Specializations > Historical Linguistics

Man vs. Beast

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freknu:
One thing that I always come to think of in arguments like this is that other animals don't require language to the degree that humans do. Whether there is a biological/neurological aspect of human language or whether other animals lack this, is irrelevant — other animals do not need language like we do.

If any other species developed the same need for communication, what is there to say that they wouldn't develop something similar to human language, or that it couldn't be analysed similar to human language?

These are quite big assumptions being made, all hinging upon some axiom that human language is "special".

If you compare pit hole eyes to vertebrate eyes, one could say that the pit hole eyes are more primitive, but if you compare fish eyes to human eyes, which one is more primitive?

And do all animals need vertebrate eyes? Why would vertebrate eyes be special?

Daniel:

--- Quote ---One thing that I always come to think of in arguments like this is that other animals don't require language to the degree that humans do. Whether there is a biological/neurological aspect of human language or whether other animals lack this, is irrelevant — other animals do not need language like we do.
--- End quote ---
Humans don't necessarily need to be able to fly. But that doesn't mean that we happen to have a dormant ability to fly, even though we don't use it.
While I agree that there may be issues of whether species need language or not, we can't assume that all have the potential for it. It may develop specifically when a species does need it, for one thing.


--- Quote ---If any other species developed the same need for communication, what is there to say that they wouldn't develop something similar to human language, or that it couldn't be analysed similar to human language?
--- End quote ---
I'd imagine this to be the case, yes. But that suggests that human language is some abstract thing, for example something that could be represented mathematically. As it is, I get the impression that Human Language is viewed as a human-specific trait. I'm not sure WHY that is believed, but it is a popular opinion.


--- Quote ---These are quite big assumptions being made, all hinging upon some axiom that human language is "special".
--- End quote ---
Indeed. It all comes back to that, and nothing more.


--- Quote ---And do all animals need vertebrate eyes? Why would vertebrate eyes be special?
--- End quote ---
Squid eyes are said to be incredibly similar to human eyes.

freknu:

--- Quote from: djr33 on May 24, 2014, 08:19:27 AM ---While I agree that there may be issues of whether species need language or not, we can't assume that all have the potential for it.
--- End quote ---

Of course, not!


--- Quote from: djr33 on May 24, 2014, 08:19:27 AM ---It may develop specifically when a species does need it, for one thing.
--- End quote ---

Which is why it seems so strange, why judge animal communication based on our form of language, based on our evolution, when no other animal seems to have developed any similar form of language?

That in itself seems assumptive.

Daniel:

--- Quote ---Which is why it seems so strange, why judge animal communication based on our form of language, based on our evolution, when no other animal seems to have developed any similar form of language?
--- End quote ---
Seems to line up with what Con Slobodchikoff says on the subject-- judge animal communication systems within their behavior, not compared to ours.

jkpate:

--- Quote from: djr33 on May 24, 2014, 06:35:13 AM ---jkpate, that's an interesting point. However, wouldn't that mean that we'd at least be able to understand cat? Maybe we would inherently speak it in a way that is too complicated for other animals to understand, but a simpler system would be within what we would understand, as part of understanding the more complex system. I think.

--- End quote ---

I don't think so. If a learner assumes that there is hierarchical structure when there is not hierarchical structure, then the learner could produce systematically wrong parses. If accurate parses are necessary for understanding, then such a learner would not understand the system. Whether this happens would depend on exactly how the learner is set up (whether it has a strong bias for having branches in both directions, for example) and what the data look like (in terms of amount and the likelihood of spurious hierarchical regularities).

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