LINGUIST List 11.2204

Thu Oct 12 2000

Disc: Does "Language" Mean "Human Language"?

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Zylogy, Re: 11.2202, Disc: Does "Language" Mean "Human Language"?
  2. jose luis guijarro, RE: 11.2187, Disc: Does "Language" Mean "Human Language"?

Message 1: Re: 11.2202, Disc: Does "Language" Mean "Human Language"?

Date: Thu, 12 Oct 2000 00:22:38 EDT
From: Zylogy <>
Subject: Re: 11.2202, Disc: Does "Language" Mean "Human Language"?

Thanks Dan. By the way, on the issue of losers and consciousness- neoteny, by 
rolling back evolutionarily selected specializations and making the character 
of the organismal physiology and/or behavioral patterns more general, 
actually bypasses much of the penny-ante nonsense that pushes organisms into 
increasingly narrow corners- its a way of exiting the rat-race, if only for a 
while. How many of you reading this have had to contend with the 
mind-breaking effects of office politics- people fighting over the minutest 
turf? And for what? This is what happens when the big issues are fixed, and 
finer details are all that's left to argue over. Hi nu versus lo nu.
Fractal competition.

Much of the neoteny I'm familiar with seems to push bigger brains in place of 
brawn- consider the rise of motile chordates from sessile, filter-feeding 
ancestors (someone once wrote that the reason carnivores tend to be more 
intelligent than herbivores could be found in considering how much mind it 
takes to sneak up on a leaf). Bigger brains associate with more learning. And 
learning is generally more important in the younger life stages of animals. 
We are essentially giant infants from this viewpoint, though age still 
manages for most of us to eventually rigidify behavior.

And for younger people the world is usually filled with awe and mystery- 
infants have a great deal of REM activity as they integrate new stuff (while 
many of us older folks would love to have a nice nocturnal vacation). Adults 
progressively go autopilot, just never to the extent many animals reach 
(especially the lower down you go).

Now consider birth- we are brought into the world in a much less capable 
state than lower animals (almost as if we were simian marsupials, with caring 
families and Hillarian villages instead of a pouch to make up the difference 
in development). Everything has been pushed back (including our faces ;-). If 
this keeps up we might find ourselves caring for fertilized zygotes outside 
the womb (oops, I forgot- we're almost there now!). Maybe its time to 
reconsider tadpoles.

Jess Tauber
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: RE: 11.2187, Disc: Does "Language" Mean "Human Language"?

Date: Thu, 12 Oct 2000 11:37:39 +0200
From: jose luis guijarro <>
Subject: RE: 11.2187, Disc: Does "Language" Mean "Human Language"?

Hola, buenas!

I am a bit astonished at the interest (and passion!) this particular
discussion is arising among fellow linguists. It shows that the issues are
indeed vital for many, which is something to be happy about --at least, if
you enjoy debating as I do.

As I have already answered the original message by my e-mail friend, Dan
Moonhak, I will refrain from participating in the debate until someone has
questions about my ideas.

However, I perceive a certain assumption in many of the participants which
makes me wonder. Maybe I am wrong, but it seems that while the
"mind-as-a-slate" holistic crew has a speculative, but well organised story
about the possible *evolution* of the human language (in many cases, a very
interesting theory too), my crew, namely the mentalist innate-modular one,
thinks that, in our frame of thought, no such speculation exists, let alone
an interesting and plausible one.

Well, in order to help people to overcome this "complex", if indeed it
exists outside my mind, they could go to Dan Sperber's page, where, among very intersting papers, they can
find one by Gloria Origgi and himself called "Evolution, communication and
the proper function of language" which is just that sort of speculative
theory in our own mentalistic frame.

De nada, y hasta la proxima!

Jose Luis Guijarro Morales
Facultad de Filosofia y Letras
Avda. Gomez Ulla, 1
11003 Cadiz (Espa´┐Ża)
Tel. +34 956 015526
Fax. +34 956 015501
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue