Thursday, May 31, 2007

"talking" apes

Language does not consist in the mere matching of words to events ~ such signaling is no different from the "language" of warning signals used in the wild by many animals to alert their comrades of predators. These signals cannot distinguish cause (= presence of predator) from effect (= run!) ~ declarative and imperative are rolled into one. Furthermore, they cannot distinguish between the presence of a single predator, many predators, or the mere evidence of a predator ~ nor can they distinguish between the fact of a predator's presence or the mere opinion that there is such. These "talking apes" demonstrate this same lack of syntax, lack of a first person perspective, as such they are no better than rabbits, parrots, dolphins, or virtually any other signaling animal at "language," no more like us. Perhaps they even fall short of our poor cousin the bee whose intricate waggle dance at least displays a syntax!

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