amnfn at well.com
Thu Oct 28 17:47:33 UTC 2010
I agree with you that it is crucial that we understand whether the
capacity for language is shared across species.
I don't agree that proof that a child is aware of the meaning of what he
is saying is held to an equal standard as proof for a non-human.
If you ask a child in a controlled setting which of several objects on the
table is blue, and the child picks the blue object, the researcher writing
up the experiment does not have to go into a big long discussion about how
the child's understanding of "blue", or the syntax of the entire question,
is not proof that the child has acquired human language.
On Thu, 28 Oct 2010, Keith Johnson wrote:
> 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 explain.
> 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 berkeley.edu
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