Even if nothing else about this article were interesting, its title would be:
Vocal communication is a central feature, but language encompasses much more, as linguist and neuropsychologist Angela Friederici pointed out at a recent meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. “Language is more than speech,” said Friederici, director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, in Leipzig, Germany. “Speech … uses a limited set of vowels and consonants to form words. Language, however, is a system consisting of words … and a set of rules called grammar or syntax to form phrases and sentences.” Nonhuman primates can learn the meaning of individual words, she notes, but aren’t capable of combining words into meaningful sequences of any substantial length. That ability also depends on circuitry connecting different parts of the brain, current research by Friederici, collaborators and other scientists is now showing. Tom Siegfried, “Why speech is a human innovation” at Knowable Magazine
Actually, language is more than sentences too. It’s an effort to comprehend, express, and explain meaning in a variety of ways. Most life forms don’t have a human-life language because they don’t need one. They don’t have anything to say for which screams, snarls, chirps, and grunts wouldn’t work just as well.
We don’t think because we have grammar. We have grammar
If researchers can’t address the implications of that fact, they will tend to be stuck in issues around the shapes of larynxes and so forth. As if that was really the point.
But at least we aren’t hearing that various life forms really do have a human-like language and our standards are just unfair to them, the way human-directed intelligence tests are unfair to apes.
See also: Can we talk? Language as the business end of consciousness
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