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Syntactico-morphological links found between languages

A discussion of the peculiarities of languages and the differences between them.

Syntactico-morphological links found between languages

Postby M. Henri Day » Tue Sep 27, 2005 9:40 am

Popular articles on this find have recently been published in various sources, such as the New York Times (nice graphics !), Scientific American, and news@Nature. The last-named, though* very brief, provides perhaps the best description of what type of features were investigated in the study -
The researchers made a database of 125 grammatical features in 15 Papuan languages. This included how word types, such as nouns and verbs, are ordered in a sentence, and whether nouns have a gender, as they do in languages such as German and French.

- which was recently published in Science. Unfortunately, my subscription to the latter - «Science's NextWave Institutional Subscription» (quel nom !) - which seems to provide more restriction than access, didn't allow me to read the original article. So can it go ! At any rate, I thought fellow Agorists with an interest in relations between various languages might find the popular articles to which links are provided above worth a look....

Henri

*Edit, 2005.09.28 : Thanks are due gailr, who was kind enough to point out the presence of an extraneous «t» here....]
曾记否,到中流击水,浪遏飞舟?
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Postby badandy » Mon Oct 24, 2005 2:49 pm

In linguistics I was always told that there is no correlation between language and biology. and there isnt in the traditional sense of things. But, since children learn to speak from their mothers(most of the time, there are exceptions), language learning is more or less exactly parallel with biology and genetics.
In addition, Language change can be traced with methods very similar to disease development and distribution.
Since every human has language (in one form or another), it can and should be studied exactly the same as any other pan-species characteristic
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Postby M. Henri Day » Tue Oct 25, 2005 8:46 am

Whether or no the claws of chickens be sharp, welcome to the forum and this tread, badandy ! Interestingly enough, with regard to the relation between biology and language, I just heard a popular science programme on Swedish Radio in which Pär Segerdahl, a Swedish linguistic philosopher who has just co-authored a book on the linguistic abilities of (certain) bonobos (Pan piniscus), Kanzi's Primal Language - The Cultural Initiation of Primates into Language together with William Fields and Sue-Savage Rumbaugh, was interviewed. In the programme he stated that the best known of these «linguistic» bonobos, Kanzi, possesses a linguistic ability on the level of that of a human child of 2 and 1/2 years. In any event, the book sounds like a must-read for persons interested in the acquisition of language by primate species, including our own....

Henri
曾记否,到中流击水,浪遏飞舟?
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Postby badandy » Tue Oct 25, 2005 11:50 am

bonobos are interesting especially in regards to their sexual behavior too. they engage in sex for recreation, not merely for reproduction, they have openly homosexual behavior, and they are known to exchange sexual favors for food and protection too. In regards to their linguistic ability, thats crazy! 2.5 yr olds have fully developed phonological systems, and production level too. I havent read the article yet, but are they speaking in terms of linguistic production, or overall competence?
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Postby KatyBr » Tue Oct 25, 2005 11:58 am

a bonobo:
Image


Kt
I believe I've known several of these!
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Postby M. Henri Day » Tue Oct 25, 2005 12:28 pm

badandy wrote:... In regards to their linguistic ability, thats crazy! 2.5 yr olds have fully developed phonological systems, and production level too. I havent read the article yet, but are they speaking in terms of linguistic production, or overall competence?


I suggest that before reading the book - which I myself haven't had the opportunity to do - it might be wise to tone down adjectives like «crazy» to «surprising» or some equivalent. The impression I got from the programme and from the article to which I provided a link, is that the three authors are very much concerned with language as a form of overall social competence. But I may be misinformed....

Henri
曾记否,到中流击水,浪遏飞舟?
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Postby badandy » Tue Oct 25, 2005 5:51 pm

i was referring to overall linguistic competence as opposed to just production such as some signing for basic objects which has been done for years. As far as recognizing sounds and distinguishing several variables, dogs and cats do that all the time. A two and a half year old human is far beyond that, just not production-wise, as their speech organs have to then catch up with their brains.
i still think its crazy. And i mean that in a surprising way, not a mentally ill way.
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Postby badandy » Tue Oct 25, 2005 5:54 pm

oh - and these apes definitely demonstrate social competence! very very advanced competence with hierarchical structure and all the sex stuff, and thats without 'human style' language
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sun Oct 30, 2005 4:09 am

Again with reservations for the fact that I have not read the book, I think the question of social competence is the heart of the matter. The evolutionary debate would be between those who postulate a specific «linguistic» change in the wiring of the brain which allowed proto-humans to develop speech and the social competence which speech permits, and those who say that the basic change - presumably earlier and shared by at least some of the great apes - was in wiring that allowed a more complex and differentiated social structure to prevail and which also formed the substrate for language. The difference between P piniscus and early proto-humans would in this case lie not so much in linguistic capabilities per se (considering language as an abstract system, which could be realised in many different substrates, e g, by means of a keyboard in the case of Kanzi, rather than through an exclusively phonetic one, as in the case of our ancestors) but in the fact that in the latter, certain changes had also occured in the vocal system which allowed the development of more varied and sophisticated calls. In turn, natural (here including sexual) selection gained a new substrate to work on, as having a brain wired to produce and respond to these more varied calls presumably offered a survival differential, thus leading to the development of ever more human language. This linguistic development didn't occur in the case of the ancestors of P piniscus as keyboards were neither available at the time, nor had they been, would better ability to manipulate them have conferred any evolutionary advantage. Doesn't sound implausible to me, but a lot more work needs to be done....

Henri
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Postby M. Henri Day » Wed Nov 02, 2005 1:48 pm

Speaking of social competence and linguistic capacity - or capacity for song, which I tend to regard as a predecessor which supplied natural selection with a substrate on which to operate - have Agorists heard the latest on our murine cousin's abilities in this field ? If not, click here, and for the song itself, here or, for a longer and more interesting version, here....

Henri
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