> My version:
> Infants do communicate, but not through
> intelligible language. Most of the communication
> is through affect-as parents know too well. Their
> early babbling is not in imitation of their speech
> community, but exhibit universal distinctive
> What they understand, and how much they understand
> is largely unknown, but we do know through the
> studies of Piaget and more careful recent studies
> that cognitive understanding goes through an
> elaborate develpmental process.
> I have no special insight to pre alphabet
> societies, except to suppose that visual abilities
> and aural abilities developed more separately than
> later alphabet societies.
> The development of language in apes and chimps is
> much different from humans--and, though they have
> been taught to recognize printed words, they do
> not have the articulatory capability to speak.
I don't necessarily disagree with anything here. But you seem to believe that development in babies and their growth is mirrored in the nature of the human species to grow and develop language and I believe NOTHING could be further from the truth.
I believe humans were born fully grown when we acquired the ability to invent and understand complex language. I believe this language developed gradually because the first individuals had no shoulders of giants upon which to stand. But they did have a fully developed language that was suitable for their forebearers who had no ability to use, understand, or invent complex language. Even proto-humans had all the words to express feelings and emotions.
Late humans (great pyramid builders) simply had a far more complex knowledge base and far more complex language than their earlier counterparts. But all humans are just alike and this applies to early humans, late humans and today's humans who are for all practical purposes a different species than the great pyramid builders because our brains are programmed by an analog language rather than our world a reflection of our own digital language.
All of our babies would be identical at birth. The big difference would be that the parents used to be able to communicate with the babies from birth and reinforce their natural language skills. By two years of age the babys' brains begin exploding in new connections and these connections very much reflect, drive, and foster their ability to use language. Today babies still try to establish communication through various techniques (like babbling) but in order to communicate they must first unlearn their natural language (what little they have) and begin learning the rules for modern language. This learning is centered in the new speech center that ancient people lacked and we call the "broccas area". It acts as a translator from the wernickes area to higher brain functions. As children develop there are numerous changes in the brain and their understanding. We all go through this in very similar ways because it's only natural that learning occurs from the simpler to the more complex. But this has nothing to do with adults, civilizations, or societies. By whatever means we have learned to talk and think we are each "fully evolved" and this applies to every adult and civilization for the last 40,000 years when the ability to use complex language arose through mutation. Humans have always worked in tandem because it's genetic. People working in tandem could have invented writing any time they chose so that it didn't arise until 4,000 years ago is not indicative of people being "less developed" but that people earlier had no need of writing. The need arose only when pidgin language came into being. Each individual who spoke a pidgin language could no longer understand human knowledge or be certain what the ones he was "communicating" with were thinking. He could no longer be certain what his listeners believed he was saying because modern languages (pidgin) must be parsed to have meaning. Each word must be defined and he had no idea what the definition of his words were to others. As ideas were relayed their meaning changed so writing was invented to prevent this drift.
Ancient Language had no need for writing. They never invented writing not because they were superstitious and undeveloped but because they had no need.
From our modern perspective your words about how babies learn to communicate and grow are accurate enough but I believe they are highly misleading simply because modern perspective is so highly limited and these limitations are imposed by numerous false premises. We see our beliefs/ premises/ knowledge/ models preferentially to reality itself. Babies do not. They know almost nothing from our perspective but they see reality directly just like animals. Their understanding of the world is a reflection of the wiring of their brains.