Enrique Figueroa E.
efiguero at CAPOMO.USON.MX
Fri Apr 25 15:13:13 UTC 1997
Dear Ellen, the point I was trying to make is NOT denying that there are
biological foundations for language, but underlining that there are ALSO
social foundations for it.
I wouldn't consider a "society" that of bees (or ants), for reasons I
don't care to go into right now. As for dogs, those who -like myself-
very much and know quite a lot about them, the do not speak,
but they certainly communicate in a wonderfl way. The are strongly
socialized by human company and interaction with them (of the right kind,
of course), so that, although they do not use language (since they are
biologically impaired to do so), they DO ENRICH AMAZINGLY THEIR SEMIOTIC
A fact, for the rest, as well known as this: isolated humans do NOT
develop language. Ergo: both the biological and the social factors are
crucial and it would be quite byzantine and scholastic to try and deny
either of those factors.
I wouldn't agree with comparing the role of the social factor in language
development with watering a seed, as Chomskyans love to do (or, for that
matter, language with wings, armas, etc.)...
Dogs are also incapable of developing LASER, computers, etc. The is
undoubdtedly a certain biological foundation for human mental capacities;
but, without the social framework and history, such thing would have
never ever coeme about! It is characteristcic of humankind that in it are
inextracably intertwined the biological and the social, constantly (and
not always smoothly) interacting.
On Fri, 25 Apr 1997, Ellen F. Prince wrote:
> so how come dogs raised in a home with people don't speak? is it that
> humans discriminate against them and so their social interaction isn't
> rich enough?
> and would you also say that a bee's communication system (dance) is likewise
> explainable by its social milieu? or would you accord a bee a greater
> genetic endowment than a human?
> "Enrique Figueroa E." <efiguero at CAPOMO.USON.MX> wrote:
> >Please notice the extremely cautious (and tricky?) expressions "general
> >human program" and "in a detalied way".
> >I would say that there has (also?) been evidence that certain aspects of
> >language acqusisition, development and actual linguistic behaviour are
> >due to and explainable by the general interaction of the individual with
> >the social milieu, as opposed to being guided in a detailed way by a
> >9genetic) biological program.
> >The sense of maturation I have in mind is, say, the maturation that
> >> underlies the development of a second set of teeth or of secondary sexual
> >> charactaeristic. These developments take place according to a biological
> >> program, with somewhat varying times in the population. Although the
> >> environment certainly can affect the maturation (e.g. nutrition might
> >> affect the development of secondary sexual characteristics), it is
> >> uncontroversial that the development is essentially guided by a biological,
> >> genetically determined program. There is reason to believe that some
> >> aspects of UG share this rather omnipresent aspect of biological phonemona.
> >> Biological structures and processes mature according to a biological
> >> program, either before or after birth.
> >> The idea of genetically programmed maturation is so strong in the study
> >> of biology that a special term has been defined for exceptions. This term
> >> is "plasticity." Plasticity means that there is experience-dependent
> >> variation in biological stuctures or processes. It is considered a major
> >> discvoery in the study of the brain in neuroscience, for example, when it
> >> is demonstrated that a certain process is plastic. The reason this is
> >> considered a major discovery is because the general view is one of a
> >> biological, genetically based program guiding development (see Nadel &
> >> Wexler, 1984, for discussion)." (quotes from pp. 117-118).
> >> >From Kenneth Wexler, "The development of inflection in a bioligically based
> >> theory of language acquisition."
> >>As for Chomsky's open avowal of his Platonic views: >
> >> (Chomsky, N. Language and problems of knowledge: the Managua Lectures.
> >> MIT Press, 1988):
> >> ³The evidence seems compelling, indeed overwhelming, that fundamental
> >> aspects of our mental and social life, including language, are determined
> >> as part of our biological endowment, not acquired by learning, still less
> >> by training, in the course of our experience² (p. 161)
> >May I propose an inversion such as this?
> >The evidence seems compelling, indeed overwhelming, that fundamental
> >aspects of our apparently biological (such as sexual behaviour) and
> >mental such as cognitive processes) life, including language, are
> >largely determined as part of our social interaction, not inherited via
> >inheritance, still less innately possessed qua members of the human
> >Further inversions of the cited line of reasoning can be easily made and
> >would be, at least, equally sound and convincing.
> >Max >
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