Neanderthaler language / [Igunartok]

Almost exactly 150 years after the Neanderthaler was found, we still don’t know much about them, but we do know what their language sounded like – or at least, one Ruth Omphalius thought up a Neanderthaler language for a German TV series. It has two-word ‘sentences’ and is loosely based on Inuktut, the language of the Inuit. “Igunartok!” is a general curse and approximates what the Neandertaler said on the occasion of a famous meeting (and not ‘Cro-Magnon man, I presume?’).

Neanderthalers always spoke with exclamation marks at the end, and their words started with capital letters, like German nouns.
Akrigeuyak! you idiot
Pokreitok! fool
Piktauyok! good
Nutkarpok! shut up

etc. etc.

(On this page, click on Mediathek. Look for Bilderserie: Sprechen Sie neandertalisch! – and in the clip Clantreffen im Neanderthal you can hear them speaking. If you ever meet any Neanderthalers, which is not very likely, you can recognize them from the mysterious background music that always accompanies them).

Exhibition in Bonn

(Indirectly via Handakte WebLAWg, where Rainer Langenhan links Neanderthalers to more recent residents of Düsseldorf)

Udo Vetter:


Neanderthal man / Der Neandertaler:


9 thoughts on “Neanderthaler language / [Igunartok]

  1. The London Natural History Museum DNA-based theory that Neanderthalers are extinct met with a chorus of disbelief from the Brit. tabloids.

    The Daily Express published a picture of a Neanderthal alongside a ‘typically sullen’ picture of the thick-eyebrowed Oasis singer Liam Gallagher, brother of Noel, both of whom traditionally used to communicate to the mass media with grunts and swear-words.

  2. Thanks for the link, Arrogant.
    I find it odd that just because no-one knows what a Neanderthal language was like, they give them words from the Inuit language, presumably because the Inuit seem very foreign and primitive. On the other hand, I suppose they have to say something.
    The woman who was the expert behind this series has written a book on the Neanderthaler, but it hasn’t been published yet. I couldn’t find anything about the pitch, so I assume the relatively high pitch in the series might be accidental.

  3. Here is a better link to the opening page. You can hear Neanderthalers talking in the second or third video clip (in the first clip, Italian workers find the bones – they are calling each other Luigi but speaking perfect German)

  4. Helen Greens championship of this case against her employer who allowed the harassment allows millions across the country to identify with her struggle.

    Not only is her win good but the courts should also have ruled a significant punishment for her bullies for example; community service. The bullies are criminals in the work place gaining pleasure from their targets distress and getting away with it. It is not enough that the bullies have been named and shamed in the newspapers and media. More should be done to hold them to account for harming Helen Green, only then will true justice be served for the aggrieved, and the employer and the bullying employees the employer chooses to house and shelter. Well, at least the bullies children, family and friends will be able to read about their bullying parents, family member, friends work place occupation and day time hobby of tormenting other honest individuals.

  5. Well, you’d obviously like to see bullying criminalized. I wonder what the atmosphere in the workplace would be like then! But I suspect the bullies in this case have suffered somewhat. I think it’s the employers’ duty to ensure a safe system. They should warn and if necessary sack the bullies. In this case the employer apparently even paid for Helen Green’s counselling – quite strange that no action seems to have been taken against the five people who victimized her.

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