ニッキー wrote:How on earth do you explain sign languages, if languages require the ability to speak? In fact, how do you even account for the fact I didn't say anything while writing this?
When I said "the ability to speak and specific languages are in no way related (except of course that the latter needs the former, but the former doesn't necessarily imply the latter)" I was obviously talking about spoken language, because that's what we're talking about since the beginning. If I wanted to talk about the ability required to use the sign language, I would have said that it's the ability to move your hands, same for the written language (and I'm just talking about the physical ability that is required, not mental, neurological or whatever). Anyways, just like for spoken language, you can have the ability to use it but that doesn't mean you know how (e.g if you don't know how to write).
Gundaetiapo wrote:It's not clear to me what you're proposing. How many generations of delay are you saying there was between a linguistically favorable allele and the usage of that allele? At what age are you proposing they did their "creation"?
I'm not an expert and will never be an expert. I can't answer this question. I was just saying (and maybe it was wrong) that it seemed to me pretty unlikely that as soon as humans acquired the ability to speak they began to speak. The point I was making was that you can have the ability to do something but not knowing how to do it.
Yudan Taiteki wrote:there is no other way to explain this except that the ability to learn and use language is an innate ability of human beings -- not just the ability to make noises, but the ability to learn language. It's very hard to believe that such an innate ability could exist for something that had to be consciously invented.
Yeah, but once again, I think we're not speaking about the same thing. I'm just saying, and I repeated it many times (I know that repeating something doesn't make it right, but it seems I'm not saying it clearly enough), no one invented the ability to speak/learn/use language (spoken, written, sign,... language in general). I'm just saying that, the same way we invented the sign language, we probably invented the specific spoken languages to a certain extent. When you say "...an innate ability could exist for something that had to be consciously invented" you're refering to language in general, not spoken language (or any other kind of language).
You have to admit : English is not really practical. In French, we say "langue" when talking about a specific form of language (primarily spoken, but also written etc), and "langage", that is, the ability to use any kind of system of signs. You are confusing "langage" and "langue". Once evolution gave humans "langage", they began able to acquire any "langue", be it invented or not. They learn "langues", not "langage".
kurisuto wrote: What you have to learn (and create beforehand I think) is a specific language.
But there's no evidence of that. It's like saying that humans have always had legs, but until somebody invented the idea of walking, no humans could walk. You can't prove that's false, but it's extremely unlikely.
Of course, I'm just wandering in the realm of hypothesis. But it depends on how you see this : humans have always had the ability to create poetry, but I don't think Cro-Magnon was a great poet. They always had the ability to create fire too, but someone had to "create" it (I know they didn't create it, but my point is that they needed it badly, they had the ability to light fires, but they didn't know how to do. We could probably say that they invented the idea of "fire", as something they can create, control and use to heat their caves or whatever they were living in, cook,...).
[quote=]No primates are able to use sign language. Some primates have been able to learn some simple signs to express some very basic things, but no primate has ever actually learned a sign language, or even learned anything remotely approaching a sign language.[/quote]
I don't agree. I've seen many documentaries on Koko (and btw, Koko comes from 花火子) the gorilla, for instance. Now, I have to say, I may confuse her with another gorilla, but I saw her describing how her parents were killed by hunters, and she even did the sign of "cry", which is a pretty complex thing to express. Now, did she mean what we think she meant, maybe, maybe not. The wikipedia page is pretty good, here's an excerpt :
nobody taught Koko the word for "ring", therefore to refer to it she combined the words "finger" and "bracelet", hence "finger-bracelet".
And you know, a language doesn't imply syntax. When a primate says "I want to eat" in the sign language, both him and the person he's talking to know what it means. It doesn't mean "I want to play", so it is indeed a system of signs where the signs are distinguished by the fact that they're not used for another purpose, and are completely conventional. They do manipulate semantics. I know some won't call this a language, but I do. I love the works of Saussure, and according to his definition, animals use language, there's no question about it.
One thing you have to remember is that language is a lot more than just a collection of words for things. It's not like people just started pointing at things and randomly saying "tree", "rock", "cat" and then once they had named enough things, that was a language. It's easy to imagine someone pointing at a thing and assigning a certain sound to it. It's much harder to imagine people inventing verb declension, relative clauses, particles, and other essential features of language. And it's even harder to imagine that invention somehow becoming genetically inherited.
Right, and that's where you remind me that, while I have certain ideas about some aspects of language, I'm totally lost when it comes to grammar, morphology, syntax,... While when you say "it's even harder to imagine that invention somehow becoming genetically inherited" I think you're still confusing langue and langage, I agree that it's very unlikely that they "sat around" to invent all what constitutes language. I've already speculated a lot, I think I shouldn't go on (and sorry about the length of the message ).