Talk:Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language

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Notability[edit]

I suppose this is a notable book, but a WP article should point out the obvious flaws in its premise, such as chimp groups being twice the size of modern human hunter-gatherer groups. Large human groups arose in areas like Japan that could support large sedentary populations, and possibly that could have triggered language which then spread to the rest of the species (that is, we need to assume that modern hunter-gatherers are not a good model for pre-agricultural humanity), but this obvious problem is never addressed; Dunbar seems oblivious to it. — kwami (talk) 22:59, 6 August 2013 (UTC)

Chimpanzees are physically incapable of producing the range of sounds that humans are; this is well known. So your criticism seems pointless; one can't compare chimps and humans this way. The material you added also seems to be possible original research and I have tagged it as such. FreeKnowledgeCreator (talk) 02:11, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
The common ancestor of humans and chimps were also presumably physically incapable of speech, so that's irrelevant. (Or just read the book.) The criticism is one I've heard among anthropologists; don't know if it's been published anywhere. Of course, modern hunter-gatherers may have little in common with our ancestors; perhaps the small group size is a result of being restricted to marginal environments, something which postdates agriculture. The problem is that Dunbar never addresses this: he uses the average size of an agricultural village as an indicator of pre-agricultural human group size. — kwami (talk) 03:55, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
I've read the book, Kwami. I don't understand the point of your comments. I think the OR you added should be removed. FreeKnowledgeCreator (talk) 23:31, 11 August 2013 (UTC)
The point is that Dunbar doesn't address at least one very obvious problem that other anthropologists have pointed out: that if language was triggered by increasing group size, how does this fit with the fact that group size appears to have decreased? — kwami (talk) 08:07, 12 August 2013 (UTC)

Fails to explain[edit]

For me the phrase "fails to explain" is inappropriately judgemental language in a short lead, having ambiguous meanings to boot, either "does not attempt to explain" or "attempts to explain, and falls short". The former lies within the classic academic technique of shifting the burden of proof, such that voices outside the academy or those taking up unpopular views face an impossibly broad mandate.

In software development, we call taking on one piece of the puzzle at a time "controlling scope", while the failure to do so is called "scope creep". Whether this book should or shouldn't attempt to address the two criticisms listed (and thus whether to take this counts as a "failure" of the theory presented, or a "success" of editorial scope control) is a fickle matter.

I would change the language myself, but the inherent ambiguity prevents me, without first obtaining the book. — MaxEnt 02:45, 29 November 2016 (UTC)

After another minute's though, I satisficed with this: The book has been criticised on the grounds that since words are so cheap, Dunbar's "vocal grooming" would fall short in amounting to an honest signal. Further, the book provides no compelling story[citation needed] for how meaningless vocal grooming sounds might become syntactical speech.MaxEnt 02:56, 29 November 2016 (UTC)