jlmendi at jlmendi at
Wed Oct 27 15:49:40 UTC 2010

Dear Aya:

I agree that domestic animals can have a certain degree of  
communicative interaction with owners and trainers. And of course I'm  
aware that there is clear evidence that many species have complex and  
sophisticated systems of thought. But this does not mean they can  
acquire and use a human language. For me, as for many people  
(regardless of the often sterile debate on innatism) a language is not  
just a collection of sound/meaning pairs, but a creative complex  
system of knowledge that seems not to be at the reach of other living  
beings, for the simple and obvious reason that they lack a human brain.
Best regards,

"A. Katz" <amnfn at> wrote:

> Jose-Luis,
> Let me ask you this: on what evidence do you base the assertion that
> most organisms do not acquire human language in linguistic immersion?
> (I'm assuming you're not counting bacteria here, but are referring to
> mammals and birds.)
> Is it because most other animals can't produce the sounds of human
> languages? Do you recognize that a mute human being can acquire human
> language but be unable to speak? Does comprehension at all count for
> you?
> Have you ever had a dog? Have you ever had a dog who understood a
> language that some humans who were present did not understand?
> I'm not talking about responding to rote commands that have been
> trained. I'm talking about responding to nonce utterances. I have seen
> dogs understand what I said to them, while the humans who were present
> in the room, but were not speakers of the language, did not understand.
> Like you, I was specifically taught that parrots only immitate, and
> since I had never had a parrot, I believed that for a very long time.
> It's only in the past decade, after I saw the evidence, that I changed
> my mind.
> Are you speaking from the same kind of belief? Do you believe this
> because you read it in a book or because your professors taught it to
> you? How much experience do you have with non-humans? If the answer is
> not much, isn't it about time you got to know some other animals? Or if
> that's not possible, because you live in a city under cramped
> conditions, couldn't you at least interview people who do have that
> experience?
> Best,
>  --Aya

More information about the Funknet mailing list