Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Linguistic reconstruction" gets a whole new meaning

If you don't read the ads-l, you should see this and/or this for work by Robert McCarthy at Florida Atlantic. He's using fossils to model Neanderthal sound production, an issue we've brushed up against here before (along with other blogs).
By modeling the sounds that a Neanderthal larynx would have made, McCarthy’s team engineered the sound of a Neanderthal saying “e.”

In contrast to a modern human “e,” the Neanderthal version lacks a quantal hallmark, which helps a listener distinguish the word “beat” from “bit,” for instance.

McCarthy, who based his reconstructions on 50,000-year-old fossils from France, aims eventually to simulate an entire Neanderthal sentence.
Wow. Click here for the sound!

6 comments:

goofy said...

wow a whole sentence. so... Neanderthal fossils tell us everything about their grammar!

Mr. Verb said...

Like I said, "a whole new meaning". I'm still trying to track down a fuller account of this stuff.

Adam Ussishkin said...

Wait, I thought April Fools Day was nearly a month ago!

Mr. Verb said...

Hmmmm, good point …

Frogman said...

I find it utterly unsurprising that people whose fossils were found in France couldn't distinguish between [i:] as in "beat" and [I] as in "bit".

These scientists should try with Neanderthal fossils found somewhere else.

Mr. Verb said...

Brilliant!!! And your message clears up a big question Goofy and I both had: How do we know what language the reconstructed sentence will be in.