In my pursuit to understand Bo better, I'm reading a book that Barak gave me called How to Speak Dog. It's really a great book about how to to communicate with your dog. Stanley Coren makes an interesting assertion about our co-evolution with dogs.

Stanley Coren
It is well established that the primitive humans who survived to become our forefathers formed an early relationship with dogs. Compare our success to that of the Neanderthals, who never got along with dogs, and who ultimately died out. Some evolutionary theorists have suggested that the survival of our ancestors had to do with the fact that our cooperative partnership with dogs made us more efficient hunters than Neanderthals2. With the dog's more acute sensory systems, finding game was easier.
[...]
Here is where the serious speculation begins. These theorists suggest that since these early humans now had dogs to do the tracking, they no longer needed the facial structures that would allow them to detect faint scents. This, then, allowed our early ancestors to evolve more flexible facial features, which were capable of shaping more complex sounds. In other words, our prehistoric association with dogs, who would do the smelling for us, gave us the ability to create speech.
[...]
2. J.M. Allman, Evolving Brains. New York: Freeman, 1999.
Thanks Bo!

16 Comments

When dogs finally evolve enough to speak, imagine how annoying they'll be if that theory is true.

"You humans! You guys wouldn't be talking right now if it wasn't for us. How about some backpay for all that running around for food and tail wagging for entertainment we had to do?"

You should get that dog translator that they invented a few months ago.

Check out "The Truth about Dogs," or better yet, "The Covenant of the Wild," both by Stephen Budiansky, for a somewhat more cynical (and realistic) examination of the "partnership" between dog/wolves and man. And a definition of "neoteny" that might give you second thoughts about the name you chose for your company.

Woo Woo Woof!
(You're welcome)

Oh! Not me? Hehehe

Ok bad joke, sorry.

So yeah, hmm.The first part of the quote sounds quite reasonable. We are forever finding ways to externalise our needs, whether it's creating technology to do it, or finding a natural resource. Dogs for hunting, horses for transportation, etc...

The second part is hokey in the extreme. IMHO. But who knows.

Me, I like cats.

Yay Bo woof woof. Boris must be a real sweetie pie. He likes cats and he's woofy funny :-)

I think their speculation is a bit of a stretch. Personally I find Terrence McKenna's speculation that language originated from our early ancestors ingesting psychedelic mushrooms.

Joi, did you ever get my email? :-)

Paul

If this is the same Stanley Coren as the one whose 'research', I seem to remember, concluded that left-handed people were alcoholic criminal reprobates who would all die an early death, then I'd certainly feel a little skeptical of any new work. Any scientist who thinks that a baseball almanac makes for a statistically valid sample of the wider population (as opposed to just baseball players) suffers from serious flaws in their thinking.

Author and surgeon Leonard Shlain argues that speech evolved around the same time that human females learned how to say, "Not now, I have a headache." From his book Sex, Time & Power (http://www.sextimepower.com/): "I believe that the primary impetus [for the evolution of speech] was sex---sex in the context of an increased awareness on the part of the female of the inherent danger of childbearing. Speech was hurried along because men and women had to talk to each other. And the most important subject they had to negotiate was sex---with whom, when, where, under what circumstances, what must be exchanged before, and at what cost to each party." (p. 197).

The evolution of language in humans seems to generate more speculation than other aspects of our biology, much of it frankly speculative (e.g., Shlain's views in the previous comment) and rarely based on a strong understanding of linguistics. I'd urge those who are interested in the subject to distrust easy "single-cause" explanations. A good place to start is to become familiar with the work of Derek Bickerton (Language and Human Behavior, Language and Species) and his collaborative work with William Calvin. Modern human languages are not monolithic entities that can be explained by single causes but likely have a rich evolutionary history -- which unfortunately is difficult to unravel given that it doesn't fossilize well.

With respect to the original post and the linkage between dogs, nasal/scent requirements, and Neanderthals, anatomical evidence suggests otherwise. The major features of the larynx/airway and thus of the vocal tract were in place as early as 200,000 years ago. There's no anatomical reason why our ancestors of that time weren't capable of modulating airflow, forming sounds, and shaping them in the mouth.

As Bickerton, Pinker, and others have shown, what truly distinguishes other animal communications systems from human language (and proto-languages like pidgins) is not the ability to pronounce the full range of contemporary phonemes but the capacity to form syntax (also known as grammar). The key to understanding the evolution of language is developing testable hypotheses about how grammar systems can develop from earlier signalling/call systems.

I think I wrote to you and got no reply about a month or less ago. If I did write to you, please read on. My dog is amazing. No one has ever met anyone like her.
My dog understands more than single words. She understands phrases. She replied to my questions. If I ask her to promise me something, she does not break the promise. Her conduct changes immediate;y to act in compliance with our promise. She understands the concept of the passage of time. There is so much more that she tells me and that we talk about. She has references from many people if needed. I have the Writers Guild filing and this story is owned by me, only. I'm sending you this just to let you know that there is farther than the border collie (merely fetching 200 items by name) that my dog does, You've just reached the hem of the dress with the border collie (tested by the German researchers, I believe), merely the tip of the iceberg with the discovery of the border collie's abilities. My dog understands increments of time, before, later, etc. She understands chronology. Re: going to the vveternarian. She is loved there and she loves to go visit there. She understands the concept that the doctor heals sickness and that medicines also do. She can and does tell me where she hurts, for example.

She can also tell me her likes and dislikes. I tell her where we're going and she understands and says she understands if she does. If she doesn't get it, I explain it again differently. She will tell me when she understands. We are in the realm of complex conversations...not just fetching specified items. God bless you.

J.E. Aeliot Boswell

I think I wrote to you and got no reply about a month or less ago. If I did write to you, please read on. My dog is amazing. No one has ever met anyone like her. She replies to questions: yes/no?, better/worse?, want a blanket? I (me) am in pain, need you now. And, she comes to rescue me. She walked me to a 2nd floor ladys toilet at a restaurant we had never been to I had no idea whether she understood me (at the time, since we had just made it up the request) but, she walked me all the way upstairs into the bathroom, and walted me back. NO, I AM NOT BLIND AND SHE IS NOT A SEEING EYE DOG. So, to go on... My dog understands more than single words. She understands phrases. She replies to my questions. If I ask her to promise me something, she does not break the promise. Her conduct changes immediate;y to act in compliance with our promise. She understands the concept of the passage of time. There is so much more that she tells me and that we talk about. She has references of how excellent she is, from many people, if needed. I have the Writers Guild filing and this story is owned by me, only. I'm sending you this just to let those of you who are interested in the topic that there is MORE than the border collie...way more. That there is farther that dogs can, and do go than the border collie (merely fetching 200 items by name). You've just reached the hem of the dress with the border collie (tested by the German researchers, I believe), merely the tip of the iceberg with the discovery of canine language abilities. My dog understands increments of time, before, later, etc. She understands chronology. Re: going to the veternarian. She is loved there and she loves to go visit the vet for treatment, when necessary for her health. She understands the concept that the doctor heals sickness and that medicines also do. She can and does tell me where she hurts, for example.

She can also tell me her likes and dislikes. I tell her where we're going and she understands and says she understands if she does. If she doesn't get it, I explain it again differently. She will tell me when she understands. Some things are routine or don't require a reply, because I know she just plain understands me. We are in the realm of complex conversations...not just fetching specified items. God bless you. And, the best wishes to the border collie and the dog's owner.

Bye from: The Duchess of Canine Hydrant (since a name must be inserted, I will put in my full formal name) and yes, it's lovely here in the Duchy of Canine, but the yellow rain is often a problem. But, we are very happy here and dogs and cats love it here. That is what matters in this island kingdom. Plus, we have alot of regular rain and a sophisticated doggie clean up system that operates silently, all day and night. The streets, parkways, sidewalks and parks are all cleaned and so are the rolling hills and formal, mature gardens of the castle.

She can also tell me her likes and dislikes. I tell her where we're going and she understands and says she understands if she does. If she doesn't get it, I explain it again differently. She will tell me when she understands. Some things are routine or don't require a reply, because I know she just plain understands me. We are in the realm of complex conversations...not just fetching specified items. God bless you. And, the best wishes to the border collie and the dog's owner.

Bye from: The Duchess of Canine Hydrant (since a name must be inserted, I will put in my full formal name) and yes, it's lovely here in the Duchy of Canine, but the yellow rain is often a problem. But, we are very happy here and dogs and cats love it here. That is what matters in this island kingdom. Plus, we have alot of regular rain and a sophisticated doggie clean up system that operates silently, all day and night. The streets, parkways, sidewalks and parks are all cleaned and so are the rolling hills and formal, mature gardens of the castle.

I'm trying to find J.E. Aeliot Boswell. Do you have the same dog you had 5 years ago?
Your friend, M.
P.S. Husband misplaced your number.

My dog is a mostly Yorkie mutt who understands the word "Walk." But I've only had him for a few months. He was adopted from the SPCA and is somewhere between 11/2 and 2 years old. So his traumatic existence may affect his powers of understanding. Or maybe it's just my NY accent.

Hi Joi:

My Service Dog, Mumi, helps me walk when I need that sort of help.
Under the ADA (American's with Disabilities Act) she can go with me virtually or exactly the same as, (i.e., everywhere) a seeing eye dog can go. She flies in the plane cabin with me, goes to the ER with me...the doctor, and the TV studios.

A couple of days ago, we were taping my cable TV show "Aeliot" (if you want to try to catch a Mumi sighting) you can catch it, also on internet. See KPAS 56 in Pasadena, CA, USA,& their telephone number is 626 795 5556 in case you're in town - call and if you like, you could meet Mumi.

So on goes the story...Mumi is on-set with me as usual. Normally, she is totally quiet and lies down and stays right next to me even on hour long shows - and even when I have to jump around with the guests.

During the segment in issue, I'm interviewing this brave woman who had been sold at age 16 to a disgusto-black bad, bad magic pedophile who was 63. Note about the guest: It is a tragic life she suffered. But, to her immense credit, she is moving toward a "survivor" mode. She, the "survivor," has a lot she is willing to educate and caution the audience about. She is a remarkable woman and I am honored to know her.

Then, for some itchy reason, Mumi starts scratching and moving off camera. Totally out of character because she knows I'm working. Since I can hear her "necklace" jingling and hear the scratch, scratch, scratching. Out of desparation, I quickly turn toward Muni to see if she is OK and say "yamenasai, osuwari, fusei." On tape it just looks a teeny bit strange because I quickly say something - that most people do not understand - nor would they know I have a Service Dog on-set.

Mumi is just excellent, She listened and acted totally correctly, right away.

Then, she later stood up and her face is right between my guest me. The camera caught it for just a second. Then, totally wierd, Mumi decides to stroll across the set and visit her friend, the stage manager, Bozana Belokosa (she, "Bo," herself is amazing: she started the Organization of Black Screenwriters with 3 people and now it's grown to some 350 people....of which I will become possibly the only Eurasian member and Mumi will be the only Service Dog). Mumi loves Bo and vice versa. So they are off to one side, bonding during taping. It was really funny. The Director, Eric Munson, was trying to get a shot of Mumi sauntering across the set to show what the sounds were about. Mumi was gone before he could get a camera on her.

One day, I will interview my Service Dog on my show. I think I'll need English subtitles, unless we're on Japanese TV. Since Mumi can, and does express her thoughts and opinions, it should be pretty funny.

The best compliment I ever got about her was from an elderly, dignified Japanese couple: the man looked at Mumi and definitively observed and proclaimed, "Uhmmm, kore wa rippa na inu da." I was just so amazed that he could know that from seeing her so briefly - of course, he had no idea I understood him - I don't actually look very Japanese and neither does Mumi.

I'll write in when I've interviewed Mumi on set - whatever she says usually cracks up everyone. She still learns new words every day...and amazingly fast. She continually amazes everyone who knows her. She learns and memorizes names and their faces in one simple introduction. Then, she has an opinion about them. It's funny, what she says and makes observation of.

O.K. got to go. Time to get some shut eye. Tomorrow is another big day. Oh, yeah...but before I go, "shi chi men cho" day is coming up. So happy shi chi men cho day to all ex-pats and everyone else.

P.S. I still miss Mother's nuka miso zuke. But, I don't have the time to make it (as you know, made traditional style, it takes a lot of work - kind of like making fine wine or other brew type fermentation process).

O.K., ja mata atode. Gam bat te ne, even if you're just relaxing.

Over and out,
aeliot

J.E. Aeliot Boswell

Hi Joi and everyone who's a Joi Ito friend or blogger:

Reading the blogs just now was fun. There were some new blogs re: dogs. I was surprised that I actually managed to enter a "Hello, etc," blog before shi chi men cho no hi. I'm usually so mecha mecha iso ga shii, (crazy busy) talking to people, researching, "reading everything," writing, writing, writing... tele-conferencing, etc., and then more or the same.

Now it's almost ku ri su ma su. I am going to miss out on traditional New Year's foods in Tokyo. sob, boo hoo. The mi kan in Japan and the omochi of Japan is just not happening here in L.A. That reminds me: I eat the exterior ku sa mochi part and my Service Dog, Mumi, eats the azuki filling. A friend and I went to so some stuff, and ended up eating at a Japanese style curry restaurant. I just ate hi ya yakko. But, it'll just be a wee bit off when New Years has come and gone and I didn't eat any of the traditional Japanese New Years stuff. (I could cook it - but dang, I've got the new "live'" version of my show starting up. The crew and the studio and I are working crazy-awesome, like we're going to be going "live," or something.

Oh, I taught Mu the word and definition of "shi tsu yo." I took about 3 minutes, maybe less. So then, we went on to "shi tsu yoh ja nai." She learned a few more names, etc,

Oh yeah, and on my aforementioned TV show, "Aeliot," as of 17 January 2006, Tuesday, 9:00 AM, PST, we are going LIVE.

On my computer, I'm supposed to have a widget that converts time from Los Angeles time to Tokyo time...but I don't see it. So, I can't figure out what time and day my show comes on via the internet, in Japan? It's simulcast...maybe you can see Mumi and me. Right now it's about 11:15 PM, Sunday night - does that help figure out the time? I'll try to get my Director to figure it out. Then, I'll write you.

Write me, if you like at amnesiaomnimedia@sbcglobal.net

Joi, tell me the day you'll be watching the internet (if you feel like seeing the show, ...and I'll say, LIVE, from the Aeliot show "....here's a big hello to Joi Ito who's watching on the internet in Tokyo, and to Joi's international bloggers, from Mumi and Aeliot and the entire staff and crew, Hello everybody all over the world.....!" Or something like that.

O.K., ja, ko re de sayonara, please have a Happy Holiday (or series of holidays) of your choice. And, it's cold and flu season: stay warm...or go skiing. And, finally...hello from Aeliot and Mumi to everyone who is reading or writing in Joi's blogger zone. This blog is fun! Bye everyone, for now.

Over and out,
It's Aeliot

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