Irrational Precept: Primitive Languages

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Irrational Precept: Primitive Languages

(1) The claim that there are some languages which are more advanced or more primitive than others is irrational.

(2) The claim that animals besides humans posses the capacity for language is irrational.

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how are you defining

how are you defining language?


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Chaoslord2004 wrote:(1) The

Chaoslord2004 wrote:
(1) The claim that there are some languages which are more advanced or more primitive than others is irrational.

(2) The claim that animals besides humans posses the capacity for language is irrational.

Not sure if I can agree to either. What is your argument?

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

Books on atheism.


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SilkyShrew wrote:how are you

SilkyShrew wrote:
how are you defining language?

A language is the set of all sounds, signs, morphological rules, phonological rules, syntactical rules and semantic rules. Thus, to know a language, is to know its grammar. Its grammar encompesses all of these three areas. In the case of sign language, substitute "sounds" for hand gestures.

Therefore, since I know english, I know the rules for constructing morphemes (the smallest unit of linguistic meaning), the sounds the words make, about 30-50,000 words. I know how to construct sentences (syntax) and I know how to construct meaningful sentences.

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todangst wrote: Not sure if

todangst wrote:

Not sure if I can agree to either. What is your argument?

Anything you can express in English, Italian, French you can express in Sign language, or any other language for that matter. All languages are equal from a linguistic stand point. They all follow morphological, syntactic, semantic and photentic rules. Thus, the claim that some languages are inferior to others is embarrisingly wrong.

Second, what animals besides humans would be good candiates for possessing language? Perhaps parriots. Don't parrots seem to use language? No. Parrots repeat what it hears, and nothing more. If i swear alot around the parrot, the parrot is going to swear. The parrot is not going to know "perhaps I shouldn't say 'Fuck' around my owners grandmother." Also, we all know the morphology of the language we speak. Thus, we all have within our brain a set of rules for constructing words. This allows us to make up new words. For instance, if I taught a parrot to say "dog" and then "dogs" and I then said "cat" the parrot could not add the suffix "s" to cat to make "cats". yet, all five year olds can do this.

hence, one requirement for one knowing a language is that they must be able to use language creativly. Animals, like parrots and chimps cannot do this. They can memorise...but cannot do simple creative things a 5 year old can do.

Do animals communicate? yes. is this language? no. They are programed with a finite set of things they can communicate.

They cannot use their communication creativly. Nor can they understand and construct sentences they have never heard. All human beings can use their language to express infinitly long sentences (in theory...its physically impossible, but if we wanted, we could given an infinite amount of time).

And, perhaps the strongest evidence of this, is simply that animals besides humans do not possess the cognitive faculties for language. Within parts of the human brain are language centers...animals lack this.

"In the high school halls, in the shopping malls, conform or be cast out" ~ Rush, from Subdivisions


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http://www.koko.org

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Chaoslord2004 wrote:A

Chaoslord2004 wrote:
A language is the set of all sounds, signs, morphological rules, phonological rules, syntactical rules and semantic rules. Thus, to know a language, is to know its grammar. Its grammar encompesses all of these three areas. In the case of sign language, substitute "sounds" for hand gestures.

Therefore, since I know english, I know the rules for constructing morphemes (the smallest unit of linguistic meaning), the sounds the words make, about 30-50,000 words. I know how to construct sentences (syntax) and I know how to construct meaningful sentences.

In other ape species that have been taught sign language, the animals were tested to have intelligence that was similar to that as many developmentally disabled children. These animals are able to communicate ideas with the language that they know, although they make gramatical errors, those errors aren't unlike the errors that are made by people who learn second languages, or even the best examples that we have of attempts to teach language to feral children.

That being the case, how would you regard the languages that are less like the language in its more complex form? Also, if these are not primitive languages, how do you refer to the languages that other apes are capeable of? Certainly communication occurs in other animals that is neither as simple as a bees dance to show the direction of food or as complex as humans communicating detailed descriptions of scientific concepts.

Quote:
Anything you can express in English, Italian, French you can express in Sign language, or any other language for that matter. All languages are equal from a linguistic stand point. They all follow morphological, syntactic, semantic and photentic rules. Thus, the claim that some languages are inferior to others is embarrisingly wrong.

There's a book that you should read called, "Language, Culture and Communication" by Nancy Bonvillian (or Bonvillion, I can't remember how it was spelled). I have a copy of it in a box somewhere, but it might help you in your understanding of language and the difficulties in placing lines between communication and language types.

Just defining the term "language" can be problematic for some people and even common dictionaries trip over contradictory definitions as a result:

dictionary.com wrote:
Language:

–noun
1. a body of words and the systems for their use common to a people who are of the same community or nation, the same geographical area, or the same cultural tradition: the two languages of Belgium; a Bantu language; the French language; the Yiddish language.
2. communication by voice in the distinctively human manner, using arbitrary sounds in conventional ways with conventional meanings; speech.
3. the system of linguistic signs or symbols considered in the abstract (opposed to speech).
4. any set or system of such symbols as used in a more or less uniform fashion by a number of people, who are thus enabled to communicate intelligibly with one another.
5. any system of formalized symbols, signs, sounds, gestures, or the like used or conceived as a means of communicating thought, emotion, etc.: the language of mathematics; sign language.
6. the means of communication used by animals: the language of birds.
7. communication of meaning in any way; medium that is expressive, significant, etc.: the language of flowers; the language of art.
8. linguistics; the study of language.
9. the speech or phraseology peculiar to a class, profession, etc.; lexis; jargon.
10. a particular manner of verbal expression: flowery language.
11. choice of words or style of writing; diction: the language of poetry.
12. Computers. a set of characters and symbols and syntactic rules for their combination and use, by means of which a computer can be given directions: The language of many commercial application programs is COBOL.
13. a nation or people considered in terms of their speech.
14. Archaic. faculty or power of speech.

Note that some of those definitions contradict each other. Some of them use the identification of people to eliminate the possibility of other animals having language by definition (so that even if the communication of said animals contained all the same elements, just them not being human disqualifies what they do as language), and then definition 6 refers to animals directly, while definition 7 could include any form of communication between any two organisms as long as there is a clear meaning.

That being said, other animals have been shown to be able to understand particular linguistic patterns, and to even express themselves and follow some grammar rules - they even can construct new ideas based on language constructs. While the most famous example of this would be Washoe and family, it may be the case that the most interesting and impressive example is that of Kanzi. It seems to me, though, that you're attempting to construct your own definition of language that excludes language and communication that might be used by animals, and even by some humans. Unless you are trying to imply that the language that other apes and animals do use (along with some humans) is not a primitive language, but is too close to our own to be such, or that they are not languages at all.

Chaoslord2004 wrote:
Second, what animals besides humans would be good candiates for possessing language? Perhaps parriots. Don't parrots seem to use language? No. Parrots repeat what it hears, and nothing more. If i swear alot around the parrot, the parrot is going to swear. The parrot is not going to know "perhaps I shouldn't say 'Fuck' around my owners grandmother." Also, we all know the morphology of the language we speak. Thus, we all have within our brain a set of rules for constructing words. This allows us to make up new words. For instance, if I taught a parrot to say "dog" and then "dogs" and I then said "cat" the parrot could not add the suffix "s" to cat to make "cats". yet, all five year olds can do this.

Dolphins, Sea Lions, Bonobos, Chimpanzees, Orangutans, Gorillas .... those are all animals that have been used in linguistic experiments and have been taught a variety of communication skills including linguistic constructs. Some are capeable of converting to the plural, utilizing past-tense, and even using separate linguistic elements in combination to communicate things they don't know the word for.

Quote:
hence, one requirement for one knowing a language is that they must be able to use language creativly. Animals, like parrots and chimps cannot do this. They can memorise...but cannot do simple creative things a 5 year old can do.

On the contrary, manipulation through communication is something of a recent big interest in primate studies. One example that I have used is the chimpanzee who "lies" to the group of chimps in order to gain access to a dominant female. This has been observed to happen in the wild and seems to be a manner in which more genetic mixing occurs within the species. The chimp sounds out the warning call for the presence of a specific predator (the danger calls for chimps will vary based on the perceived threat, indicating that they have different "words" for different animals, objects, and events) and all the other chimps go hide in the trees. Meanwhile, the mischeivous little chimp has watched where the object of his admiration has gone and follows her to mate.

Quote:
Do animals communicate? yes. is this language? no. They are programed with a finite set of things they can communicate.

This seems to imply that human communication is infinite - I assure you, it isn't. Although the possible combinations of things we could communicate is vast, we certainly have limits in our abilities.

Quote:
They cannot use their communication creativly. Nor can they understand and construct sentences they have never heard. All human beings can use their language to express infinitly long sentences (in theory...its physically impossible, but if we wanted, we could given an infinite amount of time).

Infinite sentence: The dog is in the shower that's in the shower that's in the shower that's in the shower that's in the shower that's in the shower .....

There's limits to that communication, though - just as there is limits to any other communication that we participate in. I know it is difficult to imagine, but we are limited by experience and knowledge as our most extreme language barriers, at least. Regardless, other animals have been shown to use communication creatively, please see above.

Quote:
And, perhaps the strongest evidence of this, is simply that animals besides humans do not possess the cognitive faculties for language. Within parts of the human brain are language centers...animals lack this.

Not really.


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SilkyShrew wrote:In other

SilkyShrew wrote:
In other ape species that have been taught sign language, the animals were tested to have intelligence that was similar to that as many developmentally disabled children.

Sorry, this is wrong. To know a language is to know its grammar. To know its grammar is to know the sounds, syntax, semantics, words, morphological rules, syntactic categories and so forth.

Animals besides humans cannot cannot make novel sentences which are both semantically, syntactically, morphologically, and phonetically correct. Furthermore, they don't know pragmatics (how to use language in changing situations). Simply knowing a few words or a few sentences doesn't mean they know the language.

I can teach a chimp to do very, very, very primitive things with language. They cannot, however, use it creativly. Steven Pinker, and Noam Chomsky all agree with me. Animals cannot, even in theory, learn language: It is physically impossible.

SilkyShrew wrote:
These animals are able to communicate ideas with the language that they know, although they make gramatical errors, those errors aren't unlike the errors that are made by people who learn second languages, or even the best examples that we have of attempts to teach language to feral children.

Your missing the point: They can't use language creativly. Go open up an italian/english dictionary and memorise as much as you can. memories a few sentences too. Do you know Italian? Of course not. Why? Because you cannot use the language in novel ways. You do not know its grammar. And by grammar I mean all the categories I listed earliar.

SilkyShrew wrote:
That being the case, how would you regard the languages that are less like the language in its more complex form?

Except all languages are equal in their complexity, just in different ways. In other words, all languages are linguistically equal. All the beautiful things you can say in English, you can say in Swahilli, or Hindi or any other language.

SilkyShrew wrote:
Also, if these are not primitive languages, how do you refer to the languages that other apes are capeable of?

Their not capable of language.

SilkyShrew wrote:
Certainly communication occurs in other animals that is neither as simple as a bees dance to show the direction of food or as complex as humans communicating detailed descriptions of scientific concepts.

Did you even read what I wrote? I am not talking about mere communication. Animals can communicate...this is not disputed. They cannot, however, use that communication creativly.

SilkyShrew wrote:
There's a book that you should read called, "Language, Culture and Communication" by Nancy Bonvillian (or Bonvillion, I can't remember how it was spelled). I have a copy of it in a box somewhere, but it might help you in your understanding of language and the difficulties in placing lines between communication and language types.

Read "The Language Instinct" by Steven Pinker or various articles by Noam Chomsky. The ideas of "animal languages" is intellectually bankrupt. According to Victoria Fromkin: "If language is viewed as a system of communication, then many species communicate. Humans also use systems other than language to relate to each other and to send and recieve messages, like the so called 'body language.' The question is whether the communication systems used by other species are at all like human linguistic knowledge, which is aquired by children with no external instruction and which is used creatively rather than in response to internal or external stimuli" (Fromkin 23, An Introduction To Language).

All human beings naturally develop language. There was a woman who grew up isolated from everyone in the words, a movie was made about her...Elle I think it was? This woman developed her own language. Language, as argued by Pinker in his book "The Language Instinct" is not just that: An instinct. You have to TEACH chimps to use language. You don't have to teach a child to pick up their mothertongue.

Does this mean we are superior to animals? No, just different.

SilkyShrew wrote:
Note that some of those definitions contradict each other.

I don't care. Its funny that people still rely on dictionaries for rigorous academic definitions. I am using "language" as defined by people who spend their life studying language: linguistics. I will trust Noam Chomsky, Steven Pinker, Victoria Fromkin, and countless others over "dictionary.com."

SilkyShrew wrote:
Dolphins, Sea Lions, Bonobos, Chimpanzees, Orangutans, Gorillas .... those are all animals that have been used in linguistic experiments and have been taught a variety of communication skills including linguistic constructs. Some are capeable of converting to the plural, utilizing past-tense, and even using separate linguistic elements in combination to communicate things they don't know the word for.

But they can only use what they have been taught. They have to be TAUGHT language. When humans develop their mothertongue this is done passively...without instruction. They also know the grammar at some point. Knowing specific parts of speech does not constitute knowing a language. I can memories german words and german sentences...hell, I can memories tenses. Does this mean I know German? No. memorization does not mean they know the language, let allow know what it means. Humans who have a stroke/brain injury in the semantics part of the brain can form sentences which are grammatically correct, but mean nothing. like the famous sentence: "The colorless green ideas slept furiously." This is syntatically correct...but it is meaningless. The fact remains: Animals do not possess the cognative faculties to develop language. Teaching a chimp a few words or rules, doesn't cut it. You will also see that it takes years to teach them very simple linguistic ideas that children pick up on by age 5...passively.

SilkyShrew wrote:
This seems to imply that human communication is infinite - I assure you, it isn't.

I assure you, it is. Human languages can express infinitly long sentences, like: I went to the store and bought a glass of milk and then stole an apple, and then ate a carrot and then....and then...and then..."

Furthmore, there are infinitly many combinations of morphemes. Furthermore, we can make up infinitly new words by applying morphological rules. If I have the noun "quick" I can add to this root word a derivational morpheme: "ly" to make it an Ajective: Quickly. Because we have these basic rules we can form infinitly many sentences and infinitly many combinations of those sentences and infinitly man new words. So your claim is not only wrong, but it shows that you have never studied linguistics. Your egregious errors are embarrising.

"In the high school halls, in the shopping malls, conform or be cast out" ~ Rush, from Subdivisions


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I'm curious why this matters

I'm curious why this matters to you. Is it because thinking this helps you sleep better at night or something? Because it isn't making any sense to me.

It's pretty obvious to about every other linguist I've ever spoken with, along with every biologist I've ever spoken to, oh and also most every scientist I've spoken with about this, that other animals have a great capacity for language. This is saying something since I'm a researcher and my undergraduate work was in large part linguistics.

In fact, the only people I meet who make the claim you're making are fundementalist religious types. If you're going to try and make this claim stick, you'll need to do something one better than throw insults around and boldly claim that humans are the only species on the planet to have language. For starters, look at the site that was posted about Koko. Or, take a look at lesion studies in species other than humans dealing with language.


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Chaoslord2004 wrote:Sorry,

Chaoslord2004 wrote:
Sorry, this is wrong. To know a language is to know its grammar. To know its grammar is to know the sounds, syntax, semantics, words, morphological rules, syntactic categories and so forth.

I think that the problem here is that you are claiming that they must know your language or language you are familiar with to qualify. Certainly primate communication has linguistic patterns, that is why studies on primates are used in language acquisition studies.

If you are interested in primage language acquisition, try Georgia State University.

Quote:
Animals besides humans cannot cannot make novel sentences which are both semantically, syntactically, morphologically, and phonetically correct. Furthermore, they don't know pragmatics (how to use language in changing situations). Simply knowing a few words or a few sentences doesn't mean they know the language. I can teach a chimp to do very, very, very primitive things with language. They cannot, however, use it creativly. Steven Pinker, and Noam Chomsky all agree with me. Animals cannot, even in theory, learn language: It is physically impossible.

Your argument is against primitive language, isn't it? Also, part of my post was about how they do create novel constructs with language that they learn.

Quote:
Your missing the point: They can't use language creativly. Go open up an italian/english dictionary and memorise as much as you can. memories a few sentences too. Do you know Italian? Of course not. Why? Because you cannot use the language in novel ways. You do not know its grammar. And by grammar I mean all the categories I listed earliar.

Actually, not knowing the language has more to do with level of ability to use it than using it in novel ways. I could come up with novel sentences in both Spanish and French after only months of studying when I was in high school (in fact, that was part of how they tested us - we had to write short sentences and paragraphs about things), but I didn't yet really know the languages. I had a limited vocabulary, but I was still able to come up with a large variety of combinations of novel paragraphs and statements.

Quote:
Except all languages are equal in their complexity, just in different ways. In other words, all languages are linguistically equal. All the beautiful things you can say in English, you can say in Swahilli, or Hindi or any other language.

No, that is not true. For example, the Navajo language lacks concepts of time like the english language does (the Bonvillian book I mentioned in the other post talks of this), the Piraha tribe in Brazil does not linguistically define numbers above two. In fact, we can look to even more simple ways to show that this is untrue - a culture in which, for example, a spring does not exist cannot express the idea of a spring in the same manner that we can in english. They would have to, at best, give a description of such an object in its place, if they can. If the culture lacks the ability for metal manipulation, they would have even more difficulties doing so. Ultimately, the people may invent a word for it, however, the word is not native to the language and even that takes time. Although, evidence may even work against that in some sense - as seen in the Piraha tribe, they are unable to understand the concepts in order to even name the numbers at this point.

Quote:
Did you even read what I wrote? I am not talking about mere communication. Animals can communicate...this is not disputed. They cannot, however, use that communication creativly.

On what basis are you eliminating the examples that I already gave of creative language use?

Quote:
Read "The Language Instinct" by Steven Pinker or various articles by Noam Chomsky. The ideas of "animal languages" is intellectually bankrupt.

I haven't read Pinker, but I've certainly read Chomsky. Unfortunately, some of his work has been refuted by other linguists. In fact, the Piraha example that I gave above is considered to be evidence against some of his ideas by some.

Quote:
According to Victoria Fromkin: "If language is viewed as a system of communication, then many species communicate. Humans also use systems other than language to relate to each other and to send and recieve messages, like the so called 'body language.' The question is whether the communication systems used by other species are at all like human linguistic knowledge, which is aquired by children with no external instruction and which is used creatively rather than in response to internal or external stimuli" (Fromkin 23, An Introduction To Language).

The reason why I cited Kanzi in my other post is because Kanzi was not directly taught. Instead, Kanzi eavesdropped on lessons being taught to his mother. Furthermore some of Washoe's family learned their sign language skills from Washoe, and not from researchers. The mimicking that led to their language acquisition is part of the reason for expanding other avenues of primate language research (although Washoe and his family were dropped from the original programs that they were in). As stated before, the animals were able to use the language that they had learned in novel ways.

Quote:
All human beings naturally develop language. There was a woman who grew up isolated from everyone in the words, a movie was made about her...Elle I think it was? This woman developed her own language. Language, as argued by Pinker in his book "The Language Instinct" is not just that: An instinct. You have to TEACH chimps to use language. You don't have to teach a child to pick up their mothertongue.

There are several cases of feral children (and severly neglected children) and what happens to them linguistically. Most of those examples have lead to modern theories on language development. The children often mimic sounds that are around them (wolves, and other animal sounds), however, if they do not begin learning human languages by a particular time, their abilities are quite limited.

Quote:
I don't care. Its funny that people still rely on dictionaries for rigorous academic definitions. I am using "language" as defined by people who spend their life studying language: linguistics. I will trust Noam Chomsky, Steven Pinker, Victoria Fromkin, and countless others over "dictionary.com."

You missed the point of my usage of the dictionary. I was pointing out that the confusion over this particular issue spreads to even the dictionary definition. I said, "Just defining the term "language" can be problematic for some people and even common dictionaries trip over contradictory definitions as a result."

Quote:
But they can only use what they have been taught. They have to be TAUGHT language. When humans develop their mothertongue this is done passively...without instruction. They also know the grammar at some point. Knowing specific parts of speech does not constitute knowing a language. I can memories german words and german sentences...hell, I can memories tenses. Does this mean I know German? No. memorization does not mean they know the language, let allow know what it means. Humans who have a stroke/brain injury in the semantics part of the brain can form sentences which are grammatically correct, but mean nothing. like the famous sentence: "The colorless green ideas slept furiously." This is syntatically correct...but it is meaningless. The fact remains: Animals do not possess the cognative faculties to develop language. Teaching a chimp a few words or rules, doesn't cut it. You will also see that it takes years to teach them very simple linguistic ideas that children pick up on by age 5...passively.

I gave evidence to the contrary - please look at it.

Quote:
I assure you, it is. Human languages can express infinitly long sentences, like: I went to the store and bought a glass of milk and then stole an apple, and then ate a carrot and then....and then...and then..."

Furthmore, there are infinitly many combinations of morphemes. Furthermore, we can make up infinitly new words by applying morphological rules. If I have the noun "quick" I can add to this root word a derivational morpheme: "ly" to make it an Ajective: Quickly. Because we have these basic rules we can form infinitly many sentences and infinitly many combinations of those sentences and infinitly man new words.

No, human language is limited by, as mentioned before, experience and knowledge. Sure, you can make up an infinately long sentence (I gave a simple example earlier) and other primates could even mimick such a thing, but the language is indeed limited. You can look at it like a linear segment a----------b, there is an infinate number of points between a and b, however it is not an infinate line. What restricts it? The fact that it has endpoints at a and b keeps it from being an infinite line. Likewise, limited amounts of words, and restrictions in grammar, etc. keeps language from being infinate in the same sense. There are limits to language.

Quote:
So your claim is not only wrong, but it shows that you have never studied linguistics. Your egregious errors are embarrising.

I often point out that I *don't* have degrees or formal classes in many of the things that I talk about with people on the forums, like psychology - however, this is one thing I have formally studied. My Associate's degree minored in linguistics - I graduated with that in 2000. When I have the cash to do so, I will look into Pinker's book, however, other information that I have acquired through other studies do contradict your claims.

PS - please don't be a jerk to me, I generally leave conversations for that kind of nonsense.


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brainman wrote:I'm curious

brainman wrote:
I'm curious why this matters to you.

Because linguistics interests me. Are you implying that I shouldn't be interested in this? What a very odd question.

brainman wrote:
Is it because thinking this helps you sleep better at night or something?

What a strange question. Im not sure what this has to do with anything, but im pretty sure this was ment as a sarcastic comment designed to "stick it to me."

Sadly, you demonstrate your assholery by missing the piece of my post where I said that we are no better than humans because we possess language...rather, we are just different. Im suprised a grad student would miss that.

Do you have anything important to say? Or are you content to just throw around sarcastic remarks? perhaps it helps you sleep better at night?

brainman wrote:
Because it isn't making any sense to me.

So instead of asking for clarification...like one would expect, you question my interest in the subject and then go on to make sarcastic comments. Im suprised your in grad school.

brainman wrote:
It's pretty obvious to about every other linguist I've ever spoken with, along with every biologist I've ever spoken to, oh and also most every scientist I've spoken with about this, that other animals have a great capacity for language.

give me ONE study that supports this. I have named off atleast three linguists who side with me. You seem content to just appeal to anonomous sources.

brainman wrote:
This is saying something since I'm a researcher and my undergraduate work was in large part linguistics.

Bullshit. One of the first things I learned in my intro to linguistics class was that animals do not possess language. The very first day this myth was dispelled. Don't tell me your undergraduate work was in linguistics. This is like a biologist saying they have never heard the theory of evolution was a valid scientific theory.

brainman wrote:
In fact, the only people I meet who make the claim you're making are fundementalist religious types.

This has nothing to do with religion, so your point fails. Pinker is an atheist and Chomsky is an atheist. Im not sure where you got this idea...perhaps from your ass?

brainman wrote:
If you're going to try and make this claim stick, you'll need to do something one better than throw insults around and boldly claim that humans are the only species on the planet to have language.

Right, I just boldly claimed that Humans are only capible of language. I mean, it wasn't like I actually posted arguments and evidence for my view.

brainman wrote:
For starters, look at the site that was posted about Koko.

I did. You will notice that Koko communicates ONLY what she is taught. She does not naturally pick up language. It took many years. The average Human has over 40,000 words in their vocabulary. She has 2,000. Oh, and here is the really interesting part:

" Koko and I communicate with each other through a modified form of American Sign Language (ASL)"

Modified? Why was it modified? Why couldn't she learn regular ASL? Why did it need to be modified?

Once again, I will repeat: Memorizing a few words, or a few rules does not mean you know the language. Koko cannot use the language creatively. She can only use the language she was taught. None of us had to be taught our language...we picked it up naturally, ok? Animals both have to be taught their language, AND can use that language in a very, very, very limited sense. They don't know the language. I am taking German right now. I have a few words memorized and a few rules and sounds down. Does this mean I know German? No. Why? I can't use it creatively.

"She also communicates with her normal gorilla vocalizations, of purrs and cries. In our more than 28 years together, Koko has expressed the whole range of emotions associated with humans, like, happiness, sadness, love, grief, embarrassment. "

So it took almost 30 years to teach Koko to memorize the lexicon that any 5 year old child would know? Wow, Koko really possesses language...

brainman wrote:
Or, take a look at lesion studies in species other than humans dealing with language.

Communication, you mean. How in any significant way does animal communication resemble human language? It doesn't. All your doing is posturing.

"In the high school halls, in the shopping malls, conform or be cast out" ~ Rush, from Subdivisions


todangst
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Chaoslord2004

Chaoslord2004 wrote:

Anything you can express in English, Italian, French you can express in Sign language, or any other language for that matter. All languages are equal from a linguistic stand point. They all follow morphological, syntactic, semantic and photentic rules. Thus, the claim that some languages are inferior to others is embarrisingly wrong.

Second, what animals besides humans would be good candiates for possessing language?


Simians - chimps, gorillas.

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hence, one requirement for one knowing a language is that they must be able to use language creativly. Animals, like parrots and chimps cannot do this.

The handlers of Koko the gorilla argue that animals like gorialls can demonstate creativity with sign language. They hold that they have evidence of Koko' exhibiting word creation.

For example, when handed a piece of watermelon, she gave the sign for "water fruit" - which basically is what we call watermellon. I am unsure if she initiated this of her own accord, or was cued for a symbol

A more immpressive putative example would be her creation of a curse word. When she became angry at a handler, she called him the word she learned for defecation. This was done spontaneously.

She has also demonstrated an ability to make jokes, and to deceive with the intent of humor. She appeared to exhibit this when she was cued for the sign for 'shoe' and instead gave the sign for 'hat'

She was cued two more times, and insisted it was 'hat' even after the corrections. Finally, she gave the sign for hat one more time, and then put the shoe on her head and signed "hat" while appearing to laugh.

Now I've not read any of this from a peer reviewed journal, it was all reported anecdotally. But if these accounts are true, then there may be evidence of animal language.

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Do animals communicate? yes. is this language? no. They are programed with a finite set of things they can communicate.

I think that if the reports of Koko are true, then it may be that animals are capable of moving past their finite set of symbols.

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Nor can they understand and construct sentences they have never heard.

I think this again may be falsified by studies of chimp language acquisition. Their abilities to form new sentences may be limited, but there seems to be putative evidence of the creation of new sentences and new words.

There are problems with syntax, and there's the matter of whether they generate queries on their own.

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All human beings can use their language to express infinitly long sentences (in theory...its physically impossible, but if we wanted, we could given an infinite amount of time).

And, perhaps the strongest evidence of this, is simply that animals besides humans do not possess the cognitive faculties for language. Within parts of the human brain are language centers...animals lack this.

I'd have to look into this. It sounds like your position is similar to Noam Chomsky's....

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

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Chaoslord2004 wrote:

Chaoslord2004 wrote:

brainman wrote:
For starters, look at the site that was posted about Koko.

I did. You will notice that Koko communicates ONLY what she is taught.


I'm not sure if that is the case... again, I don't have research to cite, but Koko's handlers report instances of word creation.

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She does not naturally pick up language. It took many years. The average Human has over 40,000 words in their vocabulary. She has 2,000. Oh, and here is the really interesting part:

" Koko and I communicate with each other through a modified form of American Sign Language (ASL)"

Modified? Why was it modified? Why couldn't she learn regular ASL? Why did it need to be modified?

Because she's a gorilla. She doesn't have human hands. She mainly uses regular ASL, which is modified in cases where her anatomy precludes her using normal ASL

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SilkyShrew wrote:I think

SilkyShrew wrote:
I think that the problem here is that you are claiming that they must know your language or language you are familiar with to qualify.

Well, we start with what we know: All human beings possess language (given the language centers in their brains have not been destroyed). Every single society has language. They all have one thing in common: A universal grammar; i.e, this is their common property. Their individual language determines more of the surface grammar, but ultimatly all languages have the same basic rules. For instance, all languages have "heads" and "complements." How this is syntactically worked out varies from language to language. English "heads" occur at the beginning of a sentence. Other languages have heads at the end of a sentence. All languages have syntactic categories: "verb phrases," "preposition phrases," "noun phrases," and so forth. The complexity of language is so vast that nothing in the animal kingdom has such.

Animals do not have this. There is nothing in the animal kingdom which resembles what we currently know about language...atleast not significantly. Furthermore, communication is NOT equivolant to language. There is nothing even remotely complex in Chimps as there is in human language.

now, contrary to brainman's remark, this "doesn't make me sleep better". I don't think animals are inferior to us...just different.

SilkyShrew wrote:
Certainly primate communication has linguistic patterns

So do bird calls, and bee dances. mere patterns do not make a language, nor do they constitute the animal to be in possession of a language.

SilkyShrew wrote:
Your argument is against primitive language, isn't it?

No, because there is not such thing as a primitive language. The whole notion of a primitive language is not only wrong, but racist in nature.

SilkyShrew wrote:
Actually, not knowing the language has more to do with level of ability to use it than using it in novel ways.

It has to do with both.

SilkyShrew wrote:
No, that is not true. For example, the Navajo language lacks concepts of time like the english language does (the Bonvillian book I mentioned in the other post talks of this), the Piraha tribe in Brazil does not linguistically define numbers above two.

And this means they are linguistically inferior, how? Just because they havn't developed a word for "time" or don't have a concept of time is not due to their linguistic ability. If they wanted...they could develop these concepts. For a long time we didn't have the concept of infintesimals. Does this mean a language that doesn't have this concept, CAN NEVER have this concept? To show a language is inferior, you need to show that it is impossible, even in theory, to develop a word or concept for a specific thing.

Take English. We have one word for "love" while the french have seven words for it. If I so desired, I could make up 7 new concepts of love. Let us assume the French are using "love" to describe "kinds of love" (im not sure how they us it, I havn't studied french).

Here is 7 new words for love:

Love: General love
Lovie: passionate love
Olove: family love
Lovan: love for humanity in general
Loovan: love for a friend
Lovie: deep love
Lowlove: shallow love

Bam, now English can express many degrees of love without adjectives, like "i love her alot" or "I love her passionatly". Furthermore, I wouldn't have even needed to do this. I can use adjectives to accomplish the same end.

SilkyShrew wrote:
a culture in which, for example, a spring does not exist cannot express the idea of a spring in the same manner that we can in english.

Not because of a short fall in the language, but they havn't been exposed to a spring. If they lived by a spring...they would have a word for it. How is this a short fall in the language itself? This is what im talking about.

SilkyShrew wrote:
They would have to, at best, give a description of such an object in its place, if they can.

So instead of having a small phrase "a spring" they would have to use a description? ok, how is this a shortfall in the language? They can still express the concept. Furthermore, they could assign a word to the description.

I really fail to see how any of what your saying shows a short fall in the language. There may not be a one-to-one correspondece between the languages...but anything I can express in English I can express in any other language; it may take more work, but I can do it.

SilkyShrew wrote:
Ultimately, the people may invent a word for it, however, the word is not native to the language and even that takes time.

Close. They would invent a word for it...like all languages make up words to signify things. They would do so in accordance with their morphological rules. Over 50 years ago, "datatizing" was not a word in english. However, it is now being expressed in English. Why? Because it follows morphological rules: Take the root "data" then add the morpheme "tiz" to make the stem "datatize" and from this, add the infelectional morpheme "ing" to get datatizing. I must be in this order..."dataing" isn't a word.

We invent words all the time. As new concepts come our way, we invent new words. Do you think the greeks knew what a computer was? Or a worm hole? No.

SilkyShrew wrote:
The reason why I cited Kanzi in my other post is because Kanzi was not directly taught. Instead, Kanzi eavesdropped on lessons being taught to his mother. Furthermore some of Washoe's family learned their sign language skills from Washoe, and not from researchers. The mimicking that led to their language acquisition is part of the reason for expanding other avenues of primate language research (although Washoe and his family were dropped from the original programs that they were in). As stated before, the animals were able to use the language that they had learned in novel ways.

I don't have time to go into it, but here is the summery given by Victoria Fromkin:

"...Chimpanzees like Sarah and Lana have been taught to manipulate symbols to gain rewards, and other chimpanzees like Washoe and Nim Chimpsky, have been taught a a number of ASL signs. A careful examination of utterances in ASL by these chimps shows that unlike children, their language exhibits little spontaneity, is hightly imitative, and reveals little syntactic structure.it has been suggested that the Pygmy chimp Kanzi grammatical ability greater than the other chimps studied, but he still does not have the ability of even a three-year old child" (Fromkin et al. 391 An Introduction To Language, from the chapter Language Acquisition)"

All the other animals you mentioned are discussed in that chapter, and shown to NOT possess language.

SilkyShrew wrote:
however, if they do not begin learning human languages by a particular time, their abilities are quite limited.

They make up their own! Thats the amazing part. Our ability for language is so instinctual, that even while isolated, we develop a language of our own and it follows syntactic, morphological, phonetic, and semantic rules. This is the amazing thing humans do: We develop language instinctually. Chimps, however, do not. Nor do they teach other chimps what they learned.

SilkyShrew wrote:
I gave evidence to the contrary - please look at it.

And all your evidence regarding animal language has been refuted. Look into Pinker and Victoria Fromkin.

SilkyShrew wrote:
PS - please don't be a jerk to me, I generally leave conversations for that kind of nonsense.

im not. Your lack of knowlege on the subject demonstrated you didn't know what you were talking about. Its not an insult, hell, I if I were to talk about physics I would expect someone to say "you don't know what your talking about."

Its not an insult...I like you, don't get me wrong. I come off abrassive at times. I apologise.

"In the high school halls, in the shopping malls, conform or be cast out" ~ Rush, from Subdivisions