The Uniqueness of Man

Tom Zurinskas truespel at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat Sep 19 01:30:14 UTC 2009

I think that if a creature thinks at all then they have language.  To think is to talk in your head.

Tom Zurinskas, USA - CT20, TN3, NJ33, FL7+
see phonetic spelling

> Date: Fri, 18 Sep 2009 13:30:06 -0400
> From: Berson at ATT.NET
> Subject: Re: The Uniqueness of Man
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: "Joel S. Berson"
> Subject: Re: The Uniqueness of Man
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 9/18/2009 12:31 PM, Salikoko S. Mufwene wrote:
>>Another complement to Anderson's book is Michael Tomasello's /Origins of
>>Human Communication/ (MIT Press, 2008). I find the book overly
>>repetitive but it sheds interesting light on differences between animal
>>communication and human language(s).
> I probably won't read this, since Tomasello is a disbeliever in
> ape-language, but I wonder whether he comes to the conclusion, to the
> unproductive yes-no question "Do apes have language?", of "No." And
> "Language is innate, biologically hard-wired, in humans, and in no
> other animals," as I presume Pinker and Chomsky claim? (I haven't
> read them either, and probably won't.)
>>Herb Stahlke wrote:
>>>I haven't read the Anderson book either, but I've followed that
>>>literature ever since working with the Lana Project at Yerkes in
>>>Atlanta in the late 70s. The arena is one with highly mobile goal
>>>posts. When animals are shown to be capable of some language-like
>>>behavior the definition changes to exclude that or at least make it
> As Sue Savage-Rumbaugh says, in the jointly-authored _Apes, Language,
> and the Human Mind_ (1998). (An unfortunately very difficult book,
> one not likely to appeal to the general intelligent reader.)
>>>What serious researchers in the field are doing,
>>>though, is not attempting to prove that other higher primates are
>>>capable of language but rather investigating the cognitive requisites
>>>for language
> Why is the subject so often expressed as "language," as though it
> were one single thing, defined by some set of criteria (as Herb
> writes, frequently varying), rather than as "various kinds of
> language capability" (with then, of course, different characteristics
> for each kind)? Reminds me of IQ as the single measure of
> intelligence -- where is Stephen Jay Gould when we need him on ape-language?
> And why is "language" described in terms of a hierarchy of abilities,
> when there may be a more complex relationship among the abilities,
> such as (speaking mathematically) a network? Or must it be a
> hierarchy so that man can reside at the top?
>>>and the use of such species as behavior models for
>>>research. Duane Rumbaugh has a couple of very interesting recent
>>>papers that survey the field he's been working in for forty years.
>>>See for example
>>>Emergents and Rational Behaviorism. Eyes on Psy Chi, Winter 2002.
>>>A Salience Theory of Learning and Behavior: With Perspectives on
>>>Neurobiology and Cognition. International Journal of Primatology
>>>(0164-0291) 10/01/2007. Vol.28,Iss.5;p.973-996.
> Thanks for this citation; it's more recent than the pro ape-language
> books I'm aware of, and I've been reluctant to try searching the
> (voluminous?) literature.
> Joel
>>>Both sides, unfortunately, are prone to overblown arguments.
>>>On Fri, Sep 18, 2009 at 8:15 AM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>>>>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>>>Sender: American Dialect Society
>>>>Poster: "Joel S. Berson"
>>>>Subject: The Uniqueness of Man
>>>>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 -
>>>The American Dialect Society -
>>Salikoko S. Mufwene s-mufwene at
>>The Frank J. McLoraine Distinguished Service Professor of
>>Linguistics and the College
>>Professor, Committee on Evolutionary Biology
>>University of Chicago 773-702-8531; FAX 773-834-0924
>>Department of Linguistics
>>1010 East 59th Street
>>Chicago, IL 60637, USA
>>The American Dialect Society -
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