In the GuuguYimithirr language, to say that you want someone to move ‘back from the table’ you would instead ask them to move North (insert the appropriate direction) a little. Instead of turning a screw or knob clockwise or counterclockwise, you might say East or West, depending on which way you were facing!When watching television, speakers of GuuguYimithirr will vary their descriptions of the relative position of the people on the screen, based on which way the television is facing! Even the objects of pictures inside a book are described based on the way that the book is facing!Their dreams and even their memories are also encoded in geographic coordinate directions.
The cat and the dog here are clearly communicating something, namely their emotional states, and we can infer what might have caused those emotional states, but they are not engaging in symbolic or referential communication, to be defined below.
The generic categories of predator calls seem to be innate, but the specific vocalizations are learned.Oddly, there seems to be more referential or symbolic vocalizations found in monkeys than in apes, at least in the wild. Little research has been done, however, on gestural communication (like body posture, hand signals, etc.) of apes in the wild.
Culture• Culture is theknowledge, language, values, customs, andmaterial objects that are passed from person toperson and from one generation to the next in ahuman group or society. (p. 61)• Features of Human Culture:1. Behaviors that are learned and not innate2. Because they are learned, they vary (differ orchange) across space and across time.3. The use of symbolic Language distinguisheshuman from non-human cultures.
Material and Nonmaterial Culture• Material Culture - made up of artifacts.– Artifacts are by-products of human behavior.• Related to the word ‘artificial.’– includes all the things that humans make or adaptfrom the raw stuff of nature:computers, houses, forks, bulldozers, sandwiches, etc.• Nonmaterial Culture – made up of intangible orabstract things that influence people’s behavior.– Five basic categories:symbols, language, norms, values, and beliefs.
Values and BeliefsValues – general or abstract ideas about what isgood and desirable, as opposed to what is badand undesirable, in a society.– Sometimes values can come into conflict– Examples of values: work ethic;equality, freedom, democracy, etc.Ideas/Beliefs – a belief refers to a person’s ideasabout what is real and what is not real.
NormsNorms- rules about behavior.– Key point: the way to judge the importance of a norm(and even whether it exists) is to observe how peoplerespond to behavior.Types of Norms: (these are not mutually exclusive)i. Folkways: Casual norms; violations are not taken veryseriously. (e.g. eating pizza for breakfast)ii. Mores: important rules (e.g. norms against unjustifiedassaults)iii. Taboos: norms that are so deeply held that even thethought of violating upsets people. (e.g. eating humanflesh; incest)iv. Laws: formal, standardized norms enforced by formalsanctions.
Norms• Norms are enforced by sanctions.– Positive sanctions = rewards.– Negative sanctions = punishments– Formal sanctions = official responses from specificorganizations within society– Informal sanctions = unofficial responses fromindividuals within the groupPositive NegativeFormal 1 2Informal 3 4Types of sanctions:
Do animals communicate?(Old View)• Up until the 1980s, it was widelybelieved that communicationamong non-human animals was:1. Not controlled (or ‘selected’) bythe animal; its communicativebehavior was simple a hard-wiredresponse to an environmentalstimulus, and…2. Communicated only theemotional states of the animal, i.e.its states of ‘arousal’ orexcitement, and did not conveyinformation about the externalenvironment.
Do animals communicate?(New Findings)• Honeybee dance also communicates information aboutthe environment, but is innate and not learned.– Decoded by von Frisch (1974)- tail-wagging dance is in theshape of a figure-eight. The amount of time it takes totraverse the straight, central portion of the dance indicatesthe distance to the food source; the angle of this traversegives the angle of the source using the position of the sunas a reference; the degree of vigorousness of the dancesindicates the quality of the food.
Do animals communicate?(New Findings)‘Domestic’ Apes• Koko the Gorilla canunderstand more than 1,000words based in American SignLanguage (ASL)• Kanzi the Bonobo is believed tounderstand more human words(coded in symbols called ‘lexigrams’) thanany other nonhuman animal inthe world.
What makes human symboliclanguage so different?• Several species engage inreferential communication:they communicate specificinformation about theirenvironment using signs.– Example: vervet monkeys haveseveral warning calls dependingon the type of predator.
What makes human symboliclanguage so different?• However, most are limited tousing (non-symbolic) SIGNALS:one-word behavioralcommands like “attack!”, “fire!”1. Primarily manipulative, notinformative; intended toinfluence others immediatebehavior.2. Context, situation-dependent.3. Cannot be true or false.
SYMBOLS and Language• SYMBOL: anything that re-presents something else to morethan one person.• LANGUAGE: set of symbols thatexpresses ideas and enablespeople to think and communicatewith one another. (p. 66)• Symbols and Language both a)REFLECT reality, and b) CREATEreality.“These Lettersare symbols”
Symbols and InstitutionsSymbolic Language is necessary tocreate institutions.‘X counts as Y’• Examples:– Money. We can agree that papercounts as money. But money (Y)has no existence apart from ourdefinition of it.– Rules of chess: the rules of chesscreate chess. Chess would not existapart from these rules. (vs. rules oftraffic, for example) Rules of chess