In 1991, psychologist, Patricia Greenfield, wrote a remarkable, often cited article entitled, “Language, tools and brain: The ontogeny and phylogeny of hierarchically organized sequential behavior.” In it she pointed out many things that have been subsequently confirmed. First is the structural similarity between language and tool making. Most of you are probably aware of those Chomsky hierarchical grammatical charts such “John (that’s me) lost his pants” on the lower right over there in that illustration. Dr. Greenfield pointed out that tool making or any purposeful object manipulation is also governed by similar hierarchical rules that she calls “action grammar” For example, the task of cutting paper with scissors, is similarly divided into one hand holding a piece of paper, the other hand opening and closing the scissors with the hands progressively pulling the paper backwards and the scissors forward.
She then goes on to point out that in the first two years of life, both language and object manipulation take place in the same part of the brain, and hypothesizes that both evolved together in hominids from a correlated part of the brain observed in chimpanzees. Since this article, the language-tool making connection has been well established, so this is where the philosophical ethos of this blog starts asking questions and making claims
First of all, which came first, tools or language? My answer is clearly language came first because language was the evolutionary innovation that underlies the entire hominid family. Language was the method whereby the evolved authority of groups communicated their intentions to their individual constituents. Hominids had to stand up in order to stay in constant visual contact sufficient to “stay on the same page” of their group’s intentions in the same way a musical band has to make small adjustments to stay in sync.
Language became the “neurological system” that coordinated hominid group-organisms.
Okay…flash forward 3.5 million years (My) to our own Homo Order and let’s ask (once again with feeling) the most intriguing question in all of human evolution: why did our brains explode in size, while during the same time our Homo ancestors made the same old hand ax for 1.5My??
ANSWER: The brain we were evolving during that time was a COMMUNAL BRAIN in which GROUPS OF INDIVIDUALS, were evolving complex hierarchical rules to synchronize algorithmic behaviors, which are coordinated, sequential, and flexibly contingent group behaviors for the detection and response to predators and prey in the process hunting and foraging. (God through) mother nature evolved the power to synchronize groups of 20-30 INDIVIDUALS into functional (not dominance) hierarchies for-the-good-of-the-group. The hierarchies of language were inseparable from behavior. So when a group sat down to “knap” hand axes together, the “action grammar hierarchies” of all their hands was in actuality a manifestation of their linguistic grammar as they all watched each other, making small adjustments to follow each others’ technique of chipping, the the heart shape, and sized to fit the hand.
The “direction” of this kind of language was from the group to the individual. It was the group’s hands that were knapping those stones, not the individuals in the group. However, when they were out hunting and foraging, the individuals became became the hands of the group as they all remained in constant communication with one another. Minute by minute, millennium after millennium, our ancestral species sought relentlessly and passionately to fathom from one another in “the language of emotion” the intentions of their groups as to what would be the very best alternative that, together as a single creature, they should all follow next.