Originally Posted By: Zed
Nanu Nanu
It is no wonder that you find that "Presently the “only humans have language” argument appears the stronger." since you define language as "the spoken language, and if I must go further, spoken human language."

That is in a sense true. Language is the verbal communication performed by humans. People naturally learn language. A child will learn language if around people who speak. A monkey will not learn gestures if around humans who gesture, unless those humans intentionally train the poor thing to mimic them.

I started with human communication, the definition, and gave it a word, language. It’s okay with me if people want to say ‘langue’ or ‘parole’ or something else. Written language is “writing.” Sign language is “sign.” Animal cries are “animal communication.” I believe these different terms do the different forms of communication justice, and allows one to distinguish between them without painful paraphrasis.

However, I do include more in the idea of what language is than just “human language.” True language has a teleology that animal communication does not share. Human language (true language as opposed to animal communication) treats, because it is capable of treating, reports of past events, plans for the future, descriptions and prescriptions, communication itself and improvement of communication, moral instruction, technical instruction, genealogy, translation, natural science, metaphysics, religion, politics, abstract concepts, hypotheses, distinguishing between ‘necessity’ and ‘accident’ (conditions), analyses and conclusions and emotional states beyond the animal ones of fear, anger, desire, and contentment. The differences between human thought and animal “thought” are a side of the discussion that interests me less because, well because my focus is language (spoken, written) rather than thought.

Originally Posted By: Zed
You are quite right. ASL, while it has grammer, nuance, puns, and words/signs/symbols for complex and non-tangible concepts, does for some reason lack audible speech. hmmm.
You called it a "representation of language" but isn't language a representation in symbols, whether audible, writtten or signed, of objects and concepts? It is a bit like denying that English is a language since it is only a patched together representation of Latin and Greek.
edited for a typo

Well, call me Clinton, but throughout this thread, I think that, for everyone, more hinges on “that depends on what your definition of language is” than on what language actually is. Some people believe “language” (as they define it) exists separate from and independent of (human) speech.

English is not a patched together representation of Latin and Greek. But I see your point. It is invalid.

Isn’t there some significance to the fact that among all the cultures of earth, there is none that lacks spoken language? On the other hand, there are millions who can not read or sign. Those who don’t just haven’t learned it; it’s not that they are not capable of it, but that on some level they have not needed it. Most who sign, however, haven’t done it for personal pleasure, but because they are incapable of (or have reduced ability in) speech or hearing; they do need it. Language is, primarily, speech. Speech came before the substitutes. The substitutes were created to bridge the gap, either between the language-capable and the language-incapable, or between places distant in space and time.

I know people will continue using the word “language” in that broad, general, ambiguous, sloppy way, to mean noises, pictures, and gestures. I will, I hope, use it more narrowly, specifically, singularly, and precisely. I will continue to study languages and linguistics, even Egyptian hieroglyphics and Mayan, but never dogish, dolphinski, or monkese.