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.
Guugu Yimithirr Culture• Guugu Yimithirr is an Australian aboriginal language which does not possess egocentric coordinates:• Egocentric coordinates depend on the your own body: left and right, front and back. – This coordinate system moves around with us.• Geographic coordinates use fixed geographic directions, such as North, South, East, and West. – These coordinates do not change with your movements.
Culture• Culture is the knowledge, language, values, customs, and material objects that are passed from person to person and from one generation to the next in a human group or society. (p. 61)• Features of Human Culture:1. Behaviors that are learned and not innate2. Because they are learned, they vary (differ or change) across space and across time.3. The use of symbolic Language distinguishes human 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 adapt from the raw stuff of nature: computers, houses, forks, bulldozers, sandwiches, etc.• Nonmaterial Culture – made up of intangible or abstract 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 ideas about 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 people respond to behavior.Types of Norms: (these are not mutually exclusive) i. Folkways: Casual norms; violations are not taken very seriously. (e.g. eating pizza for breakfast) ii. Mores: important rules (e.g. norms against unjustified assaults) iii. Taboos: norms that are so deeply held that even the thought of violating upsets people. (e.g. eating human flesh; incest) iv. Laws: formal, standardized norms enforced by formal sanctions.
Norms• Norms are enforced by sanctions. – Positive sanctions = rewards. – Negative sanctions = punishments – Formal sanctions = official responses from specific organizations within society – Informal sanctions = unofficial responses from individuals within the group Types of sanctions: Positive Negative Formal 1 2 Informal 3 4
Do animals communicate? (Old View)• Up until the 1980s, it was widely believed that communication among non-human animals was: 1. Not controlled (or ‘selected’) by the animal; its communicative behavior was simple a hard-wired response to an environmental stimulus, and… 2. Communicated only the emotional states of the animal, i.e. its states of ‘arousal’ or excitement, and did not convey information about the external environment.
Do animals communicate? (New Findings)• Honeybee dance also communicates information about the environment, but is innate and not learned. – Decoded by von Frisch (1974)- tail-wagging dance is in the shape of a figure-eight. The amount of time it takes to traverse the straight, central portion of the dance indicates the distance to the food source; the angle of this traverse gives the angle of the source using the position of the sun as a reference; the degree of vigorousness of the dances indicates the quality of the food.
Do animals communicate? (New Findings)‘Domestic’ Apes• Koko the Gorilla can understand more than 1,000 words based in American Sign Language (ASL)• Kanzi the Bonobo is believed to understand more human words (coded in symbols called ‘lexigrams’) than any other nonhuman animal in the world.
What makes human symbolic language so different?• Several species engage in referential communication: they communicate specific information about their environment using signs. – Example: vervet monkeys have several warning calls depending on the type of predator.
What makes human symbolic language so different?• However, most are limited to using (non-symbolic) SIGNALS: one-word behavioral commands like “attack!”, “fire!” 1. Primarily manipulative, not informative; intended to influence others immediate behavior. 2. Context, situation-dependent. 3. Cannot be true or false.
SYMBOLS and Language• SYMBOL: anything that re- presents something else to more than one person.• LANGUAGE: set of symbols that expresses ideas and enables people to think and communicate with one another. (p. 66)• Symbols and Language both a) REFLECT reality, and b) CREATE “These Letters are symbols” reality.
Symbols and InstitutionsSymbolic Language is necessary to create institutions.‘X counts as Y’• Examples: – Money. We can agree that paper counts as money. But money (Y) has no existence apart from our definition of it. – Rules of chess: the rules of chess create chess. Chess would not exist apart from these rules. (vs. rules of traffic, for example) Rules of chess