Geoffrey S. Nathan geoffn at SIU.EDU
Wed Mar 21 14:48:14 UTC 2001

At 07:38 AM 3/21/2001 -0700, Sherman Wilcox wrote:
>Also, once again I get the feeling that much of this discussion depends on
>conceptions of consciousness and intentionality that may be applicable only
>to humans. Is this correct? It seems to me that my friend's puppy Owen has
>the intention to catch the frisbee that she throws to it; he doesn't yet
>have the coordinated motor skill to do it (he really enjoys practicing these
>skills, though, way more than I enjoy practicing skiing). He doesn't perform
>the requisite actions correctly; he messes up the intricate timing of
>component actions.
Sherman describes perfectly the experience children have in acquiring the
phonology of their language (and, having spent a week with a year-old
labrador I can attest to other similarities between human children and
puppies).  Kids know what they want their vocal tracts to produce, they
just can't exert enough control over them to make their lips and tongues
It is indeed a good question whether we can as adults still have access to
the individual subroutines that make up speech gestures.  There seems to be
some variability here, speaking only anecdotally.  Most phonetics students
can easily make an alveolar closing gesture on command, but independent
control of (say) the velum, or vocal cord vibration seems less open to
conscious inspection, at least for relatively untrained speakers.


Geoffrey S. Nathan
Department of Linguistics
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
Carbondale, IL, 62901-4517
Phone:  (618) 453-3421 (Office) / FAX (618) 453-6527
         (618) 549-0106 (Home)
                                                         geoffn at

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