Sherman Wilcox wilcox at
Thu Oct 28 20:00:59 UTC 2010

On 10/28/10 11:38 AM, Keith Johnson wrote:
> 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.

Just an expansion on what Keith has said, (and one I assume he would 
agree with): if we approach this search with the assumption that the  
"capacity for language" is a unitary thing, our answer is always going 
to be "only humans have the capacity for human language." We need to 
approach it by studying the cognitive, social, perceptual, and motoric 
abilities that make up the "capacity for language," to see which of 
those are shared across species -- and eventually to understand how they 
arose, to what extent they are the same/different across species, and 
how they came together to make possible this amazing thing we call human 

Sherman Wilcox
Professor of Linguistics
University of New Mexico

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