ComparLanguage - CS 143 * Animal Cognition Lecture 7:...

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CS 143 * Animal Cognition Lecture 7: LESSONS FROM THE LANGUAGE STUDIES Sociological Issues Language abilities in nonhumans is a threatening concept to many, even today! - “In the beginning was the Word” Language is what separates us from the beasts! - Makes us second only to the angels, reveals the soul, gives us dominion, from God not evolution - “The proper study of Man is Man” What matters is how we are different, special - Language defines us, entails our unique traits: Rational, abstract thought, Culture, Ethics etc. - “The Language Instinct” (Pinker 1994) A function of specialized, human-specific brain modules - e.g. Chomsky’s 1957 “Language Acquisition Device”; 2001: “FoxP2 Gene” (re: speech) - All of the above and more shape the attitudes of researchers, critics, funders, the public - Science is situated ; its topics, theories, and methods are all a product of the cultural milieu Species-Appropriate Design (Note presumption in originally only attempting with apes; Still no monkeys) - Earliest work (Kelloggs) with chimps attempted to teach them to speak , failed - Do not have human articulatory apparatus (mouth shape, tongue position, sensori-motor coord) - Altho note: Kanzi tested, understands much spoken English (reference, novel combinations) - Chimps’ spontaneous use/development of gesture => Teach them sign language - Some by imitation, mostly involved shaping ape’s hands into signs - In 1960s, American Sign Language beginning to be recognized as a “true” language - Multiple species trained: Chimps (e.g. Washoe ) Gorillas (e.g. Koko ) Orangutan (e.g. Chantek ) - Dolphins , handless, trained mainly for comprehension (vs. production) of signs/sign sequences - Some attempt (e.g. Phoenix) with imitation of acoustic computer-generated symbols, stalled - Note all involve testing if animals can master human-like linguistic structures Methodological Critiques Includes scathing reviews ** , fierce debates, undermined credibility - Poor data recording – e.g. Home-raised, naturalistic signing day in/out, no record of learning process - Little/no scientific “controls ” – e.g. Inadvertent cuing by trainers, situation-specific associations, etc. - Poor data reporting
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This note was uploaded on 09/15/2011 for the course COGS 143 taught by Professor Johnson during the Spring '08 term at UCSD.

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ComparLanguage - CS 143 * Animal Cognition Lecture 7:...

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