Originally Posted By: Zed
I have a friend who has never spoken to his child - he is deaf and uses ASL. His son, who is hearing, uses sign language as spontaneously to Dan as he does spoken English to his mother. In fact he used it earlier since the hand coordination required to sign usually developes earlier than the mouth/throat coordination needed to speak.
You might as well say that flight only includes using feathers so jets and bats are merely imitating flight.

You state that "Monkeys, however, have been around people who speak "directly to" them, but they don't talk back. Never. They don't even Sign back to people who are deaf who use Sign to communicate with each other. Never."
You are quite right, monkeys don't, Several Chimpanzees and a couple of apes do however sign back to humans. In fact Koko has been known to lie, claiming when asked that one of the keepers broke a sink that she had broken.
You might want to check the latest research before accusing others of unsubstantiated statements.


edited to point out that some chimps sign not sing!


I am happy for your friend and his son. Your analogy of language and flight doesn't fly. By "monkeys" (which I used intentionally), I meant all simians, all non-humans that might be considered to be signing. Checking the latest research was exactly what I was attempting to do. Your anecdotal references to a friend with a deaf child is not the kind of research I was looking for, nor were the various fanatical claims that "animals can so speak!" Koko lied? How was it determined it was not a simple slip of the tongue/hand or dislexia or something else. Saying, "Koko has been known to lie" is anecdotal. I would like to study the actual report. I am beginning to suspect that you may have not read Terrace.

What I had written earlier:

"Would someone kindly advise me where I can find a thorough, conclusive discussion on the subject of the word "Language" -- in particular "human language" vs. "animal language." I know what people are saying -- opinions rather than formal explanations."

Unfortunately this thread has a high content of unsubstantiated fanatical opinions.

"I was looking for a treatment of the differences between that (language proper) and animal communication. Or, the best, most complete, most exact definition offered by and accepted by linguists, philologists, and language lovers."

Linguists, philogists, and language lovers. Not humanitarians, pet owners speaking from "personal experience" (or personal feelings, more likely), not argumentum ad hominem, not argumentum ad populum, not pathopoeia ("pathetic argument").

"The best I've found so far is by someone who actually 'worked with' animals to determine their linguistic ability (inseparable from mental ability): The Trouble with Ape-Language Studies, by H. S. Terrace, in Psychology Today, November 1979. (He also wrote How Nim Chimpsky Changed My Mind, which I have not read.) I also found an informal discussion of the subject at http://www.hard-light.net/forums/index.php?topic=33598.80, which held a few noteworthy observations"

H. S. Terrace. That's still the best I've found. Has anyone else participating in this thread read Terrace? Has anyone else participating in this thread read responses to his writing? That's what I was asking for. In response there are anecdotes about deaf friends and accusations of "elitism" for suggesting that animals probably aren't really quite as intellectually advanced as humans, despite the formers' vast literature and profound story-telling abilities.

And as comments became more rude, accusatorial, and counter-productive:

"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 arenít convinced, then you arenít convinced. But then, on the other hand, saying you arenít convinced notes no error nor does it provide any substantial evidence contrary to my assertions."

As I review the contributions, there aren't many that do more than offer opinions. (And condemnation for my reluctance to join the animal language bandwagon.)

You wrote: "You might want to check the latest research before accusing others of unsubstantiated statements." Checking the latest research is exactly what I was attempting! Where were you!? If there is more recent research that overturns Terrace' findings, I am eager to study it. I have asked for it. Why do you refuse to cite the recent research? I cannot find it. I am not a simiolgist. I am not a professional, grant-supported linguist. I am not a professional researcher.

What do you mean, "accusing others of unsubstantiated statements"? Did I do that. If so, I apologize. I probably just didn't recognize the scientific substantiation they were providing. I hope anyone who feels I ignored the substantiation for their statements please give me another chance. Please restate your statements with the scientific substantiation in bold. And if you cannot stand disagreement, please let me know that, too, so I don't waste my time describing the studies I have read that may disagree with your . . . research.

I am someone who is very interested in the subject of languages and "animal language," enough to read what is available if I know where to find it. I am completely willing to read the recent research, pro and con and anything else. Where is that research that overturns Terrace' findings!?