swellsj at bgsu.edu
Thu Oct 28 20:10:16 UTC 2010
It's worth pointing out, I think, that the goal of the Alex studies and the ongoing studies of other parrots has been the investigation of parrot cognition not language acquisition. Dr. Pepperberg states quite clearly that Alex's utterances are meant as only a vehicle for him to demonstrate his various (impressive) abilities.
He does not seem to have acquired much syntax at all, but it's fascinating to note the other cognitive abilities he clearly has, demonstrated by the problems he can solve.
It would be interesting to construct a list of the cognitive abilities necessary to manipulate a grammar accurately and compare those to what the parrots can do albeit in a nonlinguistic context.
For what it's worth, there is quite a bit of phonetic detail in The Alex Studies if you want to see spectrograms and such of parrot speech.
From: funknet-bounces at mailman.rice.edu [mailto:funknet-bounces at mailman.rice.edu] On Behalf Of Keith Johnson
Sent: Thursday, October 28, 2010 1:38 PM
Cc: funknet at mailman.rice.edu
Subject: Re: [FUNKNET] Chomsky
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.
Professor of Linguistics
University of California
keithjohnson at berkeley.edu
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