Eurasia and the Americas, but that doesn't mean that the common ancestors of Amerinds and Eurasias were farmers. Language, however, appears to be more than just a learned behavior, and is rather a deep seated innate capability in the human brain.

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
10-06-2006, 04:31 PM
Oh, wow. Um, what in the world do you base this guess on? And what common features do you see there being between those (rather large) groups that could possibly be similar to the speech of "cavemen"?


Perhaps Stentor was trying to say that the names they chose would have been similar to those of modern aboriginal cultures in that they would have been evocative of some trait or behaviour--like "Dances with Wolves" or an animal or other feature of the country they lived in, like "Black Hawk".





It strikes me that any guess about how Neanderthals talked at all - let alone how they named each other - is based on very little. Most of the articulatory organs are composed of soft tissues that don't fossilize well; any guess at all about what sounds the Neanderthals made, or if they had any capacity for speech at all (since it requires brain adaptations as well as adaptations in the articulators) strikes me as rather imprudent.

I read once, years ago, that if Neanderthals could talk, the physiology of their mouth and laryinx would not have enabled them to do so as articulately as we can. Much articulation in modern language occurs in the very back of the mouth, where the tongue takes a sharp right angle downwards toward the throat. the shape of Neantderthals' mouths and throats required the tongue to be mostly foreward in the mouth, much like an infant today.

John Mace
10-06-2006, 04:43 PM
I read once, years ago, that if Neanderthals could talk, the physiology of their mouth and laryinx would not have enabled them to do so as articulately as we can. Much articulation in modern language occurs in the very back of the mouth, where the tongue takes a sharp right angle downwards toward the throat. the shape of Neantderthals' mouths and throats required the tongue to be mostly foreward in the mouth, much like an infant today.
Their repertoire of sounds would certainly be different from ours, perhaps even smaller, but no human language uses the full repertoire anyway. It has recently been learned that the Neanderthal hyoid bone are vertually indestinguishable from those of modern humans. That bone is part of the speach apparatus for modern humans and is a good indicator that some form of speech was present. What the speech was like and how complex it was is anyone's guess.

daffyduck
10-06-2006, 04:53 PM
No need to guess; watch the movie. My favorite line from Quest for Fire... Agh!!!

Excalibre
10-06-2006, 05:01 PM
Perhaps Stentor was trying to say that the names they chose would have been similar to those of modern aboriginal cultures in that they would have been evocative of some trait or behaviour--like "Dances with Wolves" or an animal or other feature of the country they lived in, like "Black Hawk".
I'm not an anthropologist. Can anyone even come up with evidence that this is true in every hunter-gatherer culture on Earth now? I know that it's a stereotype for North American Indians, and I'm sure it's based on fact, but we're talking about thousands of different cultures and it's not obvious to me that they all have the same naming practices. Like I said, I'm not an anthropologist. I'd love it if someone could find some evidence either way on this.

John Mace
10-06-2006, 07:10 PM
Is there any culture that just makes up random syllables for given names? My name, John, doesn't mean anything in English, but it derives from some name that does mean something like "Yahweh is merficful" in Hebrew. I think it's safe to assume that most names at some point followed a pattern of reference to something in the physical or spiritual world.

Excalibre
10-06-2006, 07:50 PM
Is there any culture that just makes up random syllables for given names? My name, John, doesn't mean anything in English, but it derives from some name that does mean something like "Yahweh is merficful" in Hebrew. I think it's safe to assume that most names at some point followed a pattern of reference to something in the physical or spiritual world.
Many modern African-American names are constructed in such a way. (Albeit with certain constraints; not just any combination of syllables is liable to be used.) Of course, variations on more "normal" names, Islamic names, and the use of other words as names are all fairly common as well amongst African-Americans.

Larry Borgia
10-06-2006, 07:59 PM
"But why do you ask, Two-dogs-fucking?"

susan
10-06-2006, 10:34 PM
Heh.

John <-- Jonathan <-- Yah Natan, "God gives" in contemporary Hebrew, Usually rendered as "God has given" or "God's gift" in baby name books.

susan
10-06-2006, 10:34 PM
Heh.

John <-- Jonathan <-- Yah Natan, "God gives" in contemporary Hebrew, Usually rendered as "God has given" or "God's gift" in baby name books.

shijinn
10-07-2006, 10:27 AM
"oi"

maybe they don't have names. names have got to be invented right? isn't it reasonable to assume that simple grunts were used until the community/vocabulary grew beyond the size of 10?

Dunderman
10-07-2006, 11:00 AM
maybe they don't have names. names have got to be invented right? isn't it reasonable to assume that simple grunts were used until the community/vocabulary grew beyond the size of 10?The vocabulary is widely accepted to have been larger than ten among Cro-Magnon.

Frylock
10-07-2006, 11:22 AM
No, it doesn't mean the language evolved. It means the langauge changed. All the evidence we have so far indicates that languages aren't evolving. There are things in language change called cycles. My personal favorite cycle is the Cycle of Negation.

I don't understand the distinction you're making between evolving and changing.

My own concept of evolution allows for the possibility of cyclic evolution.

But should I amend my concept?

-Kris

Frylock
10-07-2006, 11:23 AM
No, it doesn't mean the language evolved. It means the langauge changed. All the evidence we have so far indicates that languages aren't evolving. There are things in language change called cycles. My personal favorite cycle is the Cycle of Negation.

Also, a couple of google searches didn't reveal any information to me about a cycle of negation. Could you help me out?

-Kris

John Mace
10-07-2006, 11:34 AM
Heh.

John <-- Jonathan <-- Yah Natan, "God gives" in contemporary Hebrew, Usually rendered as "God has given" or "God's gift" in baby name books.
I don't think John derives from Jonathan.

Excalibre: Not really. Those names are generally variations on current names, rather than completely made up syllables. And to the extent that some might be completely made up, I think those are exceptions.

Monty
10-07-2006, 07:26 PM
Cyclic evolution? I wouldn't understand that term as applied to either a linguisitic or a biologic issue.

My semantics prof referred to Otto Jesperson's Negative Cycle as Cycle of Negation. Obviously, I picked up the prof's terminology.

Here's a short description of the Cycle. As should be evident from the word cycle, the phenomenon does not simply stop at the third stage. The Cycle repeats. (Note: I do not agree completely with the Evaluation section of that page; the evaluation is for the book, not the Cycle, so it shouldn't matter if I agree or not.)

Here are two links for you, John Mace:

[url=http://www.babynames.com/Names/name_display.php?n=JOHN (http://listserv.linguistlist.org/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0503b&L=linguist&P=4791)
Jonathan (http://www.babynames.com/Names/name_display.php?n=JONATHAN)

Monty
10-07-2006, 07:30 PM
Hmm. Well that coding rotted. Guess that's what I get for trying to use the quick reply window. Let's try it this way.

Cyclic evolution? I wouldn't understand that term as applied to either a linguisitic or a biologic issue.

My semantics prof referred to Otto Jesperson's Negative Cycle as Cycle of Negation. Obviously, I picked up the prof's terminology.

Here (http://listserv.linguistlist.org/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0503b&L=linguist&P=4791)'s a short description of the Cycle. As should be evident from the word cycle, the phenomenon does not simply stop at the third stage. The Cycle repeats. (Note: I do not agree completely with the Evaluation section of that page; the evaluation is for the book, not the Cycle, so it shouldn't matter if I agree or not.)

Here are two links for you, John Mace:

John (http://www.babynames.com/Names/name_display.php?n=JOHN)
Jonathan (http://www.babynames.com/Names/name_display.php?n=JONATHAN)

John Mace
10-07-2006, 08:01 PM
Here are two links for you, John Mace:

John (http://www.babynames.com/Names/name_display.php?n=JOHN)
Jonathan (http://www.babynames.com/Names/name_display.php?n=JONATHAN)
I'm not sure if you're agreeing with me or disagreeing. The defintions are different, but similar. John (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/john) derives from YHWH + the semetic root 'nn and Jonathan (http://www.bartleby.com/61/11.html) from YHWH + ntn

Monty
10-07-2006, 08:18 PM
I'm agreeing with you. The names are similar, but one is not derived from the other.

Frylock
10-07-2006, 08:57 PM
Cyclic evolution? I wouldn't understand that term as applied to either a linguisitic or a biologic issue.



Thanks for the link about the cycle of negation/negative cycle.

As to the possibility of "cyclic evolution," I don't yet know which of us needs to amend his concept of evolution. I propose a vote (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?p=7848660#post7848660).

-FrL-