SinEa, wk5, May 16th 2014

What did you think of today’s class? Please tell me your opinion and/or requests. Let me know in the comments or send me a private email.

The latest presentation schedule can be viewed and downloaded here: SinEa_Schedule


Read chapter 3 “The Study of Language”.

Presenters, prepare your presentations.

In today’s class:

  1. What organs are used by humans for language?
    1. mouth (tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth)
    2. nose
    3. throat – vocal chords
    4. lungs (to create air)
  2. How is human language similar to animal language?
    1. Humans and animals use sight (colour), smell, touch and sound for communication. Sound is most useful for both animals and humans because it can be used both during the day and at night.
  3. How is human language different from animal language?
    1. Humans can communicate about things which are here and now, as well as things which are not here and not now (e.g. future or the past).
    2. Animals can only communicate about here and now.
    3. This is called “displacement“.
    4. Human language is flexible: it can create new words to communicate new ideas. This is called “productivity“. Animals can not create new forms of communication.
    5. Human language uses arbitrary symbols (words) for things: there is no real connection between the meaning of the word (e.g. “water”) and the actual physical substance of water. Animal communication is much more direct: the meaning of the communication is very closely connected to the form of the communication.
    6. Both humans and animals use a limited variety of sounds (between 30-70) which by themselves have no meaning (phonemes, e.g. “wa” and “ter”), but humans put these sounds together in different combinations to create sounds that have meaning (e.g. “water”). This is called “duality” or “double articulation“.
    7. Animals seem to be born with the ability to communicate. They only partly learn from their parents or other animals. Humans cannot learn language without interaction with other humans. Children who grow up without contact with other humans, for example, cannot speak, even though they have the potential ability. Language in humans is culturally transmitted. Language in animals is only partly transmitted by culture.

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