In his 2006 book The Singing Neanderthals, the palaeontologist Steve Mithen has developed a theory to suggest that language developed from song, and that the Neanderthals were the first to make that transition. He even coined a word for their humming language, which he called 'hmmmmm' because it would have been 'hoslistic, manupulative, multi-modal, musical and mimetic'.

I don't know what kind of a word/acronym 'hmmmmm' is, but after reading the linked article (PDF), I'm debating whether one could also use it to express the reaction in the field to this intriguing theory. Could one?

enter image description here

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    Hmmmmm is an onomatopoeic word describing humming – mplungjan Oct 7 '13 at 12:45
  • The question is about a different "Hmmmmmm" than the onomatopoietc one: "As such, both language and music have a common origin in a communication system that I refer to as ‘Hmmmmm’ because it had the following characteristics: it was Holistic, manipulative, multi-modal, musical and mimetic." (quoted from the source linked in the OP) – Aspinea Oct 7 '13 at 12:51
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    I am not seeing "Hmmmmm" in the image you posted so I removed it. If you have an actual quote containing the word please post in text for sake of readability and searchability. – MrHen Oct 7 '13 at 13:32
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is based on a incomplete/ incorrect reading of the context. NARQ. – Kris Oct 7 '13 at 14:58
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    How could one not take into account '... that I refer to as' so thoughtfully prefacing the neologism? I can devise any nonce word appropriate to the context and the concept if at least to serve as a convenient 'handle' for further reference. There's no case for defining it in any other way than as the author has expressly done. Furthermore, 'debating whether ...' will raise objections as being patently off-topic on ELU. – Kris Oct 7 '13 at 15:05

I have not the least authoritative opinion to express in that field. However, I would like to point out some apparently missing facts :

  • thousands of flutes dating from 9000 to 2000 BCE have been retrieved (Neolithic then - Neanderthal or Cro-Magnon men ? I don't know, except that the DNA proves that the former ones didn't disappear but were mixed with the later ones about these times) ; at least one is intact and playable ; surprisingly enough, the scale, obviously tuned with care and knowledge, is close to the present occidental one, and a sample I heard was far from scorching my ears ; one should not think that humanity was static until the invention of written language, allowing history. They could have had harps, obviously no one survived.

  • at least many animals, and not only primates, even not only mammals, have clearly an intelligent language (sounds, scents, movements for bees, chemicals for ants, mainly visual signs for bears despite their poor sight, etc.), which has to be learned from the group (a new-born immediately isolated has trouble to understand and be understood just after having been re-introduced in the community, but makes progress afterwards) ;

  • the language is clearly music and dance too in some species, the best example - from an human point of view ! - being the fantastic nuptial parade from the bird of paradise.

The wonderful observations from Sir David Attenborough and his followers are full of informations on these subject, and really fascinating.

Could not language and music by concomitant ?

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    This excellent piece is in the nature of a commentary, not an answer. – Kris Oct 7 '13 at 14:59
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    This is utterly irrelevant to the question. It is only tangentially relevant to the subject of the paper (which was not what the question was about). Downvoted. – Colin Fine Oct 7 '13 at 20:47

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