7. The Evolution of Hominids

7.6 Homo Sapiens Sapiens

There is nothing disproportionate about the frontal lobe in humans. Humans do have larger brains for their bodies than other primates but no particular section of the brain is swollen. All parts of the brain, except the cerebellum, scale up proportionately. The frontal lobe relative to other parts has not changed during human evolution. In humans, the frontal lobes make up 37% of the hemispheres compared with about 35% in bonobos, chimpanzees and gorillas and 36.3% in the orangutan.

The frontal lobe of sapiens sapiens commands the highest form of behavior. Its function is to maintain the initiative by reducing all the reactions that compete with the wanted reaction. Thereafter, it enriches the desired reaction with additional harmonic modulations. Frontal insufficiency results in an inability of the mind to focus and persevere. The psychological isolation that the newly emerged mind was able to sustain permitted the migrations that favored the diversification into various races.

7.6.1 The origins

On one side, paleontological evidence says that various local H. erectus groups in the Magreb, in the Near East, in Indonesia and in China, evolved towards the pre-sapiens form. It also says that H. sapiens neanderthalensis lived at the same time and at the same place as H. sapiens sapiens. On the other side, the human species is genetically homogeneous.

M. Nei exposed13 the controversy on the origin of Homo sapiens sapiens. One hypothesis holds that Homo erectus, whose brain size is considerably smaller than that of H. sapiens sapiens, moved out of Africa and spread, about a million years ago, and that H. sapiens sapiens evolved gradually world-wide, with natural selection. This hypothesis holds that modern humans originated simultaneously in various geographic regions from pithecanthropic ancestors. The second hypothesis holds that modern humans originated in Africa, moved out of Africa and replaced Homo erectus and Neanderthals with no gene exchange.

This multiregional theory is based on morphological clues. The East Asians of today (Japanese) have shovel-shaped incisors and the Australians (aborigines) have a prominent brow ridge. Are these traits due to chance or did hybridization between H. erectus and H. sapiens occur in these regions? Further, the record shows that, when two populations meet, there is always a certain degree of hybridization. If the H. erectus population size was large, interbreeding surely happened. It may very well be that the morphological differences observed at the paleontological level (sustained by cultural artifacts) among the various hominid lines that emerged locally at various far distant sites of the earth, were still so small as to permit interbreeding. One could thus postulate a multiple concomitant emergence of H. sapiens sapiens at various propitious sites.

The saltationist theory militates for a unique emergence of sapiens sapiens from an ancient African stock that moved out of Africa and diversified in various races after dispersion. This theory is now favored and is based on various clues. Morphologically, the most primitive race still existing is that of the Australian aborigines.


Figure 7.9. The Australoids comprise the Australians (1.65 meter) and the Vedas (1.55 meter) of India.

The Australoids are primitive white people with undulating hair abundantly covering their tanned bodies. At the time of the European invasion of Australia in the 17th century, they were 300,000 people covering 7,700,000 km2. They may have originated in South East Asia, expanded in various directions and have maintained their primitive characters in the isolated Australian ecological niche. This Paleo-European type is recognized in Siberia (Ostiaks, Vogouls, etc.), Japan (Ainous), India (Vedas), South-America (Fuegians) and Europe (Canary Islands). Mixing with other races is obvious.

This human type supposedly evolved into more refined races in Europe, North Africa, Arabia, Siberia, India and Polynesia, without losing its primitive physical characters such as a prominent nose, long hair, thin lips, unprotected eyes and a white skin that turns selectively white or dark in accordance with the intensity of the sun rays. Culturally, the most primitive human groups existing today are the Bushmen and Hottentots.


Figure 7.10. Bushman, i.e. San (1.42 meters) and Hottentot, i.e. Khoï (1.62 meters) are Koïsan and also steatopygians because the women store fat in their thighs. They have mongoloid undertones. Their penis is horizontal.

A Khoïsan woman has been found genetically to be the last common ancestor at the origin of the human race. They represent the African Gatherer’s culture, which is the most primitive cultural level on record (see fig 7.17).

They populated the whole of Africa 3,000 to 2,000 years ago. The Bushman of the Kalahari deserts thrives mainly on a vegetal diet complemented occasionally with animal proteins, resembling the feeding habits of chimpanzees. The Bushmen are artistically dormant and the primitive sapiens populations were also artistically inactive. One may however not exclude the possibility that the bushmen were artistically active before their deportation into equatorial lands.

These African Gatherers may be the original sapiens efflorescence. There exist traces of such an African Gatherer’s culture also in Asiatic refuge areas such as the Philippines and the Andaman archipelago. The African Gatherer may have thus appeared in South East Asia, expanded and culturally evolved in an empty Africa and transformed into the Australian aborigine who is physically no more evolved but culturally slightly better developed.

A now extinct human group that was culturally and morphologically primitive was the Tasmanian.


Figure 7.11. The last Tasmanian (1.66 meters) died in 1877. The Tasmanians had a blend of Australoid and Negroid characteristics. They possessed an elevation of the median line of the skull.

The Tasmanians were about 4,000 people occupying the 40,000 square kilometers of Tasmania, south of Australia. Their way of life was that of the Upper-Paleolithic, certainly more primitive than the Australians since they did not know the boomerang. They practiced the same ritual of cremation followed by the smashing of the charred bones, as the Australoids living 35,000 years ago. This human stock was isolated 12,000 years ago by a rising sea and was exterminated in the 19th century.

Morphologically, they represented a blend between white Australian aborigines and Negritos. These may be the original stock from which evolved the Australians on one side, the African Gatherers on the other. Genetically (blood groups, earwax, fingerprints), mankind is divided into two groups.

Races have obvious consistence. Since all races belong to the same species, only gene frequency, but not difference, can be taken into account for classification. The rage of classification nurtured by logic unable to cope with the inherent variations embedded in any biological reality pushes the concept of race to extreme unrealistic limits which open the door to tragedy.

The white and black people from the Near East, Africa and Europe, plus the Ainus of Northern Japan, are genetically closer to each other than they are to the Mongoloid and Australoid combination. On other grounds one estimates, however, that Ainus and Mongoloids are very close and that Europeans are genetically closer to them than they are to the Negroids.

The dwarfs of South East Asia, i.e. the Negritos (fig. 7.12), have in common with the African dwarfs a high frequency of fingerprint arches.


Figure 7.12. The Negritos (1.48 meters) are the pygmies of Asia. They are the Negritos of the Philippine mountains, the Semang of Malacca and the Andaman people. Their body is hairless. They differ in substantial ways from the African pygmies.

One might advance that the original sapiens stock was constituted of these dwarfs (Capoids). It split up through genetic drift into the Tasmanian who evolved into the Australoid. The Australoid produced thereafter the American Indian and the Mongoloids. On the other side, through an unknown transition group which might be the Indian Vedas or the Melanesians, the Capoids gave rise to the Paleo-European people who themselves are the roots of the Negroid. Conclusion. Genetic studies made on mitochondrial DNA indicate that the last common ancestor between humans and chimps lived 4.5 million years ago (under the assumption that the orangutan diverged from the African apes 13 million year ago). With the clock being thus set for the genetic drift14, the Paleo-European stock separated from the Capoids 143,000 years ago. An examination of the European armours used by the warriors of the Middle Ages shows that the warriors who used them were of a small size. The size of the beds used by Europeans during the Middle Ages shows them also to be of a small size (i.e. about 1.5 meter tall). European human groups of a small size are still found today in northern Spain (e.g. Zaragoza and Santo-Domingo de la Calzada) and in Belgium (Bruges). Their size does not exceed 1.5 meter, i.e. they are smaller than Neanderthal and not much taller than the Capoids. The Asians diverged from the Europeans 70,000 years ago. The new species irradiated into races without interbreeding with H. erectus or Neanderthal.

It is about a decade ago that the latest common ancestor of all modern humans was said to be African. Studies made with the male chromosome Y pointed to the Koïsans, Bushmen living in Botswana, as the people most closely resembling our common ancestor who lived about 145,000 years ago. The geneticists Soodyall and Jenkins presented15confirmatory results based on mitochondrial DNA. According to these, “Eve” appeared 120,000 years ago and is still most closely represented today by the Khoïsan bush women living in Botswana. Mitochondrial DNA is preferentially chosen for such analyses because it is accepted that mitochondrial DNA is composed of female DNA only. It is assumed that mitochondrial DNA forms a continuous thread running back in time through the maternal lineage. There are now indications that some male DNA also participated in the constitution of mitochondrial DNA, which necessitates requestioning those conclusions. While there is no discussion that Bushmen are probably closest to our common ancestor, the African origin is disputable; Tasmanians or Southeast Asia Negritos could very well be more authentic. Modern humans may have evolved about 150,000 years ago from an advanced pithecanthropine or Neanderthaloid form present in Southeast Asia and have rapidly expanded to Africa, instead of the migration in the opposite direction usually assumed to have taken place.

7.6.2 Controlled fire

A cultural acquisition that was essential to the success of sapiens sapiens was his mastering of fire. This command increased tremendously his range because he gained thereby access to energy supplies usually denied to animals.

Most plants are inedible. The toxic substances range from irritants to haemagglutinating substances, to enzyme inhibitors, to allergens, etc. Failure to perceive the danger of plant consumption results in liver cirrhosis, marasmus or kwashiorkor, tumors of the liver, pharynx and esophagus, which can weaken whole populations. Predators of plants have evolved two types of adaptations to the toxic substances: either they destroy the toxic material or else they sequester the substances and use them for their own purposes. Animals that find such a way to escape penalty upon eating a plant are themselves advantaged in their survival. Man has developed a third adaptation to the disposal of toxic substances in plants. This is cooking. By cooking, he heat-denatures, he oxidizes, he dissolves and he dilutes. For example potatoes are highly toxic when absorbed raw, uncooked.

Prior to the advent of fire, the main sources of calories for the hominids must have been fruits available on a year-round basis. It is only in warm climates that edible fruits are available on such terms. The initial evolution of the Hominids took place in a forested environment.

The main evolution of the Australopithecines was accomplished in open Savannah’s where fruits are not readily available. The Australopithecines were meat eating and tool making. Yet evidence of fire has been rare. The use of fire appeared only 500,000 years ago at the Pithecanthropic level of hominisation. One supposes that it was collected from natural sources and that it could not be renewed at will. Hearths appear very frequently during the Mousterian culture of the Neanderthal Man. However, here again, these hearths are not ubiquitous and total command over fire is dubious. In temperate climates, fruits are seasonal and other supplies of food must be found. In the absence of controlled fire, this can only be meat and fish. The vegetarian Neanderthal turned to meat during the glaciary period.

The Negrito Andamans living off the Eastern coast of India on the Andaman and Nicobar archipelagos used fire on the same terms as the Neanderthalers, up till this century. With these rare exceptions, the most derelict human groups of sapiens sapiens now living have command over fire. It is about 50,000 years ago, at the Kalambo Falls in Africa and 40,000 years ago in the South East that hearths appear to be a definite attribute of man’s camps.

Controlled fire makes regular cooking possible. This in turn expands tremendously the food supply. Wheat, barley, rice, maize, all require cooking and can be stored during winter months. Fire is an important element in the evolvement of Man as a social animal. As long as there was no cooking, people could eat alone, according to needs. As soon as food began to be cooked, with somebody in charge of the cooking and of the keeping of the fire alive, a strong pressure arose towards community life. To eat together is an act that acquired a symbolic value, which it was never to lose thereafter.

7.6.3 Language

The emergence of language was an innovation that radically changed the character of human society. Language remains in the minds of biologists and linguists a quintessentially human trait. Studies of bees, birds and mammals have shown that complex communication can evolve without the need for a human grammar. The lack of obvious similarities between human language and animal communication indicates that language is a side effect of a large and complex brain evolved for nonlinguistic purposes. The uniqueness of human language is its ability to use large numbers of words and create new ones to denote any number of additional objects or concepts. Human speech is remarkable also in that it employs a physiological apparatus initially designed to eat and breathe.

In 2001, the first gene implicated in the ability to speak was identified. Mutations in that gene (FOXP2) caused a wide range of speech disabilities. In 2002, the human version of the speech gene was found to date back no more than 200,000 years ago, i.e. about the time that anatomically modern humans emerged. It is quite plausible that the expansion of modern humans was driven by the emergence of full-blown language abilities. The gene encodes a protein with 715 amino acids and may be implicated in the ability to make the mouth and facial movements essential to speech. The development of the vocal tract

In all living mammalian species analyzed other than Humans, and also in human babies, the larynx extends high in the neck to finish close to the nasal cavity. This is also the case in primitive hominids as Australopithecus. This configuration allows the animal or the suckling baby to feed on liquids while still continuing to breathe through the nose. The paths taken by air and liquid do not mingle.

The beginning of the evolution leading to the production of articulated language at the cost of impairment of the respiratory and alimentary functions occurred about 1.5 million years ago, concomitantly with the appearance of large bifaces. The critical moment when a modern vocal tract appeared was about 400,000 years ago. With the progressive development of culture and technology, the selective advantages due to an advance in speech became greater and greater. A full command over the various sounds pronounced and a better understanding of them allowed the possibility of talking ten times faster. Yet, Neanderthal man had a vocal canal similar to that of an adult chimpanzee or a newly born sapiens sapiens. He pronounced only the vowels (a), (e) and (o). In the adult H. sapiens sapiens, the larynx recedes down into the neck and makes its junction with the pharynx at the base of the neck, at the height of the third cervical vertebra. A large pharyngeal cavity is thereby liberated that allows a modulation of the sounds emitted by the vocal cords located in the larynx underneath. H. sapiens sapiens could pronounce (i) and (u) and this advantage over the Neanderthaler must certainly have become very perceptible at the moment the progress in technology in the use of fire and in cutting instruments reduced the importance of mastication.

The price paid to acquire this improved capacity to modulate sounds by other means than the lips and tongue was that solid food and liquids could penetrate the larynx, since the respiratory tract and alimentary tract had now a shared chamber, before reaching the nasal and buccal cavities. The vocal canal of modern man is disadvantageous for respiration and for food and liquid ingestion.

In human infants, the changes leading to the capacity to communicate via articulated language occur at age 1.5 to 2 years. Before that, our children eat, drink, breathe and talk as do chimps and gorillas. Sounds

The first sounds pronounced by a newborn are “a” (as in are),”i” (as in in) and “u” (as in you). In addition to these pure vowels, the newborn pronounces also the sound el or Hel. If these were the sounds available to primitive man 500,000 years ago (Clactoneans, Acheuleans, Levalloisians), one may guess that they had at their disposition about 60 sounds (Ah, Eh, Aha, Aho, Hello, etc.). The frequency of use of the sound “Hel” detected in almost all known languages to signify a divinity (Olympus, Alleluia, Allah, Elohim, Hell, Elyseum, Ali, all contain the primitive phoneme Hel), leads to the conclusion that the pronunciation of this sound concords with the emergence of consciousness – and the awe of death – in the human brain.

Neanderthal man was capable to say “a” and “o”, to which he could add “b”, “d”, “t”, “s”, and “z”. The vowels preceded the consonants. If his vocabulary were as rich as that of a chimp, he would manage to pronounce 200 words, of the type ab, at, ot, os, ob, etc. One supposes that onomatopoeias derived from the animal world: Ab meant the ram, Ad the mammoth, An the monkey, Aw the wolf, Ar the dromedary, As the eagle. There also existed 0g, which meant the Auroch. This repertoire was in reach of Neanderthal. We still say: strong as an ox, clever as a monkey, stubborn as a donkey, etc. Homo sapiens sapiens managed to pronounce a, e, i, o, u, ou, ay, ai, ei, etc., managed also several more consonants, x, z, c, g, p, etc., although some cultures are unable to pronounce some of them (e.g. “r”). Last but not least, sapiens could place the consonant in front of the vowel: ba, be, bi, bo, fa, fe, fi, etc., instead of ab, eb, ib, ob, af, ef, if, etc. This capacity to use an articulate language gave him a formidable survival edge over Neanderthal man. language evolution

If language has evolved, it must have done so from a simple precursor whose use provided an advantage in a prelinguistic population16. Language evolved as a means of communicating information between individuals of early hominids capable to produce a variety of sounds. A sound is associated with an object. The speaker and listener who associate correctly the sounds with the objects have an advantage that results in higher survival chance and more offspring, who in turn learn the protolanguage from their parents. In such a system of reward, specific sounds begin to be associated with specific objects and the evolutionary optimum is reached when each object is exactly associated with one specific sound and vice-versa.

However, early in the evolution of communication, the sounds emitted were likely to be noisy with a possibility to be mistaken for another. The number of distinguishable sounds in a protolanguage, and the number of objects accurately described by these sounds, is limited. In the presence of error, the maximum possibility of information transfer is limited because adding new sounds increases the number of objects described at the cost of increasing the probability of mistakes. There is an error limit in the number of usable sounds. The way to overcome the error limit is by combining sounds into words. This step in language evolution that consists in an increase of the repertoire by combining a set of easily distinguishable sounds into words leads to an unlimited potential of different words, with the power to describe a large number of objects and actions.

Words are strings of sounds and the understanding of a word is based on the correct understanding of each individual sound. In all existing human languages, only a small subset of the sounds producible by the vocal apparatus is employed to generate a large number of words. A correct understanding of a word consists in comparing the perceived word with all other words that are part of the lexicon. In this case, the users of the words must have a perfect knowledge of the whole lexicon.

Associating an object with an action attains an improvement of communication. There is an obvious advantage to describing both objects and actions. For example, tree with falling, forest with burning, etc. One way to achieve this is to assign a different meaning to each word. For example, in the Arabic language, there exist at least twenty different words to mean a camel : a camel sitting, a camel running, a camel in heat, a camel drinking, etc. This approach will work well only as long as the number of events described is limited. When such a language based on a string of words refers to many events, the need for memorization of all the words describing them, and the probabilities of error for both the speaker and the listener, will be forbidding.

The obstacle was overcome by the emergence of grammar. Grammar conveys more information by combining words into sentences. The advantage of sentence formation over words is that one needs to memorize all the relevant words of a language whereas grammar needs only a memorization of rules: we do not memorize a list of all possible sentences. Grammar can be seen as a simplified rule system that reduces the chances of mistakes in comprehension and is favored by natural selection in a world where mistakes and obliviousness are possible. Grammar becomes a necessity when communication about many different events is required. Grammar emerges in an attempt to both relieve the burden of memory and also to convey more information by combining words into phrases. This capacity is uniquely reserved to humans. The creation of a structured language

The first rule of grammar applied was to invert the phoneme: if ‘af’, the serpent, means warning, then ‘fa’ means the capacity to escape the warning, that is: treacherousness. If ‘Ab’, the ram, means differentiation, then ‘ba’, the ox, means distance. By this phonemic inversion, sapiens acquired 108 phonemes to express himself. This is extraordinarily much, yet only a fraction of the words he could pronounce.

The second grammar rule was to duplicate a phoneme. We witness this rule each time we listen to the conversation parents have with babies. The baby invents words by duplication of phonemes and the parents, not recognizing the words, imitate him and impose on him new words which they know and which the baby then learns.

Papa and mama are the best known of these duplicated phonemes but these are legion, in any language17. The words Papa, Dada and Baba mean Father in English, French, Dutch, German, Russian, Samoan and Luo (a Kenyan language). By this doubling, available words amounted to 216.

Thereafter came the association of two phonemes18, which creates the articulated language. Association two by two gives 46,000 words. One important line of development was the intraphonemic inversion, using 2 phonemes. The intraphonemic inversion was a means to mark affiliation. In Aramean, father sounds Abba. Members of a tribe who voluntarily left the tribe marked the filiation by an intraphonemic inversion, so that when an Anba migrated, he called himself a Naab. When however the separation was forced, due to exile, war or rejection, then the separation was marked by an interphonemic inversion, which is also a new grammatical rule. The Ad An who are forced to migrate do not call themselves the Da Na but become the Anda19. This story is still very much alive in Western consciousness and means that Adam was forced out of Eden (in Mesopotamia); he went to the East to found Anda, now called India.

After the use of two phonemes per word, mankind went on to use three, which offers a potential of a hundred million words. From there, various languages emerged, according to different lines of development. As a general rule, the mean number of phonemes per word is restricted, in all languages, to about 2-3. However, in all languages, the fundamental meaning of the primitive phoneme remained the same. 0g means Auroch, symbolically represented by the green color, and signifies Love and Son. The Arabs are fond of the green color. This phoneme (0g or Och) was the first phoneme that could be pronounced, after Hel, in primitive times. This word (Og, Och, Ach, Oh, Oye, and 0 Gué (i.e. Och Hell) is still very much alive per se, in many languages. It is found again in the longest Gaelic word the Celts of Wales still maintain:


Another important phoneme, found in almost any language, is Ba or Bha, which must initially have meant bull or beef (English) or boeuf (French) or begri (Arab) or Bous (Greek) or Boi (Portuguese). This phoneme is ubiquitous20and found in words such as battle, blockhouse, balafre, bouclier, break, brandish and in words such as babord, bac, bout, barque, balise, bord, indicating that the Bhâ people, contrary to their predecessors, the Hel people, were warriors and navigators. Babelisation

It seems that the original Mesopotamian people who discovered farming about 10,000 years ago are now located in Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, on the border of the Caspian sea. The languages they speak belong to the Nakh-Dagestanian linguistic family that arose about 8000 years ago. These ancient farmers of the Fertile Crescent appear to have been expelled from Mesopotamia north to the Caucasus Mountains21. From these indications, one surmises that the Hel people gave way to the Bhâ people, who were aggressive and adventurous. The Bhâ people revered the God Baal, and Baal was mainly represented by the cow. The sacred cow is found in ancient Egypt (Hathor), in the Cretan minotaur, in Jewish History (in the Sinai), in modern India. In fact, the sacred cow is part of our mythological heritage. The people from Babel were the Occidental Hel who became Bhâ. Babel is originally Ba Ab Hel, which reads from right to left, that is, the Hel from Ab (the West) who are Bhâ. Ba means South East and designates broadly Mesopotamia. To read from right to left is still the custom in Arab and is also our custom when we read numbers (which are arabic): 1,000,000 and 0.000,000,1 are both read from right to left. The lecture from left to right is the most favorable, since the normal reader possesses a slightly dissymetric visual field, more extended towards the right, i.e. in the “normal” direction of reading. Some people, the dislexics, are devoid of this particularity and have difficulties in reading.

The Occidental Hels who became Bhâ, i.e. the Ba Ab Hels underwent a babelisation during their migrations. Initially, they migrated to the West where they became the Hel Bhâ, i.e. Libyans, and to the North (Ar), where they became Ar-Abs and Ar-Yans. The babelisation brought about the preferential use of some words and phrases by some tribes, i.e. the evolvement of different languages. The learning of language

About 14 great linguistic groups actually spoken throughout the world have been recorded. They break up into about 56 important languages which themselves disperse into about 3,000 tongues. The human child who must learn his mother tongue does so at the same speed in about every culture. By 2 years of age, all normal children have learned where to segment the words heard in a phrase. This segmentation of a phrase into words is no easy task. The greatest difficulty in the learning and understanding of a foreign language consists precisely in this recognition of words.

The children associate thereafter the words two by two in order to express a more complex idea than that expressed by each word taken separately. They are not, at that moment, entering into the arcane difficulties of the grammar of the language and neither will the parents help them. Curiously enough, parents will omit to correct grammar and will endeavor to correct only the truth of the sentences emitted, whereas adults do generally the contrary: the grammar of the sentences emitted is correct but they do not speak the truth.

From then on, the child will begin to cope with the syntax and grammar of its language. These will vary considerably from language to language. In the beginning, its efforts will principally bear on the inherent correctness of the sentences it emits and only later will it adapt to the grammar. As an example in variation, let us analyze: “The mother takes the ball”. We have here an agent (mother), a transitive verb that marks an action (takes) and an accusative designing the direct object of the action (the ball). In French, it is about the same: la mère prend la balle. In Dutch also: de moeder neemt de ball. In German: die Mutter nimmt den Ball. Mutter is characterized by a feminine article (as in French) which also means that she is an agent, which is not so in French. The object also is characterized by an article that designs it as an object. In Russian, Hungarian and many African languages and also ancient Latin and Greek, the object is modified by a suffix (e.g. the declension of Rosa (nominative), Rosae (genetive), Rosae (dative), Rosam (accusative), Rosa (ablative). In a New-Guinea language (Kaluli), it is the agent who is qualified by a suffix, but this suffix is applied only when the agent really acts on the object. It would be ungrammatical to apply it in the case of say: “the mother sleeps”. In Turkish, to introduce a sense of causation by the agent, one must add a suffix to the verb, such as in the phrase: “She made me laugh”, which translates as: 0 (She), ben (I) i (me), gül (laugh) dür (makes) du (has), i.e. 0 beni güldürdu.

The syntax is the grammar of phrases. Because one phrase can contain other phrases (e.g. I want the dog that chases the cat that wants the mouse), syntax allows the comprehension of an infinite number of combinations of words, giving the remarkable communicative richness of language.

For all children, the speed of assimilation of the mother tongue is about equal for all languages, although Turkish is easier to learn than English and English easier than German because suffixes (Hungarian, Russian, Turkish, Finnish, Japanese) are easier to apply than prefixes (English), themselves easier to apply than declensions (Latin, Greek, German). One must add that, for all children in any language, the distinction between an agent acting on an object is made by age 2 and restricted to this case only (as in Kaluli). For example, the Russian word “book”, i.e. kniga, will transform into knigu in the accusative. Yet, the child will apply the suffix only when the book is physically transformed by the agent. In other words, he will apply the accusative in saying: “I give the book” but will erroneously leave it as “kniga” when saying “I read the book”. The same is true for Mandarin Chinese and African languages, where a suffix applied to the direct object of an action is applied only when physical, direct actions are taking place. Abstraction and generalities are not introduced to the same degree in the grammar of all languages. A child is able to abstract at the very early age of seven months.

Languages have formidably varied in the course of evolution, yet, all children are born with the innate capacity to learn to speak. They all go through the same stages, regardless of the grammatical structure of the language they learn and regardless of the behavior of the parents. The acquisition of a language seems thus to correspond to a uniform and universal process, pointing to an identical origin of all children. Almost 50 years ago, Noam Chomsky advanced the theory that grammar rules are an innate part of language, genetically programmed in the brain of every child. This erroneous conclusion that linguistic ability is hard-wired into the human brain, a genetic endowment that allows every child to master language with ease and also restricts the types of language that are possible, was based on the analysis of various similar languages. The recent analysis of aboriginal, Papuan, Indonesian, African and Native American languages challenges the theory of the universal grammar. Almost all types of grammar are possible and were in fact used.

Myths are also similar in all cultures, extending from the Vikings to the Amerindians: the stories of Immaculate Conceptions, of flooding, of children abandoned and becoming kings, of incestuous unions, of heroes resuscitating from death, of dragons slain, are universal. They also point to a common origin of mankind. The impact of language on intelligence

Some languages prefer the use of one or two vowels. Sanskrit relies mainly on the vowel a (e.g. Krishna, Veda, Varnasrama, Brahman, Ksatriya, Sudra, Upanishad, Raja, Jaya, Maharaja, Kama-Sutra, etc.). Arabic relies essentially on a and i (e.g. Islah harakat al-kawakib wa-t-ta‘ rif bi-khata’ ar-rasidin, which means “rectification of planetary motions and exposition of observer’s errors”). Modern Greek indulges in the fashion to use preferentially the vowel “e”. Other languages prefer the use of vowels to consonants (e.g. Basque, Greek and Japanese: Honda, Takeda, Osaka, Nagasaki) while others prefer consonants (e.g. Gaelic: cf. supra, and German: Schwangerschaft, Kampfschwimmer, Apfelsaft, Schwarzwald). Language may affect the way we think. All languages do not express spatial concepts in similar ways. Many languages use relative coordinates established through the planes of the body: in English, we have left and right, above and under. In some languages, the coordinates are north, south, west and east. For example, if I locate an object on the left of my body, e.g. south of me, then turn at 180° and locate a similar object in an identical arrangement, it will be at my right, north of me. Not so for Mayans speaking Tzeltal, for whom north remains always north and south remains always south.

This preferential use of vowels or consonants and of conceptualizing space may bear on the intelligence of the people whose culture made these choices. It is well established that the intelligence quotient of various cultural groups has recently increased. This was the case for Eskimos and Chinese and is presently the case with Japanese. For the last 70 years, the mean IQ of Japanese increased from 100 to 110 and 10% of the Japanese population has an IQ above 130. In the West, including Australia and New Zealand, the mean IQ of the population remained 100 and only 2% of the population have an IQ above 130.

The Japanese increase of IQ is manifest in children of 6 years of age. Several reasons have been evoked for this increase: a better alimentation and a better hygiene were first advanced. It is true that Japanese children have recently increased in weight and height, but this is also true for Americans, Belgians and Austrians. An increased urbanization has been advanced, but this is true also for Alexandria, Bombay, Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires, where the benefits of it have been, to say the least, dubious. Mixing of populations occurred in Japan after the Second World War but such a mixing also occurred in other occupied countries. One explanation for the increase in Japanese intelligence-, which is an immense threat to competing industrialized societies-, is the processing by Japanese of verbal sounds via the left cerebral hemisphere. Perhaps this peculiar processing of sounds, not found in most other cultures, forced a rearrangement of nervous synapses that led to increased intelligence.

This supremacy of intelligence is however not absolute. Japanese are excellent in the solution of problems that deal with labyrinths, object assembling, picture arranging but are inferior to Occidentals with regard to numbers and codes. It seems that the complexity of the writing of the language also plays a role in their supremacy.

If the recent superiority in intelligence of Chinese, Japanese and Eskimos is not due to a conjugation of factors (language, food, urbanization), one will have to praise the educational system, the social system and the political system in use in these various cultures. A recent (1987) examination of the virtues of the educational systems of various evolved nations demonstrated a direct positive correlation between economic prowess (Germany and Japan) and the quality of the education dispensed to the children. However, economic well-being and good educational systems are not causes but consequences of intelligence.

The ability to talk and the command over fire were not enough to allow the spread of H. sapiens sapiens over the totality of the earth. He had to adapt to local conditions.


14. Horai et al. PNAS US, 92, 1995, 532-536

15. at a meeting held in 1999 at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York.

16. M. Novak and D. Krakauer : the evolution of language. PNAS US, 96, 8028-8033, 1999

17. coco, caca, pipi, wouwou, puppe, poupe, pépé, vovo, vava, tamtam, bebe, piypiy, tyu-tyu, bay-bay, bye-bye, nana, fifi, teuf-teuf, bonbon, popo, cancan, berber, etc.

18. Barrabas means the son (bar) of the father (abba).

19. In Japan, we have Kyo-To versus To-Kyo.

20. It is found in Balthazar and Bezelbuth, in Valhalla and Babylon, but also in Libya, Lebanon, Beyrouth, Baalbeck, Bizerte, Berbers, Kabyles and also Babel, Iberes, Britons, British, Balts, Brabant, Bavarians, Albanians, Bulgaria, Serbia, Belfast, Bohemia, Bilbao, Bosnia, Albion, Albany and Arab.

21. B. Wuethrich : Peering into the Past, with Words. Science 228, 1158, 19 May 2000

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