Originally Posted By: Maven
I'm not sure who you're trying to convince...But you lack the supporting evidence to convince me. elitism, indeed. To imply that sign language is not a true language indicates only your own ignorance. And yes, I know from whence I speak on that particular topic.

The addressee is whoever wishes to consider my words.

I am not trying to convince you of anything. Well, yes, I am. But my purpose in saying what I did about language was to present my present understanding on the issue; also to see if others could give me some evidence and suggestions on how to support it, as well evidence against it and to point out errors of fact. If you aren’t convinced, then you aren’t convinced. But then, on the other hand, saying you aren’t convinced notes no error nor does it provide any substantial evidence contrary to my assertions.

As with everything, "It depends on what your definition of" (true language) "is." Every tribe and people use spoken language. Human language is spoken. It is represented by writing, but writing is not language per se. Likewise, when the blind use Braille and the deaf use sign language, when the navy uses flags and the boy scouts use Morse code, they are not using what is essentially language. They are using “paralanguage” (the use of manner of speaking to communicate particular meanings) which is based on the spoken language or on writing. They are using a system of communication based on a pre-existent system of communication, i.e. language.

However, I must note two things. First of all, my ignorance, admittedly both exhaustive and orphic, is in its particulars clandestine and astucious. To say, as you did, that my ignorance is obvious, is either evidence of your failure as a mind-reader or mere facetiousness. Second, I apologize for saying sign language is not a true language. Oh, wait, I didn't say that, did I? I did distinguish between "hand signs" (which specifically includes those mimicked gestures which simians are trained to make with their fore locomotor appendages) and "sign language," which enjoys a rich vocabulary of words and morphemes, manifests regional and idiolectic variations, and is open-ended (in terms of vocabulary, morphology, grammar).

I referred to sign language as “paralanguage.” I am guilty either of ambiguity or misuse of the word “paralanguage.” What I intended was ‘a system used in place of language; something that is not an essential feature of language.’ As is clear now, by ‘language’ I mean the spoken language, and if I must go further, spoken human language. My reasoning is above. I have little evidence beyond the references to “The Trouble with Ape-Language Studies”, How Nim Chimpsky Changed My Mind, http://www.hard-light.net/forums/index.php?topic=33598.80, and my own personal experiences, which are only anecdotal. I am still working through this. My mind is open for evidence on both sides. Presently the “only humans have language” argument appears the stronger. If your mind is solidly made up, then of course it is no surprise that the evidence you found in that article, the book and the web-site was not convincing.

of troy states: “ASL has every feature of language.” ASL lacks the phonological feature of language (human speech). ASL is not a "necessary" feature of language. In that sense, it is something beyond or after language. Writing, too has features of language (save phonemes), but writing is a representation of language, not language itself. ASL is a representation of language, a substitute for what is essentially speech.

It is crass (indelicate, lacking in discrimination) to condemn a person for having an opinion honestly arrived at for no better cause than owning an opposing opinion. The vulgar use of “elitism” contributes nothing to the discussion but warns those who might favor one side that to do so threatens their ostracism by the anti-elitist proletariat (I guess). Perhaps you seek to incite class warfare. You are attempting to squelch an argument by character assassination rather than by reasoning and evidence. However, it’s a silly exercise since elites do exist. Society depends on the existence of elites. If possession of spoken language is elite, then humans, not cockroaches nor dolphins nor monkeys, are the elites of the world, and linguists and philologists are the elites of humanity.

Thanks for the link, AnnaStrophic. The site looks like fun, which is what language ought to be (“to me”).