Friday, December 12, 2008

It started with a whistle

Apparently, Orangutans are able to whistle voluntarily leading to speculations that it is a precursor to speech and language: see here. Maybe early humans first started to whistle, associated a piece of information to a specific whistle, and created their within-group set of whistles. At some point, different whistles were combined to form sentences and language. First, speech was just whistles and all attention was on the whistle: so you have a thought you want to communicate and then you whistle it. Then speech production became more complex and thinking and speaking happened at the same time, leading to automization of speech. You do not have to focus on speaking but just think and it comes out automatically. And stuttering is a problem with this automatism. So first were the whistles, and when humans stopped whistling they started stuttering! ;-)  (Though, I have to admit that I am a bit puzzled why we don't still whistle our speech if the speculation is correct. We could do that, no? Maybe it is not possible to create as many different whistles as we are able in our human voice?)

1 comment:

Shanqing Cai said...

There appear to be some record of languages based on whistle! For example, the language of Mazateco Indians of Oaxaca, Meixo, uses whistels. Check this,

It'd be completely to see whether any speakers (whistlers?) of this language stutters when whistling.