A. Katz amnfn at
Wed Oct 27 17:50:19 UTC 2010


So, in your opinion is your statement that human language is out of reach 
of other living beings "for the simple reason that they lack a human 
brain" falsifiable? Is there any evidence that would -- if presented-- 
change your mind? If there isn't, then your statement is an article of 
faith and not a scientific hypothesis.

What if someone were to say, for instance, that the English language is 
beyond the reach of anyone who isn't English, for the simple reason that 
they don't possess an English brain? Would you see that this hypothesis is 
falsifiable by presenting evidence that someone without any English 
ancestry was able to master English better than someone whose ancestors 
are English?

If so, why not accept evidence that non-humans such as Bow and Alex have 
mastered a human language (such as English or Hebrew) better than people 
who possess a human brain? Not only are there humans who don't speak any 
language at all, there are also humans who do speak some language, 
but not these particular two.



On Wed, 27 Oct 2010, jlmendi at wrote:

> 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,
> José-Luis
> "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

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