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Re: OT hominids

From:Paul Bennett <paul-bennett@...>
Date:Sunday, January 1, 2006, 20:25
On Sun, 01 Jan 2006 14:52:15 -0500, Herman Miller <hmiller@...> wrote:

> I think that in order to qualify as a language comparable to "natural" > human languages, at the very minimum you need to have words that express > what one thing is doing with another thing -- transitive verbs. You also > need some way of naming new things by combining existing elements > ("phonemes" or their equivalent) in new combinations, and to be able to > talk about events remote in time and space.
I agree.
> It would be interesting if dolphins or some other kind of social animals > had a communication system with this sort of expressive potential (I > wouldn't rule out the possibility just yet), but as far as I know this > set of features is unique to human language.
Unique to human language, but not to humans. Chimps and Gorillas have enough language facility to learn sign language. I think they have demonstrated an understanding of simple tenses, and have certainly shown the ability to coin new words. The example that springs to mind is the famous Koko, who spontaneously signed "water bird" when asked to identify a picture of a duck, having never been taught the sign for "duck". Also of note are the Chimps at the CHCI in Washington. A set of "first generation" chimps were taught sign language, and they independently taught the "second generation", without being instructed to do so.
> The ability to talk about future or potential events seems to be an > especially useful one.
I agree. I think the future tense, and possibly the subjunctive, are forms that make language about more than just describing the world around you. Paul