The Uniqueness of Man

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Sep 18 12:15:52 UTC 2009

With the excuse of its relationship to Teenglish, I ask a question
about _Doctor Dolittle's Delusion: Animals and the Uniqueness of
Human Language_, by Stephen R. Anderson.

His book (which I admit I have not read to the end yet; it's been
recalled by the library) strikes me as an anguished cry for the
biologically-predetermined uniqueness of humans among all of God's
creations with respect to language.  (His ilk lost one battle --
although a fringe is still fighting -- with the recognition of
evolution, another over using and making tools, and so on.)

Every chapter ends with the conclusion that, if a particular type of
communication in the animal just discussed is biologically
determined, innate, and especially if humans have or do something
similar, then how can one deny that language in humans is also
innate.  False logic, I believe.  But also -- If humans are like
these various animals, then how can Anderson deny that some animals
might be like us -- such as (other) primates in their ability to
understand, learn, and use language?

Set aside the fact that chimpanzees don't have a physical vocal
apparatus that would permit them to speak English.  Some humans don't
either, but they can use human language via other modes.


The American Dialect Society -

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