A secret to the evolution of language may be found in the face of a monkey. A report on io9 explains:
New World Monkeys are the strangest-looking primates on Earth and they all look nothing like each other, from the bald-headed, demon-like Uakari to the lion-maned golden marmoset to the massively mustachioed emperor tamarin up top. What’s behind this insane variety?
That’s the question UCLA researcher Michael Alfaro set out to answer that question. The monkeys of Central and South America represent a truly staggering amount of facial diversity, with many species like the emperor tamarin sporting truly epic facial hair. But it’s unlikely that all these monkeys evolved such bizarre appearances just to amuse us so what’s really going on here?
Alfaro and his team realized the monkeys’ faces weren’t the only thing that had unusually strong variation. The social structure of the different species also varied greatly, with some living almost completely solitary existences while others lived in huge populations of a hundred or more….
They discovered that the monkeys with the most complex faces tended to live by themselves, while those who lived in groups tended to have plain faces. Another factor behind facial diversity seems to be the proximity of other species. When lots of different monkey species live in close quarters, they will tend to have much more complicated faces than more isolated species.
The study has implications for understanding language, the report continues:
Our species, generally speaking, has quite simple, bare faces, and of course we’ve also evolved what is arguably the most sophisticated system of communication in our planet’s history. Language itself might never have emerged if we were lion-maned or hugely-mustached or even polka-dotted basically, anything that would have kept our ancestors from producing crisp, clear facial expressions.
Food for thought:
As language continues to evolve, will the human face change too? It seems inevitable.
As human beings grow in consciousness to expanded awareness of linguistic constructs, how will this affect the evolution of the new languages, body language, facial expressions, and even the body itself?