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Darwin-L Message Log 5:217 (January 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<5:217>From idavidso@metz.une.edu.au  Sun Jan 30 15:27:58 1994

Date: Mon, 31 Jan 1994 08:36:25 +0700
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
From: idavidso@metz.une.edu.au (Iain Davidson)
Subject: Re: Who, what, where, when, etc, Re: DARWIN-L digest 132

>      Morty Kessel asked the following question:
>
>"Can a linguist out there explain the congruence of :
>who, what, where, when, why and (w)how :-)"
>        and Marc Picard responded:
>"All these forms are ultimately derived from the Indo-European root *kwo-,
>a stem of relative and interrogative pronouns. In Latin and Romance, the
>corresponding forms generally begin in QU-, e.g.Latin QUID, QUOD, French
>QUI, QUE, QUOI, QUAND, etc."

Anne Loring replied in fascinating detail, but isn't the question more
demanding (!):

Why do all questions begin with this sort of phoneme (these sorts?)?  Is
there a case in historical linguistics for some single common question root
(or two)?

I guess I should introduce myself.  I am an archaeologist, worked on the
Upper Palaeolithic of Spain, prehistoric exploitation of animals, then
Australian prehistory moving into study of prehistoric paintings.  since
1987 I've been working with, psychologist Bill Noble on the problem of
languge origins, trying to sort out what one can say with minimal
speculation.

My interest in this topic stems from Premack's observation about one of his
language-trained chimps that these chimps "do not seem to question their
own ignorance", and Duean Rumbaugh had a similar phrase for his early
results.  So the fundamental questions could be said to be a basic
difference between humans and chimps.

Curiously, Kanzi, the bonobo working with Sue Savage Rumbaugh has proved to
be as adept at "language" use as a child up to the age of 18 months.  Of
course it is arguable that that is the age at which our children start the
interminable round of w questions.  Yet Kanzi does not have the w questions
on his lexigram board.  I can understand why you would not want a chim or
bonobo asking questions with the same ferocity as a child, but it seems to
me it might be crucial for a non innatist view of language emergence.

Iain Davidson
Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology
University of New England
Armidale NSW 2351
AUSTRALIA
Tel (067) 732 441
Fax      (International) +61 67 73 25 26
                (Domestic)       067 73 25 26

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