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Did Neanderthals have language, and if so, what was it like? Scientists agree overall that the behaviour and cognition of Neanderthals resemble that of early modern humans in important ways. However, the existence and nature of Neanderthal language remains a controversial topic. The first in-depth treatment of this intriguing subject, Neanderthal Language comes to the unique conclusion that, collective hunting is a better window on Neanderthal language than other behaviours. It argues that Neanderthal hunters employed linguistic signs akin to those of modern language, but lacked complex grammar. Rudolf Botha unpacks and appraises important inferences drawn by researchers working in relevant braches of archaeology and other prehistorical fields, and uses a large range of multidisciplinary literature to bolster his arguments. An important contribution to this lively field, Neanderthal Language will become a landmark book for students and scholars alike, in essence, illuminating Neanderthals' linguistic powers.
Part I. Preliminaries:
1. Pursuing an intriguing but murky matter
2. Telltale Neanderthal teeth
Part II. Symbolic Behaviours:
3. Making and wearing personal ornaments
4. Producing cave art
5. Beautifying bodies
6. Burying the dead
7. Leaping to language
Part III. Non-Symbolic Behaviours:
8. Making stone tools
9. Teaching stone-tool making
10. Hunting big game
Part IV. Implications:
11. Dispersing the murk
Rudolf Botha is Emeritus Professor of General Linguistics, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, and a former Honorary Professor of Linguistics at Utrecht University. Previous works include Language Evolution: The Windows Approach (2016).
"Searching for the origin of human language has over the last decades developed into a lively field of scholarly discourse, generating a range of new hypotheses. But are these hypotheses really empirically sound? There is no one to answer this question more competently than Botha, as he demonstrates once again in this thrilling book on Neanderthal language."
– Bernd Heine, University of Cologne
"Botha examines both the evidence and the reasoning behind the various claims for Neanderthal linguistic abilities and finds them all wanting. Most usefully, he sets out a general framework for evaluating such inferences, a framework that is applicable not just in the parochial domain of Neanderthal studies, but in any scientific interpretation of behaviour in the deep past."
– Thomas Wynn, University of Colorado
"[...] a paradigm shift for anthropologists, this book challenges the faulty reasoning that has led to over-generous or specious conclusions about Neanderthals' language capabilities. A tour de force in logic, it should be mandatory reading for anyone who is interested in in such discussions."
– Frederick L. Coolidge, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs