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Bio context language


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Language in its biological context. A presentation to the PBET 1101 participants, Semester 1 AY 2010-2011 at the Faculty of Education, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.

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Bio context language

  1. 1. LANGUAGE: IN ITS BIOLOGICAL CONTEXT MohdEzraf bin MohdLizan* HotanKheyrandish* Leonardo David Ng* Brandon Chai An Weng* ArismanSrithadan linguistics for language teachers TESL Program, University Of Malaya October 2010 Dr. Jessie Grace U. Rubrico, Facilitator
  2. 2. LANGUAGE IN ITS BIOLOGICAL CONTEXT 1. Introduction 2. Natural Communication Systems of other Animals Common Signs in Communication Systems of Humans and Animals Natural Comm. Systems of Selected Species i) Bees iii) Vervet Monkeys ii) Birds iv) Apes 3. Teaching human language to animals Dog’s Understanding of Human Language Apes Teaching ASL to Chimpanzees Teaching Chimpanzees to Use Tokens or Keys Evaluation of Apes’ Language Abilities
  3. 3. LANGUAGE IN ITS BIOLOGICAL CONTEXT 4. Origins & Evolution of human Language Divine Origins & the ‘Original’ Human Tongue 19th Century Theories of Language Origins More Recent Theories:- i) Gestural Origins ii) The Grooming Hypothesis iii) Language as a Genetic Predisposition iv) Language & Social Cognition v) Concluding Remarks on Language Evolution 5. Conclusion
  4. 4. Introduction Status of language in relation to communicative systems employed in the non-human animal world: is language unique to human? A system without precedents in the biological world with a possibility of genetic mutation or an evolutionary development. Description of some communication systems used in the animal world. Evaluate natural animal communication systems that satisfy the design feature of human language.
  5. 5. The uniqueness of human language : - human language in relation to the natural communication systems of other animals. - the ability of animals to learn and use human language Natural Communication Systems of Other Animals
  6. 6. Commonalities of Signs in Communication Systems of Humans and Animals Certain bodily signs indicating emotions are shared among humans and animals. Examples: Submission; Intimidation; Deliberate Deception Vocalizations
  7. 7. Bees Two types of dances to convey information about the location of nectar sources. Round Dance (close to hive) Tail-Wagging Dance (some distance away from hive) Natural Communication Systems of Some Animal Species
  8. 8. most birds have system of communication employing vocalization many birds also communicate by non-vocalized sounds such as beak clapping, by visual displays of objects, or dance. Types of vocalizations : calls; songs Birds
  9. 9. Calls Syllables duration Alarm calls Foods calls Signal between parent and offspring Flocking calls Songs Separate groups Attract mate Make out territory cultural transmission Critical period for acquisition of songs Show dialect variation in their songs
  10. 10. use vocalization, facial expressions and posture to communicate with one another. use bodily signs including head-bobbing rapid glancing towards and away from another , individual, penile displays and tail-signals. System of vocalization for alarm calls: #a high pitched chatter warns of presence of snake. #a chip [short but loud barking call] gives warning of leopard and lion. #an uh warns of a minor predator such as hyena . Vervet monkeys
  11. 11. Vervetmonkeys also have vocalization that inform about monkeys emotion: Low-pitched chatter expresses an aggressive threat. A woof subordinate males indicates submission. The vocalization of vervet monkey appears to be arbitrary
  12. 12. Apes also have system of communication that include vocalized and non-vocalized signs, including bodily gestures #Gestures communication is better developed and more flexible in apes than vocalization apes
  13. 13. Intentional gesture in natural communication of chimpanzees Attention attractor a gesture in natural communication with other Stylized gesture signifying an incipient or desired action
  14. 14. TEACHING HUMAN LANGUAGE TO ANIMALS Dogs’ understanding of human language (Non-Primate) APES (Primate Species) i) Teaching ASL to Chimpanzees ii) Teaching Chimpanzees to Use Tokens or Keys iii) Evaluation of Apes’ Language Abilities
  15. 15. TEACHING HUMAN LANGUAGE TO ANIMALS Animals comm. systems fail to comply with Hockett’s design features of human language. *Arbitrariness - A property of word-signs. *Displacement - Possibility in which language could only be used to describe what is actually physically present in the writer’s environment. *Cultural Transmission – Environment effects on language learning.
  16. 16. *Duality - Level of form and level of meaning. *Productivity - Ability to make new meanings by new expressions and utterances. *Reflexivity – Language as a medium to convey information.
  17. 17. Dogs’ understanding of human language Investigation conducted by Juliane Kaminski; Rico, (9-year-old border collie) with approximately 200-word ‘vocabulary’ (in German) Able to learn the name of unfamiliar toys after just one exposure to the new word-toy combination. Showing skills at language comprehension that comparable to trained apes, dolphins, sea lions and parrots.
  18. 18. Ability to acquire Fast-Mapping. Rico knows words for over 200 different items and fetches its when instructed. (Kaminski et al. 2004) Eliminating the ‘Clever Hans’ effect; Rico was to fetch 2 items randomly selected from the 200 that the dog was allegedly familiar with from an adjacent room. Rico could rapidly learn names of unfamiliar toys; performed accurately in fetching items, 7 out of 10 attempts.
  19. 19. CONCLUSION Do dogs understand language? The answer is NO! 200 words is just not enough to compare with the rich lexicons of human language. Rico’s understanding of words for objects are only based on ‘fetching’. ‘Smart dog learns like a child.’ Sept.2001 (Fischer-Planck Institute, Scientist)
  20. 20. Primate Species: APES The most serious attempt to teach human language to animals. Early attempts were resounding failure. 1920s, Robert Yerkes proposed sign language after unsuccessful attempt. 1930s, Winthrop and Luella Kellogg acquired a 7yo chimp. ‘Gua’; brought up like a human child and understand over 70 words but never spoke.
  21. 21. Late 1940s, Keith and Cathy Hayes acquired Viki to teach English. After 3 years, she can only say – mama, papa, cup & up; recognized over 100 words. ALL FAILED: Physiological Reasons! Human Vocal Tract-Short jaw, rounded tongue, lowered larynx with right angled bend. Adapted for speech. Apes / Chimpanzees-lack of these adaptation and high front (i) & back vowels (u) are outside of their range. Vocalization are largely involuntary.
  22. 22. i) Teaching ASL to Chimpanzees *American Sign Language
  23. 23. ii) Teaching Chimpanzees To Use Tokens & Keys Systems of arbitrary signs made up of plastic tokens or keys on keyboards labelled with simple symbols. Examples: X = chocolate, = banana Replaced by light-up keys on computer keyboards & symbols on portable keypad. FINDINGS: Longer Utterances:- Repetition with no attempt to elaborate or reformulate messages.
  24. 24. iii) Evaluation of Apes’ Language Abilities The use of signs by apes are not equally comparable to human language. Fail to satisfy two of Hockett’s design: Duality of Patterning & Reflexivity. Apes are more prone to interrupt utterances by their trainers. (Repetition) Rarely initiate communicative acts. Overall; human language differs from animal communication system in degree rather than kind. (Cognitive Mechanisms)
  25. 25. Origins and Evolution of Human Language Divine origins and the “original” human tongue Nineteenth-century theories of language origin More recent theories of language origin
  26. 26. Divine Origins Judeo-Christian tradition God gave Adam the power to name things Islamic tradition God taught Adam the names of things Hindu tradition -Sarasvati, wife of Brahma, creator of the universe. Babylonian tradition - the god Nabu Egyptian tradition - the god Thoth
  27. 27. The “Original” Human Tongue Experiments to determine the original language - 600 BC, Egyptian pharaoh Psammetichus (Phrygian) 1500, King James IV of Scotland (Hebrew) Other cases of children raised in isolation do not confirm these results children brought up by wolves discovered in India in 1920 Genie, confined to a room for 12.5 years, discovered in 1970 at the age of 14
  28. 28. 19th Century Theories “La-la” (or “sing-song”) theory: source of language is a communication system resembling bird song “Bow-wow” theory”: language originated in iconic, not arbitrary, connections between meanings and sounds (e.g. splash, bang, bow-wow)
  29. 29. “Ding-dong” theory: language arose because there are both iconic and indexical connections between sounds and meanings (e.g. mama for “mother” is derived from the sound made by a baby before it begins suckling) “Pooh-pooh” theory: language originated in natural cries of emotion such as anger or pain (e.g. ouch, yow) “Yo-heave-ho” theory: source of language could be the grunts and groans of people involved in physical effort
  30. 30. More Recent Theories Gestural origins Noddy: people communicated with gestures before they were capable of speech The grooming hypothesis “Yackety-yack” theory: language arose for the purpose of cementing social bonds between individuals
  31. 31. Language as a genetic predisposition Minimal view: our genes give us a language ready brain Maximal view : we have a genetic blueprint for language “Oops!” theory: language arose as the result of a single genetic mutation. A single gene is responsible for language (FOXP2) “Chatting-up” theory: language arose via the normal evolutionary process of natural selection Language and social cognition: “Looky-look “ theory: language evolved in a cultural, not biological, setting. We had a brain that was ready for language before we had language.
  32. 32. CONCLUSIONlanguage in its biological context Natural systems of communication employ body gestures and vocalization to express:- 1. States of emotion 2. Warnings of specific danger. 3. Marking of territorial boundaries 4. Mating Most animals are incapable of producing or comprehending human language. Most successful have been focused on apes. (Though duality and reflexivity are absent) Speculation on the origin of human language; continued with critical development.
  33. 33. REFERENCE & Sources McGregor, W. B. (2009). Linguistics: An Introduction. Language in Its Biological Context London: Continuum Publishing, (pp. 224-245). (Vervet Monkey/Video)  
  34. 34. (Chimpanzee Vocalization / Video) (Bee Dance / Video) (Rico Dog / Video) (Clever Hans Effect)