CMI : Aping humans
by Carl Wieland
Under the article, I read a daft comment:
Hans G., Australia, 24 February 2016
So, apes can learn speaking. Did they learn it from other apes, the higher evolved ones I mean, or the ones, who think they are intelligent? Obviously it didn't happen by chance...........
I am sorry to call my namesake Hans, whose other name G. may or may not be a namesake of mine, someone who has made a daft comment (not calling him daft as a person!), but he did.
No, they can NOT learn how to actually speak. Neither in the Parrot way nor in the Human way. A Parrot can repeat the sounds of words, and thereby, if need be, function as a biological cassette recorder, but it can never understand them.
A human might be mute, might not yet know your language, but he might definitely come to understand if he takes the trouble to learn.
But an ape cannot do that.
An ape could come to understand the word peanut, as much as a dog might understand the word "sit". But an ape would take the word peanut as global for "I am offering you a peanut", and would be very disappointed if the human after that was just showing him a picture of a peanut. And not giving a real one.
There are two marks of human language that are absent in any beasts. One was mentioned in article, or rather two were, but confused as one:
Moreover, chimps lack what the article calls the ‘linguistic silver bullet’—the capacity to ‘combine bits of language into larger units’.
No, it is called "double articulation". Since articulating a word means pronouncing a word, usually when we say "apes cannot articulate" we mean "apes don't haver the apparatus of doing speech sounds" (except "hooo, hooo" and "heee, heee", at least one consonant and two vowels, if they only could get it), but there is another sense in which they cannot.
First, simple sounds are meaningless in themselves, but meaningful units are articulated into combinations of them. This is called articulating morphemes into phonemes.
Then these simplest meaningful units are in their turn incomplete as meanings, until combined as syntagms, some of which may be words longer than a morpheme.
This is called articulating morphemes into phonemes.
[A sentence of logical enunciation articulated into subject, copula, predicate:]
= This [pronoun designing here "previously just described thing"]
+ is [verb used as copula]
+ called articulating morphemes into phonemes.
called articulating morphemes into phonemes
[a predicate by copula affirmed about "this"=previous, and divided into verbum dicendi or nominandi and the name given to the process, also a verbal phrase]
= called = call+(e)d [verb stem for a synonym of naming+morpheme designing a form used for passive participle]
+ articulating morphemes into phonemes
articulating morphemes into phonemes
[verb phrase consisting of verb with object which is in turn modified by verb]
= articulating = art+icul+ate+ing [noun stem "art(os)" meaning joint+noun ending(s) -icul(us) for small+verbifier "-ate"+morpheme designing a present participle here used as gerund, i e when synonym to infinitive]
+ morphemes into phonemes
morphemes into phonemes
[the object, a noun, and how it is modified by verb]
= morphemes = morph+eme+s [noun stem "morph" for form+noun ending or nominaliser "eme" for "thingy"+plural s]
+ into phonemes
[modification of object by verb, divided into preposition and a noun which by preposition is "put in resultative case"]
= into = in+to [simple preposition for "inside"+simple preposition for "direction to", here used to "put noun in resultative case"]
+ phonemes = phon+eme+s [noun stem "phon" for sound or voice or sound of the human voice+noun ending or nominaliser "eme" for "thingy"+plural s]
And phoneme "morph-"? In English it is:
= m [labial nasal, no meaning in itself, but distinguishing "morph" from German word "Dorf", if pronounced with an English accent]
+ o: [back rounded mid low vowel, no meaning in itself, but distinguishing "morph" with other difference from "Smurf"]
+ [optional acc to region] r [retroflex voiced fricative, no meaning in itself, but distinguishing from words having here "n", as words beginning with "Monf-"]
+ f [labiodental unvoiced fricative, no meaning in itself, but distinguishing, conveniently, "morph" from "morgue"]
And so on for all the other morphemes in the analysed sentence.
THIS double articulation is then FURTHER combined with recursivity. Or recursion. Which here is fairly accurately described:
This is called ‘recursion’, and is only one of the many skills he thinks are likely to prove to be crucial to real language. Recursion greatly opens up the range of possibilities, and enables the speaker to ‘appreciate the views of others’.
As Marcus indicates, even the most sophisticated chimpanzee would be completely bamboozled by a sentence such as “She knows that I know where the peanut is hidden”.
But it is not defined, since its definition is confused with definition of double articulation.
The definition of recursivity is that each syntagm can be subdivided not only into syntagms of a lower order, until you reach the lowest and then the morphemes, like these can only de subdivided into phonemes, but rather part of what a syntagm like "sentence" can subdivide into can itself be a "sentence".
Part of what a genitive construction can subdivide into can itself be a genitive construction, and what a relative clause can be subdivided into can itself be a relative clause St Luke has one (combined of the two) which is record long in the literature I know: "Jesus was considered to be the son of Joseph, who was of ..., etc, etc, etc ... who was of Adam, who was of God".
Even if each of the morphemes in the sentence had been within the "vocabulary" of a chimp, no chimp could have understood even one sentence of that.
Sad that Carl Wieland, being a doctor, is a bad linguist and either bungles or doesn't supplement what his source has said about the human characteristic.
Obviously, it is about as idiotic to speak of human language as "developing" as of any other irreducible complexity. This is really one.
I read, yesterday, that chimps have 25 sounds. Well, many languages have 25 phonemes or less. But with the chimp the 25 sounds aren't phonemes without own meaning, they are messages. And they are stuck with 25 messages. If the sounds were articulated, that is a "hoo" mentally divided into an "h" part and an "oo" part, and if there were any substitute for "h", as there is for "oo", they might have lots more. An infinity of messages, potentially, like man has.
This human equipment of such complex relations between sound and meaning cannot have developed by human thought or ingenuity, but is rather one of the cornerstones of this. An ape stuck with 25 vocal or 300 sign language messages could not start to work it out.
We must give glory to God for giving Adam a language, and for, at Babel, causing confusion to be still a linguistic confusion, and not just a confusion.
Hans Georg Lundahl
Second Lord's Day in Lent