anthropology 15

anthropology 15 - Sentences incorporate that kind of...

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Christie Strawser Anthropology Study Guide 4/8/2008 A Telling difference Animals, communicate – without language- for a variety of purposes. Psychologists and others seeking to establish that such and such an animal either has language or at least has the cognitive ability to acquire language need to be able to say what language is. Their approach is commonly to make a list of characteristics and show that their animal does indeed exhibit all of them, or at least that they can teach it enough to pass a battery of tests. Any specific set of characteristics is liable to need constant revision, because linguists learn more about language, its characteristics change. At least two of them, the use of arbitrary symbols for nouns and verbs, and the use of syntax, are critical to assessing language ability. The point is that the syntax of a language involves more than merely combining elements into sequences of words.
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Unformatted text preview: Sentences incorporate that kind of struture, to be sure, but they also have much more structure, involving abstractions that are not readily apparent in the superficial for of the sentence abstractions that allow the same group of words to communicate very different pieces of information is systematic ways. Kanzi does not seem to understand prepositions or conjunctions, such as putting something in, on , or next to something else. Sentences in which the word and links two nouns together or two sentences together frequently led to mistakes that suggests that Kanzi can not understand such words. Nonhuman animals lack the kind of system that linguists are still hard at work trying to understand, and without such capacity, animals can communicate only in much more restricted ways. The ability to use language is probably grounded in the biological nature that makes us the particular animal we are/...
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