LINGUIST List 6.84

Fri 20 Jan 1995

Disc: Linguistics, species, and poetry

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  1. Celso Alvarez Caccamo, Linguistics, species, and poetry
  2. Jane A. Edwards, Re: species-specific (REVISED!)

Message 1: Linguistics, species, and poetry

Date: Wed, 18 Jan 95 04:19:38 +0Linguistics, species, and poetry
From: Celso Alvarez Caccamo <>
Subject: Linguistics, species, and poetry

Moonhawk's extremely long message about linguists' species-ism
is very nice, soothingly poetic for a list like ours.
I wonder how a slug would express all that.
Nevertheless, it's amazing how the few, little tiny features
which set human language apart from other languages
can produce such rich meanings as Moonhawk's.
We should be humble: this minute fragment of Total Language
is a good place to start.

Celso Alvarez-Caccamo
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Message 2: Re: species-specific (REVISED!)

Date: Wed, 18 Jan 1995 17:39:06 Re: species-specific (REVISED!)
From: Jane A. Edwards <edwardscogsci.Berkeley.EDU>
Subject: Re: species-specific (REVISED!)

S. Schaufele says,
) i certainly don't remember anything in the introductory survey
) courses I've taken myself ... so much as hinting that it is an
) a priori assumption of the field of linguistics that language
) is the exclusive prerogative of Homo sapiens.

Hmm. How about the following (my emphasis added):

Dwight Bolinger (_Aspects of Language_, 2nd ed., p. 4, 1975):
 "LANGUAGE IS SPECIES-SPECIFIC. It is a uniquely human trait, shared by
 cultures so diverse and by individuals physically and mentally so
 unlike one another--from Watusi tribesmen to nanocephalic dwarfs--that
 the notion of its being purely a socially transmitted skill is not to
 be credited."

Fromkin & Rodman (An Introduction to language_, 2nd ed., p. 16, 1978):
 on the origin of language resulted from man's interest in his own
 origins and his own nature. Since man and language are so closely
 related, it was believed that if one knew how, when, and where language
 arose, perhaps one would know how, when, and where man arose." 2nd ed.,

Eric Lenneberg (_Biological Foundations of Language_, p. 2, 1969):
 "A biological inquiry into language asks, 'WHY CAN ONLY MAN LEARN TO
 SPEAK A NATURAL LANGUAGE?' This question is fundamentally different
 from asking, 'In what respect is learning to speak similar to
 conditioning or operant learning as studied by animal psychologists.'
 The former question requires an investigation into the specific nature
 of the species Homo sapiens; the latter requires a programmatic
 disregard of species differences. The former will turn to anatomy,
 physiology, and developmental studies for an answer (all of which are
 biological disciplines), whereas the latter will endeavor to discover
 analogies between stimuli, responses, rewards, and the temporal and
 spatial relationships between them."

 -Jane Edwards (
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