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Re: Defining "Language"

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...>
Date:Saturday, July 28, 2007, 12:23

On Sat, 28 Jul 2007 00:17:25 -0400, John Crowe wrote:

> On Thu, 19 Jul 2007 21:39:45 +0200, Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...> > wrote: > > >On Thu, 19 Jul 2007 08:23:10 +0100, R A Brown wrote: > > > >> Would (2) include the dance by bees returning to the hive which > >> indicates where a good source of nectar-bearing plants may be found? > > > >I think not. It doesn't convey the vast world of ideas and > >feelings. Bees can't dance about the things humans talk about, > >they can only dance about the direction and distance in which > >a food source is found. Also, bee dancing is an iconic system > >- the angle between the direction of the food source and the > >direction from which the sun shines is mirrored in the angle > >at which the bee dances, etc. > > What types of ideas and concepts a "language" can convey is not clear. For > example, one often has difficulty communicating what type of pain or feeling > s/he has. (Are all "mixed feelings" alike?) Who knows, when we speak of > "dreams", are we actually talking about the same thing?
True, there are notions that are at least very difficult to put into language. But my point was that bee dancing is not a language in the strict sense of the word because it is much more limited. We can speak about virtually everything which exists in the world; we can speak of things that happened long ago or far away (or both), of things that perhaps will happen in the future; we can even speak of things that only exist in our imagination. Bee dancing is much more specialized. Bees can only dance about the direction and distance in which a food source is found. And while human language is symbolic - the connection between sound shape and meaning is entirely arbitrary and conventional - bee dance is iconic: the angle and speed of the dance translate directly into the direction and distance of the food source. ... brought to you by the Weeping Elf