Keith Johnson keithjohnson at
Thu Oct 28 17:38:04 UTC 2010

Aya, discussing the problem of demonstrating that birds can talk, says:

"If humans had to go through this to prove their children can really  
talk, they wouldn't fare much better."

I think that this is a false statement, as evidenced by the years of  
research reported in journals like the "Journal of Child Language".  
Children are studied in controlled settings, and behave differently  
than nonhuman creatures do. My point is that the linguistic  
accomplishments of nonhuman species are quite different from those of  
humans.  This seems to be an observation that we should be able to  

Barbara King argues that there are more interesting questions that  
whether nonhuman creatures have "language" or not.  But, I would say  
that if we are seeking to understand the organic basis of this human  
capacity we call language, then it is crucial that we understand  
whether the capacity for language is shared across species.

Keith Johnson
Professor of Linguistics
University of California
keithjohnson at

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