Physical Anthropology, Language, And Evolution
The study of evolution is one of the main tasks in physical anthropology, as the domain is concerned in analyzing human and nonhuman development over time, looking into biological bases and variability. In its essence, evolution can be defined through the theory that biological species have adapted to the environments they inhabited across time and are responsible for the creation of other species. All species apparently change over time, with these changes being more or less obvious. Also, every species that has ever lived in believed to have the same ancestor as the rest of contemporary and extinct species (Chapter 3, p. 36).
One of the first individuals to bring a large contribution to the physical study of evolution is Charles Darwin. The British naturalist went further than the people of his time by coming up with a series of innovative concepts regarding evolution and in relation to how all species can be traced back to a common ancestor (Chapter 3, p. 39).
In his attempts to study Naturalism, Darwin went at collecting information from various locations from around the world. He analyzed “geological formations and the fossils they contained, on the geographic distributions of species, on the adaptations of various creatures to their environments, and on how individual populations varied from one another according to environmental differences” (Chapter 3, p. 39). Even though this data made Darwin realize something which was already known at the time — the fact that life forms changed across time, it also helped him find that species could develop into other species.
To a certain degree, by studying the data he found, Darwin also discovered that evolution was made possible through several processes; each of them mostly related to the environments that species inhabited.
In spite of his impressive discoveries, Darwin could not find exactly what determined species to change over time, as it was revealed that particular species gave rise to others even when the environments they inhabited did not change. Physical anthropologists are aware that any organism (with the exception of identical twins and organisms that are cloned) is identical to its offspring or to its sibling in an approximate percentage of 99.9%.
In order to determine exactly what it is that separates two organism which have the same features a physical anthropologists has to study their DNA. This will result in the respective physical anthropologist discovering the dissimilar genes in the two organisms.
In analyzing my answer regarding question 3, a physical anthropologist is likely to try to involve as much objectivity as possible in the matter. Thus, in order to study a concept with which he or she is familiar with in some way, a physical anthropologist will most probably employ a typical anthropological analysis, which he or she uses every time they study a culture. Using physical anthropology as a form of studying evolutions means that you have to refrain from expressing biased opinions and treat the matter similarly to how you treat any anthropological study (Chapter 4, p. 98).
The Human Genome Project was an international scientific research attempt to discover the cycle of chemical base pairs which compose the DNA. The project was also meant to recognize and map the genes of the human genome. The Human Genome Project brought notable progress to the study of evolution, given the fact that it can assist future studies in finding differences between people (Richards & Hawley, 2005).
Linguistic anthropologists study how language influences society and how it evolved through time. According to linguistic anthropology, linguistic structures evolve, as people constantly find more effective methods of using language. It is not certain whether the language conveyed by humans is similar to the one present in animals, as while some support this concept, others believe that human language is unique and that its evolution has no precedent (Salzmann, 1998, p. 17).
It is virtually impossible for a linguistic anthropologist to determine the exact origins of human language. In order to discover to whom to attribute a particular language, an anthropologist might study factors like writing, fully developed language, unintelligible speech, hand gestures, etc.
Physical and linguistic anthropologists cooperate in a series of fields, as some of the discoveries they make are valuable for both domains. While physical anthropologic studies are mainly performed in laboratories, those performed by linguistic anthropologists are known to be made primarily through fieldwork. In spite of the progress anthropology experienced in recent years, mankind lacks “adequate knowledge of the structures in that part of the human brain to which the control of speech production is attributed” (Salzmann, 1998, p. 127). Physical anthropology is nonetheless significant for assisting linguistic anthropologists in studying language by relating it to physical evolution.
Language has experienced impressive progress over time, but while some cultures (particularly those who are part of urbanized areas) have a complex and distinguishable speech, others (tribes, small isolated communities) have more limited linguistic abilities which are to some extent comparable to those seen in people having lived several millennia ago (Salzmann, 1998, p. 192).
1. Richards, J.E. And R. Hawley, S. (2005). The Human Genome: A User’s Guide. 2nd ed. San Diego, CA: Elsevier Academic.
2. Salzmann, Z. (1998) Language, Culture & Society: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.