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Chapter 3 unpacks the jewellery inference about Neanderthal language and appraises its soundness. Including three inferential steps represented by arrows, this inference looks in outline as follows: The Neanderthal occupants of the archaeological sites S1,…,Sn were associated with the objects O1,…,On → They wore these objects as personal ornaments → They treated these ornaments as symbols → They had language. [Sites S1,…,Sn include the Grotte du Renne and at least seven other caves/shelters. The objects O1,…, On include, inter alia, marine shells, raptor talons and feathers and perforated animal teeth.] With reference to a large literature, Chapter 3 finds the following about the soundness of the jewellery inference: (a) the data from which the first inference starts provide adequate empirical grounding for it; (b) this step is warranted by an accepted theory of the distinctive propeties of personal ornaments; (c)the second step is unwarranted: it is not underpinned by an adequate theory of the distinctive properties of symbols as opposed to other signs. This finding implies that the third inferential step lacks the necessary grounding.
Chapter 7 appraises the language inference. It is the final component of the jewellery inference, the cave-art inference, the body-decoration inference and the deliberate-burial inference. It comprises one step: Certain Neanderthals had symbols → These Neanderthals had language. This inference fails all three soundness conditions. First, the conclusion that certain Neanderthals had language lacks pertinence: the entity central to this conclusion, language, is on the whole not clearly identified and adequately characterised in the literature. That is, language is not distinguished in a principled way from other linguistic entities, including linguistic capacity, language ability, linguistic skill, speech and communication. Second, the inferential step lacks uncontentious grounding: it has not been uncontroversially established that Neanderthals engaged in symbolic behaviours. The inferential step lacks an appropriate warrant: it moves in an arbitrary way from putative cultural symbols that cannot be semantically combined to linguistic signs that can be semantically combined, a distinction drawn in a principled way in the literature. So, the language inference is unsound.
Chapter 6 elucidates and appraises the deliberate-burial inference about Neanderthal language. In outline, this inference comprises the following three inferential steps: Data about the Neandertal skeletal remains R1,…,Rn found in the state C at the caves C1,…,Cn along with the objects O1,…,On → These Neanderthals were deliberately buried → The Neanderthals who carried out the burials behaved symbolically → These Neanderthals had language. The first inferential step is found to be well warranted by an accepted theory of the properties of deliberate Neanderthal burials. One of these properties is that the skeletal remains are located in a natural or Neanderthal-made pit. For the second inferential step to be empirically grounded, the skeletal remains are required to be accompanied by grave goods, objects ritually deposited along with the body for use in after life. There isn't evidence that the objects – e.g., flint scrapers, the upper jawbone of a red dear, a rhinoceros tooth – found along with Neanderthal skeletal remains were indeed grave goods. The second inferential step is, accordingly, considered unsound in the literature, leaving the third ungrounded.
Chapter 10 appraises the hunting inference about Neanderthal language. Starting from data about Neanderthals’ ambush hunting, this inference comprises in outline three inferential steps: Neanderthals’ ambush hunting had the features F1, F2, F3 and F4 → This hunting required cooperation → This cooperation required communication → This communication required language. [F1 = The hunting was confrontational; F2 = The prey comprised large animals; F3 = Heavy carcasses had to be transported; F4 = Bands of hunters were divided into a tracking/driving and an ambushing group.] The first inferential step is underpinned by the assumption that hunters had to cooperate in planning ambushes, killing dangerous prey etc.; the second step by the assumption that such planning required communication about effective hunting strategies, coordinated action etc.; the third step by the assumption that such communication required ‘labels’ or ‘words’ for referring to features of the landscape, routes, hunting sites etc. These assumptions are reasonable. But it is unwarranted to infer that (a) to be successful, such communication required complex grammar; and (b) that any such communication was not gestural.
Chapter 5 analyses the body-decoration inference about Neanderthal language. This inference includes the following three inferential steps, depicted by the arrows: Blocks of manganese dioxide yielding black pigment were associated with Neanderthal ocupants of sites S1,…,Sn → This pigment was used by these Neanderthals to decorate their bodies → These body decorations had a symbolic function for these Neanderthals → These Neanderthals had language. [Sites S1,…,Sn include Pech d l'Aze I and Pech de l'Aze IV in southern France.] Chapter 5 goes into doubts about the first inferential step of this inference. The main one is that it has not been excluded that the Neanderthals concerned used black pigment for an utilitarian instead of a symbolic function. Black pigment is known to have been used ethnographically and prehistorically for many utilitarian functions. And, importantly, there is experimental evidence that the Neanderthals at Pech de l'Aze I used manganese dioxide for fire-making. Until seccessfully challenged, this finding represents a good reason for doubting the soundness of the second inferential step. This leaves the second and third inferential steps ungrounded.
Chapter 4 elucidates various inferences about Neanderthal language drawn from so-called cave art attributed to Neanderthals. Skeletally, these inferences look as follows, arrows depicting inferential steps: The markings M1,…,Mn are found on the walls of the Iberian caves C1,…,Cn → These markings represent art made by Neanderthal occupants of the caves → This art had a symbolic function for these Neanderthals → These Neanderthals had language. The markings include a hashtag engraving, red disks and hand stencils, a red ladder-shaped sign and red painted mineral deposits. Serious concerns have been expressed about the soundness of these inferences. Two are fundamental. First, the empirical grounding of some are suspect: the dating of the markings is claimed to be inaccurate. This means that some markings may have been made by a modern human rather than a Neanderthal. Second, it has been pointed out, the meanings of the markings are a mystery. This implies that it is unwarranted to infer that these markings were symbols. They could have had a non-symbolic function, which would make the third inferential step ungrounded. Chapter 4 discusses these and other doubts at length.
Chapter 2 sets out the conceptual tools used in the book for analysing selected inferences about Neanderthal language. Derived from The Windows Approach to language evolution, these tools include conditions on the soundness of inferences drawn about something from data about another thing. Such inferences are not necessarily sound. The chapter illustrates three fundamental soundness conditions, using them in an appraisal of a composite inference about the linguistic capacity of European Neanderthals drawn from data about scratches in a number of their anterior teeth. These conditions are: (a) An inferential step must be grounded in factual data; (b) An inferential step must be underpinned by a warrant; and (c) A conclusion must be pertinent, referring to clearly identified and correctly characterised entities. Depicted by arrows, the four steps of the scratched-teeth inference are the following: There are scratches in a number of anterior Neanderthal teeth → Neanderthals ate with the right hand → They were right-handed → They had left-lateralised brains → They had linguistic capacity. The chapter finds the third inferential step to be contentious, and the fourth to be unsound.
Chapter 8 analyses and appraises a modern version of an inference about Neanderthal language drawn from data about the experimental making of stone tools by modern humans. This knapping inference looks skeletally as follows, the arrows depicting inferential steps: Modern humans knap Palaeolithic stone tools by means of action sequences structured in terms of hierarchies and recursion → Like modern humans, Neanderthals knapped stone tools by means of action sequences structured in terms of hierarchies and recursion → Like modern humans, Neanderthals processed language by means of action sequences structured in terms of hierarchies and recursion. Probing the submerged components of this inference, Chapter 8 advances two reasons for doubting its soundness. First, the two inferential steps are poorly warranted, involving weak analologies that disregard important differences between Neanderthals and modern humans. Second, the first inferential step lacks appropriate empirical grounding. That is, the sequences involved in the experimental knapping of stone tools by modern humans are not characterised by the hierarchies and recursion used by the syntax of human language.
Chapter 9 focuses on an inference about Neanderthal language drawn from data about the experimental teaching of stone-tool making to modern humans. Comprising three inferential steps, the knapping-pedagogy inference looks as follows in outline: Experimentally gathered data about the transmission of Oldowan technology to modern humans → Verbal language enhances the transmission of Oldowan technology to modern humans → Verbal language originated hundreds of thousands years ago as a prerequisite for Acheulean technology → Some Neanderthals had verbal language. There are various reasons for doubting the soundness of this inference. First, its empirical grounding is contentious: some experimental studies have found verbal interaction to be unnecessary for teaching knapping skills, even causing underperformance by modern learners. Second, Chapter 9 finds the inferential steps to lack the required logical force. For instance, it cannot be inferred that verbal language was a prerequisite for teaching knapping technology to modern humans from data that it only enhances the teaching of such technology to modern humans. This logical flaw leaves the final inferential step ungrounded.