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Is Language a Uniquely Human Attribute

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Submitted By imrancrow
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Language is a medium used to express information, as well as emotions and feelings.

Animals clearly communicate amongst themselves, but critics feel their communicative actions fall short of meeting the criteria for linguistic capabilities, especially when it comes to distinguished grammar and morphology.
Pinker [1994:334-341] goes further by describing how non human primates, formally trained to learn forms of language, didn’t produce any explicitly positive results.

He describes how differences in neurological structure, vocal apparatus and their interfacing, are different in apes and thus they are incapable of linguistic capabilities; he explains away any seemingly positive displays of ASL by chimps through likening them more to gestures they already knew from the wild.

Finally he also discusses how often humans communicate about unnecessary things; they may comment on how something looks, or just give a random opinion [Pinker, 1994:341], yet this phenomena is rare in other species who mainly “make demands for things they want” [Pinker, 1994:340], and incidents of apes communicating differently such as the famously trained ape Kanzi [Savage-Rumbaugh – Lewin, 1994], displayed this kind of communication minimally [Pinker,1994:341]
Tomasello [2003:11] quotes experimental evidence to show, that unlike children, apes could not understand the intentions behind certain sounds, subsequently using this as criteria for language, “sounds become language for young children only when they understand that the adult is making that sound with the intention that they attend to something.”

Let us examine these fore-mentioned arguments; they both employ Human Language as the benchmark of ‘language’, and so the less animals communicate as we do, with grammar, morphology and syntax, (as Pinker tends to [1994:334]) then the further away they are from linguistic...

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