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Frans_Jozef
Friday, May 20th, 2005, 02:58 AM
Was First Human To Speak Male?

While men today sometimes receive criticism from women about their communication skills, a new book reveals that a male was probably the first human to speak.
According to "The Speciation of Modern Homo Sapiens," published last week by The British Academy, a male likely was the first to acquire a gene, called protocadherinXY, believed to play a crucial role in human capacity for language.

The book states that the gene emerged as a translocation, or change, of a segment on the Y chromosome, which is associated with men. Tim Crow, who edited the volume and is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Oxford and a member of England's Medical Research Council's External Research Staff, theorizes that the genetic transition might have occurred between 100,000-150,000 years ago, when there appears to have been an "evolutionary jump" that gave rise to modern humans. Crow and many other researchers believe language could have been the catalyst for the break. Apparently the male who was born with the gene associated with language was quite popular, because it is a gene that every human now possesses in the brain's left hemisphere.

"That male had an advantage," Crow told Discovery News. "The gene eventually became universal, that is his descendants superseded all others, perhaps because he appealed to females as a potential mate." Males may have developed the capacity for language first, but other brain factors permit females to acquire words faster, on average, than men.

"It is clear that girls are more right-handed and less likely to be left- handed than boys and their brains are approaching maximum size faster," Crow said. "These facts may be relevant to their faster acquisition of words." Right-handers appear to organize the brain in a way that tends to favor the left hemisphere, which is associated with reading, writing and language. In turn, Crow added that lefties and men tend to have better spatial skills.

Daniel Lieberman, professor of anthropology at Harvard University, told Discovery that he agrees with much of Crow and his colleagues' work. In this case, however, he is skeptical of the findings. "The evolution of language is too complex," said Lieberman, who believes that language likely required the emergence of many genes in a process that evolved over a long period.

"Even chimps have a rudimentary form of language, so it is very hard to say what (gene change) selection acted upon the brain to allow for human language," Lieberman said. He added that it's possible both men and women were hardwired for language, given memory and other functions of the human brain now linked to language.


URL : http://dsc.discovery.com/news/briefs/20020923/manspeak.html