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Palaeontology

Neanderthals spoke like modern humans

By T.K. Randall
December 24, 2013 · Comment icon 25 comments



The Neanderthals were a sophisticated species extremely similar to modern man. Image Credit: Randii Oliver
A new fossil discovery suggests that humans were not the only species capable of complex speech.
Far from the stereotypical 'cave man' seen in movies, the Neanderthals are believed to have been capable of using complex language and spoke in a way not dissimilar to the way people do today.

The revelation is based on new research in to a fossilized Neanderthal hyoid, a bone that is instrumental in enabling speech. By producing a computer model of the bone and comparing it to that of a modern human, researchers were able to ascertain that the two would have had very similar linguistic capabilities.
"Many would argue that our capacity for speech and language is among the most fundamental of characteristics that make us human," said researcher Stephen Wroe. "If Neanderthals also had language then they were truly human, too."

This discovery combined with other recent studies in to the Neanderthals has shown us that our prehistoric cousins, far from being primitive pre-humans, were extremely similar to ourselves in almost every respect and were ultimately just as 'human' as we are.

Source: BBC News | Comments (25)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #16 Posted by Frank Merton 9 years ago
I think you confuse the use of a word in a scientific name with the origin of the word. "Sapiens" means "wise" and scientists apply that to the modern human species ("wise man") (kinda ironic). Many animals are wise in various ways but to my knowledge only one has this name attached. No doubt Neanderthal, being our close relatives, had a lot of brainpower, but the general view as I understand it is that it was indeed a separate species.
Comment icon #17 Posted by White Unicorn 9 years ago
It all sounds pretty racist to me. Like a Fir tree telling a blue spruce he is not a pine in a way? Or, sometimes a donkey is better than a horse and sometimes a horse is better than a donkey, it depends on what they are doing, but they are still of the same genius. Each different and each probably thinking they are better than the other LOL.
Comment icon #18 Posted by Neognosis 9 years ago
It all sounds pretty racist to me. Like a Fir tree telling a blue spruce he is not a pine in a way? Your analogy is not very apt, as both species are of the genus Homo. A fir tree is NOT a blue spruce, is it? Just like Homo Neanderthal is NOT Homo Sapien. Or, sometimes a donkey is better than a horse and sometimes a horse is better than a donkey, it depends on what they are doing, but they are still of the same genius Except that Homo Sapien was better suited to survive. As is evidenced by the fact that I can open my front door and see a few hundred Homo Sapiens and no Homo Neanderthals. Yes, ... [More]
Comment icon #19 Posted by Parsec 9 years ago
I think you confuse the use of a word in a scientific name with the origin of the word. "Sapiens" means "wise" and scientists apply that to the modern human species ("wise man") (kinda ironic). Many animals are wise in various ways but to my knowledge only one has this name attached. No doubt Neanderthal, being our close relatives, had a lot of brainpower, but the general view as I understand it is that it was indeed a separate species. No, I don't confuse anything. Maybe you are. The scientific name of our species is Homo Sapiens Sapiens, two times. Genus Homo, species Sapiens, subspecies Sap... [More]
Comment icon #20 Posted by coolguy 9 years ago
Iam sure they did speak like humans
Comment icon #21 Posted by TheSpoonyOne 9 years ago
That's still an ongoing debate between scientists, whether Neanderthals should be classified under the sapien classification or not. I'll have to read the arguments for and against at some point, it sounds fascinating. I've sometimes wondered if, were Neanderthals to exist in today's world with modern humans, how they would be treated and viewed? Whether there would be 'Neanderthal rights' movements, whether there would be a push to argue/classify Neanderthals as no different in any meaningful regard from Homo sapiens sapiens man?
Comment icon #22 Posted by ShadowSot 9 years ago
I'll have to read the arguments for and against at some point, it sounds fascinating. I've sometimes wondered if, were Neanderthals to exist in today's world with modern humans, how they would be treated and viewed? Whether there would be 'Neanderthal rights' movements, whether there would be a push to argue/classify Neanderthals as no different in any meaningful regard from Homo sapiens sapiens man? It depends. On the one hand the more gracile neanderthls didn't look much different from HSS. It might be that for the most part we'd interact with vary little differenc.e On the other hand, they ... [More]
Comment icon #23 Posted by TheSpoonyOne 9 years ago
It depends. On the one hand the more gracile neanderthls didn't look much different from HSS. It might be that for the most part we'd interact with vary little differenc.e On the other hand, they may have had unique differences in behaviour that would have set them apart from HSS that didn't leave tangible evidence. And it wasn't that long ago that there was racim against Irish and Italians, so even slight difference could be enough. There would no doubt be racism (speciesism?), but it's the justification that would be interesting, I mean there's a huge difference between seeing the Irish and ... [More]
Comment icon #24 Posted by PersonFromPorlock 9 years ago
A fiddly point, but mine own: even if Neanderthal was incapable of speech, as was thought to be the case until fairly recently, that doesn't mean he was incapable of language. He could have communicated fluently with structured whistles, clicking sounds or hand motions. Speech isn't the only mechanism for language.
Comment icon #25 Posted by ShadowSot 9 years ago
There would no doubt be racism (speciesism?), but it's the justification that would be interesting, I mean there's a huge difference between seeing the Irish and Italians as lesser in the past, and seeing a different species of the genus homo as equal, which I'm fairly certain many would argue they were in such a reality. Well you have to remember that especially later on Neanderthal didn't look that different from us physically. So how much racism there might be is debatable. And from a modern perspective, if they had survived longer there'd have been so much inbreeding it'd just be down to w... [More]


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