As in National Geographic: Bonobo peeps point to human language origin (The pop science mind tends to lack practical intelligence. No one even thinks of asking why, if baby bonobo peeping tells us about the roots of human language, it never did anything for the bonobos)
Apes close to speaking? No. (In the middle ages, it was implausible miracle stories but today, it is implausible ape achievement stories. )
And further to Bonobos prefigure language?: Agenda so obvious, it stinks like the garbage on a hot summer night before the pickup. (if bonobos “peep,” that shows they are on the verge of speaking. But if Neanderthals did speak (of course they did), that shows it isn’t a big achievement.)
In response to all this, linguist Noel Rude writes to say,
It’s not the medium (gestures, vocalization) but the message. The human faculty of reason allows for an unlimited output of information. Animals have a limited amount of things they can tell us.
But, no, we need not claim that animals are mere stimulus-response robots that lack souls. And we need not say that they have no means of communication and understand nothing that we say. Animals express desires and fears–they want to live–things far beyond any machine or computer.
Animals can learn a finite number of symbolic gestures or sounds which correspond more to sentences than to words. It is the human ability to learn words with generic meaning and then combine those words via logical rules into novel sentences and discourse that is unique. The potential output of any human language is infinite.
How do you compare some finite number with infinity?
Yet animals can respond in novel ways that no machine ever could. Aya Katz, unlike almost all who have worked with apes, is a competent linguist. But she is not committed to the linguists’ claim that human language is completely unique. She truly wants to say that her chimp has a certain facility for language.
The beasts–maybe especially certain birds–are pretty sharp–so they say:
But when it comes to computation our machines far outstrip us all. Nevertheless I would wager that a crow “understands” the concept of a number more than any machine ever could. Machines have no understanding whatsoever; animals have a limited degree of understanding; man is the least limited of all when it comes to understanding. Maybe our task is more precisely to differentiate the following:
1. COMPUTATION IN MACHINES
2. AGENCY AND CONSCIOUSNESS IN ANIMALS
3. AGENCY AND CONSCIOUSNESS IN MAN
The human faculty for reason allows for an infinity of thought and expression, yet our understanding is still limited. Listen to the speculations, enigmas and conundrums of the cosmologists and theologians and you’ll know what I mean. They are simply in over their heads.
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