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National Geographic Channel Makes Another Big Boo-Boo

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Author Topic: National Geographic Channel Makes Another Big Boo-Boo  (Read 302 times)
Bad Penny
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« on: December 02, 2010, 03:21:08 am »

Right now I'm watching "The Journey of Man" with Professor Spencer Wells on the National Geographic Channel.  While I agree strongly with Professor Wells' idea that the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert are the most direct descendants of the original community of anatomically modern man (Homo Sapiens Sapiens), he uses sucky sources bearing sucky ideas for part of his proof.  I'm here speaking of Professor Merritt Ruhlen of the Department of Anthropological Sciences at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.  While he's a Greenbergian paleotaxonomist after my own heart, he appears to have forgotten certain aspects of the evolution of human language and culture, particularly the idea that central areas innovate while peripheral areas conserve.  In "The Journey of Man", Professor Ruhlen offers his idea that, as the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert are the most direct descendants of the original community of anatomically modern man, and as their languages are the only languages on earth to exhibit the famous "click" phonemes associated with these languages, the "click" phonemes must have been part of the original human language, shared by no daughter language on earth.  Professor Ruhlen hypothesizes that the "click" phonemes were lost once and for all time (a half-hearted invocation of Occam's Razor) by the first group to break away from the original community, but I wonder how an entire class of phonemes could possibly be lost in one single step?  Languages and cultures just don't work that way. and I find it much simpler to accept the idea that the original human language lacked the "click" phonemes, which were innovated, subsequently to the initial major breakup of this original community, by the Bushmen (i.e., the central area of human language).  All other branches of the human language, being in the periphery, conserved, in their own fashion, the sounds of the original language, which lacked the "click" phonemes as do all other known human languages.

My schema would actually interpret the exclusive presence of the "click" phonemes in the Bushman languages as further evidence of the Bushmen's status as the direct descendants of the original human community.  I wonder why Professor Wells didn't pick up on this idea?
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