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Old 6th October 2006, 09:05 AM   #121
Steven Howard
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Originally Posted by Dogdoctor View Post
Many of the people associated with Koko claim this has happened. Answer what it is that you want more then their observations?
Many of the people associated with Uri Geller claim he can bend spoons with his mind. Answer what it is that you want more than their observations.
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Old 6th October 2006, 10:30 AM   #122
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Originally Posted by luchog View Post
"intelligent" to the same degree as humans are.
Nobody in the field is saying that. Even the researchers who describe their animals as "like 3 or 4 year olds in cognitive ability" are careful to present such statements as merely illumination: they are not actually 3-4 year old humans. They do not think like we do.

However, the argument that the great apes are capable of some moral processing, and thus deserving of some moral rights, is still viable and important. Which is why it's so important to know if they can use language, even in a primitive sense. They will never be voters, of course, but they might deserve similar rights to mentally incompetent people.

In the context of the suprising notion that animals might have moral rights at all, the difference between "to the same degree" and "to some degree" might not be that important, though.
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Old 6th October 2006, 10:35 AM   #123
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Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
Of course, Koko's not a human being, so the word "person" is stretching it.
She is definitely not just as much of a person as we are. That's just crazy talk.

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They're highly similar to us, and deserve a certain degree of respect from us.
Exactly. And hey, I respect elephants.

Quote:
Grasshoppers, on the other hand, likely have no sentience at all... and if so, then it's literally impossible to be cruel to one.
Exactly - this is why it is important to determine how sentient they are.

Quote:
But so far, language -- the ability to combine abstract symbols in meaningful ways according to underlying rules of syntax, so that novel utterances can be generated and understood -- hasn't been discovered in non-humans.
I thought Alex the parrot was supposed to do just that: create new sentences (that he had never heard before) to answer questions he had never heard before.
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Old 6th October 2006, 10:48 AM   #124
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It is not unreasonable to think that apes might have some rudimentary language skills. They are closely related to us and share a lot of the same DNA with us. We are apes. There are several problems with investigating this idea. One is that at some point someone has to make a subjective evaluation of what the ape is saying , if it is gibberish or has some meaning. We have a hard time measuring other animals since we only have ourselves to measure them by. I remember a study on the intelligence of apes where they hung some bananas out of reach of the apes and then gave them wooden box and a broom thinking they would climb on the wooden box and use the broom to knock the bananas down. Well they climbed on the box and then stood the broom up under the bananas and quickly climbed up the broom to the bananas. This was a unique use of tools that the researchers could not have predicted and were it not for them acquiring the bananas as the end point it would not be recognized as such.
Also in people if they don't learn a language by a certain age they have difficulty in learning it so to look for the best language learning they must use young apes. And children don't learn language well unless they interact with other language users and this means someone needs to be communicating with them directly and this makes for difficult to interpret data since if you are looking for novel word use you need to be sure the person interacting with them did not use the words together prior to the ape.
There are problems with motivating apes to use language. It may be within their abilities but why should they learn language? There are ethical and practical problem because of this.
They are still learning about the abilities of apes to use language and our abilities to measure that. The fat lady hasn't sang yet.
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Old 6th October 2006, 11:43 AM   #125
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Originally Posted by Yahzi View Post
She is definitely not just as much of a person as we are. That's just crazy talk.
I reckon my standards for personhood are kinda loose.

Originally Posted by Yahzi View Post
Exactly - this is why it is important to determine how sentient they are.
Right. I apply a sortof Shylock standard. When deciding how to treat other creatures, intelligence -- and certainly our particular kind of intelligence -- isn't as important as their capacity to experience joy, attachment, humor, fear, anger, loneliness, wonder, and grief.

Originally Posted by Yahzi View Post
I thought Alex the parrot was supposed to do just that: create new sentences (that he had never heard before) to answer questions he had never heard before.
I've seen some pop articles, but nothing I'd trust. If anyone has some sources, please share. Otherwise, I'll try to hunt them down.
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Old 6th October 2006, 11:49 AM   #126
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Dogdoctor, your point about a critical period for language learning is very important. Unfortunately, young apes haven't fared any better than the older ones.

As for the need for meaningful social settings in language aquisition, consider this -- it would be very difficult to explain, in evolutionary terms, why or how a primate would have language-supporting structures in the brain without their species ever using language.
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Old 6th October 2006, 06:16 PM   #127
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Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
Dogdoctor, your point about a critical period for language learning is very important. Unfortunately, young apes haven't fared any better than the older ones.

As for the need for meaningful social settings in language aquisition, consider this -- it would be very difficult to explain, in evolutionary terms, why or how a primate would have language-supporting structures in the brain without their species ever using language.
It is because they have very similar DNA to us and I don't think we understand animal language skills enough to say they don't have language. They have nothing like human language but they may have something. We are still learning about animal communications and haven't reached any definitive end point as far as apes are concerned.
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Old 6th October 2006, 06:24 PM   #128
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Originally Posted by Dogdoctor View Post
It is because they have very similar DNA to us and I don't think we understand animal language skills enough to say they don't have language. They have nothing like human language but they may have something. We are still learning about animal communications and haven't reached any definitive end point as far as apes are concerned.
DNA is irrelevant. Language cannot be found in DNA.

You don't think we understand this because you're admittedly ignorant of the subject. But your ignorance is not incumbent on me, and cannot be used as a defense of Patterson et al's claims.

That's like me saying universal expansion might be false because I don't know anything about it.

Language is not something that lurks deep within an organism. It is a means of communication. It is necessarily manifest. Primates do not exhibit language.

In any case, the OP concerns, specifically, claims that primates have been taught to sign. That claim is patently false.

The unsupported assertion that "they may have something" from someone who admits to knowing virtually nothing about the matter is not to be taken seriously. I hate to have to tell you that, but since you press the point, I'm forced to.
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Old 6th October 2006, 07:11 PM   #129
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Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
DNA is irrelevant. Language cannot be found in DNA.

You don't think we understand this because you're admittedly ignorant of the subject. But your ignorance is not incumbent on me, and cannot be used as a defense of Patterson et al's claims.

That's like me saying universal expansion might be false because I don't know anything about it.

Language is not something that lurks deep within an organism. It is a means of communication. It is necessarily manifest. Primates do not exhibit language.

In any case, the OP concerns, specifically, claims that primates have been taught to sign. That claim is patently false.

The unsupported assertion that "they may have something" from someone who admits to knowing virtually nothing about the matter is not to be taken seriously. I hate to have to tell you that, but since you press the point, I'm forced to.
Koko can sign. The question is if this counts as language. Your use of a deaf persons subjective evaluation doesn't take into account that a deaf person may not want gorillas learning sign language since it may reflect poorly on deaf people. You have not provided data showing a hoax only insinuations and now you chastise me for ignorance. I am done talking to you.
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Old 6th October 2006, 07:24 PM   #130
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Originally Posted by Dogdoctor View Post
Koko can sign. The question is if this counts as language. Your use of a deaf persons subjective evaluation doesn't take into account that a deaf person may not want gorillas learning sign language since it may reflect poorly on deaf people. You have not provided data showing a hoax only insinuations and now you chastise me for ignorance. I am done talking to you.
Yes, the question is if this is language. The answer is that it is not. Your suggestion that the ASL native-signer might be making false statements "since it may reflect poorly on deaf people" is unwarranted speculation and holds no water. You choose to believe in a thing for which there is no evidence, and much evidence to the contrary. Your ignorance of the subject is asserted by you, btw -- I am only taking you at your word. As for your being done talking to me, thank God for small favors.
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Old 6th October 2006, 07:59 PM   #131
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Quote:
thank God for small favors.
I am not god but you can thank me anyway. I guess if the choice is to be ignorant and not know it or be ignorant and know it I prefer the latter. You can make your own choice.
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Old 6th October 2006, 08:21 PM   #132
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you bite talk bad nipple chill out fer cry cry














you nipple chill
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Old 6th October 2006, 10:53 PM   #133
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Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
Supposedly lycanthropes turn into werewolves when there's a full moon.
That's true by definition. The real question is whether they exist.

Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
But she's not.
YOu deny that she understands some spoken English words?

Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
This is why parents become extremely concerned when a small child only produces utterances such as "go go me go" or "no no down no no".
Of course, many parents get concerned if their child sneezes.

Originally Posted by Jeff Corey View Post
No. just overly restrictive and incomplete. But then again, they all are.
"Why can't nipple just get along?"
Nipple are nipple.
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Old 7th October 2006, 05:31 AM   #134
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Originally Posted by Art Vandelay View Post
YOu deny that she understands some spoken English words?
Nope. But the whole "she means 'people' when she scratches herself" business is still rubbish.

Originally Posted by Art Vandelay View Post
Of course, many parents get concerned if their child sneezes.
Some do. But the inability of a child to form grammatical constructions when s/he should be forming them... that's a helluva lot more serious than a sneeze.
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Old 11th January 2007, 02:52 AM   #135
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I've been discussing this on another thread and you'll have to forgive me for not reading the 4 pages here yet. However, if the arguments here are the same as in the other thread the following synopsis covers the issues nicely.

I was looking for PET scans done on great apes and found this wonderful synopsis. If you are the least bit interested in this topic, read the whole thing. It discusses why the conclusions Piggy makes in the OP are based on early research and fail to consider what has been learned since. And I have much respect for Piggy's opinions. But in this case, it's also a good lesson that being skeptical means waiting for research to be completed before concluding future research will not yield anything else.
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Animal consciousness has long been assumed to be a nonviable arena of investigation. At best, it was thought that any indications of such consciousness, should it exist, would not be interpretable by our species. Recent work in the field of language competencies with bonobos has laid this conception open to serious challenge. This paper reviews this work and the case it makes for our impending capacity to tap the consciousness of a uniquely enculturated group of bonobos who are capable of comprehending human speech and employing a lexical communication system.

...Ape language—Insights into human bias and cultural expectation
Ape language work at Georgia State University's Language Research Center has repeatedly produced important advances in the understanding of apes and their potential for linguistic processes since the first keyboard was presented to the chimpanzee Lana in 1972. At that time, little was known about the perceptual and cognitive capacities of great apes and it was considered unlikely that they would be capable of discriminating the small 2 dimensional printed patterns ("lexigrams") intended to serve as words. (Rumbaugh, 1977a, bGo) It seemed less probable that apes would respond to lexigram-words in a meaningful semantic manner or put them together in any fashion that incorporated even one or two of the rule bound parameters inherent within a transformational grammar.

When the "Lana Project" began, the chimpanzee Washoe had learned some signs, and serious questions were beginning to surface regarding the amount of imitation that underlay her actions (Terrace et al., 1979Go). Moreover, her signs were often inarticulate and difficult to decipher for all but those who lived and interacted with her on a daily basis. Another chimpanzee, Sara, had also begun to respond to complex conceptual questions posed through the use of plastic tokens (Premack, 1986Go). However the token system was not designed for communication of needs or ideas, but rather as a test or probe of the apes' capacities in conceptual arenas thought to be unique to language. The lexical keyboard system proposed by Duane Rumbaugh, provided a potential means of propelling apes beyond the limitations posed by these other methodologies. In addition, it offered a more accurate means of data collection as it was linked to a computer, which recorded all utterances of experimenter and ape. The computer system could be programmed to require that Lana produce complete syntactically ordered strings of lexigrams arranged according to certain simple combinatorial rules. The first studies left no doubt that Lana could discriminate lexigrams visually, and that she could learn the simple ordering rules sufficiently well to apply them to novel sequences. Lana could also associate different symbols with various real world people, places, and things (Rumbaugh, 1977bGo) and the computer-collected data demonstrated that imitation was not the basis of her performance.

...What was clear was that she expected certain things to happen in response to her utterances. When told she was wrong, Lana would begin to cycle through a variety of incorrect but appropriate, as well non-syntactical and semantically inappropriate alternatives. These "alternate responses" were often unlike the errors produced by human children just gaining linguistic competency.

... Repeated pressure to expand utterances however, is often the key to the emergence of a breakthrough capacity to generate more typical interactive language exchanges (Greenspan and Benderly, 1997Go).

The second generation of language studies with the lexical-keyboard system attempted to compensate for some of the perceived inadequacies in Lana's semantic performance. Her errors had revealed that while she grasped the combinatorial rules of her syntax, she often did not consistently apply semantic content.

...Inevitably, this work also raised the question of whether or not Lana, as well as other "language trained" apes, birds, and dolphins were engaging in complex experimenter-subject interaction chains, rather than functional semantically based communication with a pragmatic component. Regardless of how semantically or syntactically complex the question, i.e., "How many green hide?" or "Take the hoop to the window"—no repetitive response based drill has the essential ingredients to produce the sort of pragmatic functional communication that we associate with every human linguistic exchange.

...What one party's utterances "mean" to another can only be determined within a socio-culture framework that permits utterances to assume certain inter-individual expectancies and obligations. This leap into the social dynamics of language took the work beyond the "can they talk" phase into something far more complex, and began to open up the issue of what talking is all about as well as how it is that social contracts are constructed.

...Before the truly communicative interchanges achieved by Sherman and Austin, the emphasis within the field of animal language was upon syntax as extant apart from communication. This focus derived from the assumption of some theoreticians regarding the universality of syntactical structure and the implications of understanding the fundamental nature of that universality for opening the key to thought processes assumed to be uniquely human (Pinker, 1994Go; Chomsky, 1965Go). Without negating that stance, the work with Sherman and Austin came to show that such a position, regardless of its "correctness" could never, in the end, serve as an explanatory mechanism for the endeavor of human language. Language was not reducible to its internal structure alone. It required two participants able to mean and to intend, locked into a social context of communicative exchange.

...The next phase of work pressed the boundaries of scientific method in a different way. The findings with Sherman and Austin brought forth a sensitivity to the process of comprehension as an invisible phenomenon, in the process of language acquisition. Consequently, when research efforts with Kanzi, a young bonobo, began, the emphasis was not on production but comprehension....This made it essential to move away from any type of training. The results of this change in approach to the inculcation of language in a nonhuman being are taking considerable time to be incorporated into the philosophical body of thought regarding language skills in human and non-human creatures.

Since the appearance of modern scientific paradigms, and probably before, it has been assumed that any animal that learned even a small portion of human language would have to receive this knowledge through explicit instruction. The arguments against the "realness" of language in apes, dolphins and parrots have centered on the methods by which the language is acquired. Human language has often been felt to be more real than animal language as it appears seemingly without effort (Pinker, 1994Go; Pinker and Bloom, 1990Go). Moreover, many have assumed that there exists some innate degree of language capacity in the human species that permits us to understand the intentions of others (Searle, 1998Go). Animals, by contrast, are said to learn many correct responses, but these responses are assumed to differ in kind from what occurs in our own species (Bickerton, 1984Go; Calvin and Bickerton, 2001Go).

The bonobo's capacity to acquire high level linguistic skills in essentially the same manner as a child, albeit more slowly, revealed that the burden of linguistic development was carried by comprehension not production (Savage-Rumbaugh et al., 1986Go). It is especially important that comprehension emerged in contextually meaningful situations, with many variables, not in repetitive training sessions with only a few variables characteristic.

...Because Kanzi's mode of acquisition was very different from that of other linguistically tutored animals, his linguistic output was dramatically changed as well. Analysis of his utterance corpus revealed a basic comprehension of syntactical ordering rules as well as a comprehension of grammatical classes Greenfield and Savage-Rumbaugh (1991)Go. But more than this, his understanding encompassed all manner of novel events and even of metaphor. His understanding of language informed his interpretation of real world events and his broadened capacity to interpret and appropriately classify real world events informed his linguistic comprehension in a boot strapping effect. An example of this was the ease with which Kanzi learned to flake stone tools given a modicum of both visual and verbal instruction. Similar attempts by other apes required long and arduous conditioning and shaping regimens (Toth et al., 1993Go).

...It was not only the linguistic aspects of the Pan Paniscus/Homo sapiens culture that were passed on to Panbanisha and Panzee. They acquired many tool-use skills as well. For example, Panbanisha acquired the capacity to flake stone by observing Kanzi. But unlike Kanzi she began, with precision, to employ the technique of bi-manual percussion. Even though Kanzi had observed his human models demonstrate this technique, and even though he had attempted to emulate the bimanual technique, he did not become proficient in that skill without passing through a number of phases which entailed 1) non-precision stone slamming, 2) aimed throwing on a second stone, 3) precision bi-manual percussion with lack of sensitivity to edge geometry and 4) finally bi-manual percussion with sensitivity to edge geometry, as evidenced by rotation of the hammer and core prior to the delivery of glancing blows directed to the proper edges of the core. Whereas Kanzi developed this skill over a 2-yr period, Panbanisha's bimanual technique was oriented toward the edges of the stone almost from the beginning.

...PET scans done to compare Lana's linguistic capacity with that of Panzee revealed that Panzee's information processing skills were more highly elaborated and much more human-like than those of Lana. These findings regarding cortical function correspond tightly to the rearing and behavioral differences encountered between Lana and Panzee. They also reveal that the question of "do apes have language" is far too simple. Both Lana and Panzee "have" language to a certain degree, but their functional competencies vary greatly, as does the neurological processing of verbal material.

In sum, the work with Panzee and Panbanisha demonstrated that the powerful variable was that of rearing, not species. In an environment that did not require training, Panzee learned language faster than Sherman, Austin or Lana. She also comprehended spoken English while they did not. She produced more novel combinations and far more spontaneous utterances. Unlike them, she learned lexigrams independently of keyboard position.[I don't know about this statement since Lana learned lexigrams independent of keyboard position according to reports I cited in the other thread.]

The issue is no longer one of data, the adequacy of data, of potential cueing or experimenter effects, or of conditioning. In addition the issue is no longer that of "apes" in the general sense, but rather that one that must take into account, in detail, the socio-cultural experience of each ape, in determining how its performance on the continuum of linguistic competency is to be evaluated. The paradigms of the past, in which animal cognition is viewed as riding upon a different substrate than human cognition, are breaking down and the research at LRC has been a component of this change (Tomasello and Call, 1997Go). It has done so by investigating the issues of intentionality, inter-subjectivity, semantic meaning, observational learning, and tool use from a new perspective—one that incorporates the historical and social-affective development of the subject into the assessment process. In essence the "experimenter" becomes a part of the world of the "subject" in order to ascertain the competencies of the other. The importance of the research to date is not only that it offers the basic outline of new paradigm for understanding the mind of the other, but also in addition it provides techniques and data to support the approach.
I do believe I did indeed have this right all along. The naysayers seem to have reached their conclusions based on early returns. Early conclusions were premature. You really have to test your hypothesis thoroughly before tossing it out.
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Old 11th January 2007, 02:58 AM   #136
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Originally Posted by Dogdoctor View Post
...
They are still learning about the abilities of apes to use language and our abilities to measure that. The fat lady hasn't sang yet.
Indeed!
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Old 11th January 2007, 03:09 AM   #137
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Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
DNA is irrelevant. Language cannot be found in DNA.

.... Primates do not exhibit language.

In any case, the OP concerns, specifically, claims that primates have been taught to sign. That claim is patently false.

The unsupported assertion that "they may have something" from someone who admits to knowing virtually nothing about the matter is not to be taken seriously. I hate to have to tell you that, but since you press the point, I'm forced to.
I think there remains a lot of skepticism about signing. I won't argue that. The lexigrams have been far superior tools to use in this research. And I'm not impressed with the scientific integrity of the work with Koko.

Primates exhibit symbolic communication. But they don't seem to have the vocal capacity for language. Giving them the lexigram is revealing they have at least some capacity for language even if they don't use language naturally.

And as far as the DNA issue, I think dogdr is hypothesizing along the same lines as I but perhaps chose the wrong description. It seems most logical that our capacity for language didn't develop with a few mutations which allowed speech. But rather, language evolved from a multitude of factors. We need our mouths, vocal cords, and probably multiple brain functions to use language. As such, other animals especially primates should have at least some of the brain mechanisms it takes to use language.
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Old 11th January 2007, 05:09 AM   #138
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Originally Posted by Art Vandelay View Post
That's true by definition. The real question is whether they exist.

YOu deny that she understands some spoken English words?

Of course, many parents get concerned if their child sneezes.

Nipple are nipple.
I never met a nipple I didn't like.
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Old 11th January 2007, 11:23 AM   #139
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Originally Posted by pgwenthold View Post
Since I don't know anything about it, I'd ask (as a scientist) where do these folks publish there work so I could learn about it?
Herbert S. Terrace wrote a very good book about his experiments teaching sign language to an ape named 'Nim Chimpsky".
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Old 11th January 2007, 12:18 PM   #140
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I think the Greatest Science Hoax Ever was that radium was good to paint on your teeth and eyelids to give you "the look of glowing health".
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Old 11th January 2007, 02:53 PM   #141
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Originally Posted by skeptigirl View Post
I think there remains a lot of skepticism about signing...
Hey, Skeptigirl, how come you've changed into a later manifestation of me - uh... uh... uh?

Yuri (no face)
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Old 11th January 2007, 03:21 PM   #142
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Seeing as how this topic has been revived...Regarding skeptigirl's quote, I thought it was pretty generally accepted that animals, even dogs, can learn to associate "words" with objects. For example, you can train a dog to say "walk" or "treat," although he sounds like Scooby-Doo.

I thought it was generally accepted that apes can be taught to sign, or to use symbol boards, or to make certain vocalizations. That the apes may not be using proper ASL is not really important, so long as it is consistent.

As far as actual language, there doesn't seem to be any. Even a one year old can hear someone say "What a pretty red ball" and the next day come out with "shirt red!" which is something he has never heard before (it is not a sentence) yet still makes perfect sense and follows a crude subset of grammatical rules.
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Old 11th January 2007, 03:37 PM   #143
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Originally Posted by ChristineR View Post
Seeing as how this topic has been revived...Regarding skeptigirl's quote, I thought it was pretty generally accepted that animals, even dogs, can learn to associate "words" with objects. For example, you can train a dog to say "walk" or "treat," although he sounds like Scooby-Doo.

I thought it was generally accepted that apes can be taught to sign, or to use symbol boards, or to make certain vocalizations. That the apes may not be using proper ASL is not really important, so long as it is consistent.

As far as actual language, there doesn't seem to be any. Even a one year old can hear someone say "What a pretty red ball" and the next day come out with "shirt red!" which is something he has never heard before (it is not a sentence) yet still makes perfect sense and follows a crude subset of grammatical rules.
It's pretty established by now that apes can use (few) symbols to relate to objects, or even concepts. But the question is, can apes use language, as in "structured use of symbols to convey a specific meaning"?

The evidence says no. That shouldn't be discouraging, though: The mere fact that apes can use symbols to relate to objects is utterly fantastic. A-f**king-mazing!

What we don't need, is us jumping to unwarranted conclusions about apes using language. They can't. It's no big bummer, it's just where the line between apes and humans are drawn.

That, in itself, is a big discovery.
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Old 11th January 2007, 06:41 PM   #144
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Originally Posted by Yuri Nalyssus View Post
Hey, Skeptigirl, how come you've changed into a later manifestation of me - uh... uh... uh?

Yuri (no face)
I thought maybe the 3D spiritual creature was too spiky and maybe giving the impression I was angry when I wasn't. Spirited Away was such a wonderful movie with incredible artwork. I figured it might have some nice avatar options.

Are you a Miyazaki fan?
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Old 11th January 2007, 07:14 PM   #145
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Originally Posted by CFLarsen View Post
It's pretty established by now that apes can use (few) symbols to relate to objects, or even concepts. But the question is, can apes use language, as in "structured use of symbols to convey a specific meaning"?

The evidence says no. ....They can't. It's no big bummer, it's just where the line between apes and humans are drawn.

....
Apparently Claus, you again don't seem to have read the material I posted. If you have read it, then what is the evidence refuting the most recent research results? Besides just your unqualified denial, you might enlighten us as to why you disagree.

This is one of those problems of when do you declare testing an hypothesis exhausted? Proving a negative is typically not possible. But certainly we can determine an issue such as can great apes learn language. However, just as there is an abundance of criticism about exceeding the evidence when drawing conclusions re primate language ability, so has there been an abundance of naysayers all too willing to claim the negative has been proven, long before the research has been completed.


Just which elements were absent from initial research that have had an impact on results, potentially leading to premature conclusions?

The lexigrams proved more useful than sign language.

The age one teaches language to these primates has turned out to be a critical piece. This is true with humans as well. The human brain has developmental stages in which learning language is easier.

The method of teaching language mattered. Results were more, 'perform a task, get a reward' with the first study methods. But when the use of language was incorporated into the life of the juvenile primate, the result was completely different.

The synopsis I cited goes through the events in this research in great detail from all the studies that support the claims made here that these primates can only learn symbolic names but not real language to the more recent research with very different results indeed.
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Old 11th January 2007, 07:57 PM   #146
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I don't claim the critical language learning period has been confirmed. I don't know how strong the evidence is there. Here's a suggestion there is some evidence:
Quote:
From Wiki: Kegl discovered that these children had developed their own, distinct, Nicaraguan Sign Language with its own rules of "sign-phonology" and syntax. She also discovered some 300 adults who, despite being raised in otherwise healthy environments, had never acquired language, and turned out to be incapable of learning language in any meaningful sense. While it was possible to teach vocabulary, these individuals seem to be unable to learn syntax.

The developmental period of most efficient language learning coincides with the time of rapid post-natal brain growth and plasticity in both humans and chimpanzees. Prolonged post-natal brain growth in humans allows for an extended period of the type of brain plasticity characteristic of juvenile primates and an extended time window for language learning. The neotenous pattern of human brain development is associated with persistence of considerable language learning capacity into human adulthood.
I found this Wiki entry on universal grammar theory helpful distinguishing between learning words and learning language. One must also consider this theory has not been proved. There may be future brain research which resolves the issue. Shouldn't we wait for that research as well before we are so sure of the human egocentric conclusion only we in the animal world possess language capacity?
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Old 12th January 2007, 03:02 AM   #147
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Originally Posted by skeptigirl View Post
Apparently Claus, you again don't seem to have read the material I posted. If you have read it, then what is the evidence refuting the most recent research results? Besides just your unqualified denial, you might enlighten us as to why you disagree.
What do you want me to say? I'm not convinced.

Originally Posted by skeptigirl View Post
This is one of those problems of when do you declare testing an hypothesis exhausted? Proving a negative is typically not possible. But certainly we can determine an issue such as can great apes learn language. However, just as there is an abundance of criticism about exceeding the evidence when drawing conclusions re primate language ability, so has there been an abundance of naysayers all too willing to claim the negative has been proven, long before the research has been completed.
Here you go again, pushing an opinion on me that I don't have.

Nowhere have I said or even indicated that I believe testing the hypothesis is exhausted. Nowhere.

You have to stop erecting all these strawmen. Please.
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Old 12th January 2007, 03:57 AM   #148
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Originally Posted by skeptigirl View Post
Are you a Miyazaki fan?
Yes indeed, a colleague lent me the studio Ghibli boxed set some years ago & I've been smitten ever since.

Yuri
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Old 12th January 2007, 10:58 AM   #149
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Piggy, you have made me go a full 180 on this subject. People involved in Koko's studies, and Maui Ape Preserve were family or close, and this subject was so exciting I believed there was real language going back and forth.

I never saw the "raw dialogue" before, just the cherrypicked results.

That was eye opening.

Now I look back, and these same people are definitely HARDCORE members of the religious left, believeing Palestinians are magically delicious and joooos are always evil. Chomsky is a smart guy, Wealth needs to be redistributed because it grows on trees, guns jump out of their holsters and shoot innocent people on their own accord, etc....

Still, I dont think theyre deliberately lying about Koko, this is really how they see it, their hold on reality is tenuous
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Old 12th January 2007, 01:26 PM   #150
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I once saw a documentary on Kanzi. I have to say that it would require pretty solid evidence that the documentary was "faked" in order for me to not believe that Kanzi understood most (if not all) of the lexigrams on his board, or even most of the quite complex language spoken to him. I was very much blown away when I saw it.

"Get the ball"
"Put the doll in the cup"
"Fill the pot with water"
etc

All sorts of spoken commands to Kanzi were executed flawlessly. Even when spoken to him on a phone, by someone who was not his trainer.

So...where is the evidence that this was a fake?

Last edited by DanishDynamite; 12th January 2007 at 03:16 PM.
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Old 12th January 2007, 10:02 PM   #151
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I saw a documentary on Koko (I think, one of them darn sign talking apes), and there was this part where the trainer had a helmet on, so all you could see were her hands, and a skeptic was telling her what to sign, crazy ass stuff, and the poor ape was doing all this stuff based on commands given by the trainer, with just hand signals, and I remember at one point, the poor beast was told to take out food from the frig and dump it in the trash, after holding it on her head, then put the toaster in the freezer, all sorts of crazy nonsense, and the ape did everything, but you could just see in her eyes, this sort of look like, "what in the ******* are we doing this for?", and it was kinda cool, so unusual I still remember it. I'm sure it was in response to skeptics that the ape was actually understanding sign language, and at one point the poor wee beast signed something to the effect of, "what? what?? you want me to do what?", and I remember laughing, because it was so dumb even the ape was trying to come to grips with the entire situation, the helmet, the messed up commands, all of the weirdness of it all, but it was a long time ago, and could have been staged.

After all, people who don't work with apes and know sign language and stuff know way more than some dumb scientist who spent twenty years doing stuff.

Dumb scientist. Thinkin they can teach an ape to talk. Nonsense. Madness. Next they will be using computers and stuff to prove it.
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Old 12th January 2007, 11:03 PM   #152
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The confusion of what constitutes 'language' and its complexities is always an interesting one. There's no immediate boundary that one crosses from 'non-language-based' to 'language-based' communication. Increased complexity in semiotic arrangement, as in grammar, indeed marks us as human, but to assume that there is no language skill in choosing relative words and clumping them randomly, I feel, is dismissing too much.

I can also see where there has been a misrepresentation of Koko's abilities. Yet to dismiss the relevance of simian language acquisition to our own on the basis of the fact that grammar is weak or non-existent I feel is poor science.

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Old 13th January 2007, 02:45 AM   #153
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The work with Koko and early work teaching adult chimps has led to people discounting the current work using lexigrams and teaching primates from a young age using more life integrated methods.

I'll look for more specific research and see what I find.
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Old 13th January 2007, 03:42 AM   #154
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Koko is not the 'best' evidence of symbolic communication by apes as someone implied earlier in this thread. Koko is the worst example both in terms of methodology and outcome.
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Old 13th January 2007, 04:20 AM   #155
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Originally Posted by Elaedith View Post
Koko is not the 'best' evidence of symbolic communication by apes as someone implied earlier in this thread. Koko is the worst example both in terms of methodology and outcome.
Do you equate "symbolic communication" with "language"?
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Old 13th January 2007, 05:05 AM   #156
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Originally Posted by CFLarsen View Post
Do you equate "symbolic communication" with "language"?
I'd say they share enough common themes; language is a form of symbolic communication, even if any form of symbolic communication is not necessarily language. Do you think they are entirely distinct, Claus?

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Old 13th January 2007, 05:15 AM   #157
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Originally Posted by athon View Post
I'd say they share enough common themes; language is a form of symbolic communication, even if any form of symbolic communication is not necessarily language. Do you think they are entirely distinct, Claus?

Athon
That depends on how complicated the symbolic communication is. My cats communicate with me symbolically (very odd story), but that doesn't mean they use language.
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Old 13th January 2007, 05:25 AM   #158
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Originally Posted by CFLarsen View Post
That depends on how complicated the symbolic communication is. My cats communicate with me symbolically (very odd story), but that doesn't mean they use language.
I agree.

The grey area, as such, is how to recognize grammar; the defining part of language. Use of symbols in communication, be it an associated sound or movement, or even the indication of a particular visual representation, cannot constitute language until there are rules which define its use. However, how does one recognize and define the rules?

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Old 13th January 2007, 06:34 AM   #159
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Originally Posted by athon View Post
The grey area, as such, is how to recognize grammar; the defining part of language. Use of symbols in communication, be it an associated sound or movement, or even the indication of a particular visual representation, cannot constitute language until there are rules which define its use. However, how does one recognize and define the rules?
Can you clarify that. Do you mean:
-how does an individual learn the grammar of a language
-how does a linguist infer the rules of a grammar
-how does one infer the grammar of an ape or a cat
Also by grammar you refer exclusively to syntax or do you also include semantics


Originally Posted by athon View Post
Yet to dismiss the relevance of simian language acquisition to our own on the basis of the fact that grammar is weak or non-existent I feel is poor science.
Unless of course your research program is explicitly the study of grammar, and how humans learn grammar. There seems to me to be a lot of lumping in together of all the issues of language together. If someone makes a claim about the grammar of humans in relation to apes you need to do some work to show that it is a claim about all language capacity. Even a claim about an inate ability to grammar in humans does not necessarily imply that apes cannot learn some rudimentry grammar with effort.

The other thread this was discussed in Psychic parrot? What are the BBC thinking?, which went off topic.
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Old 13th January 2007, 05:25 PM   #160
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Despite the fact my synopsis article included specific evidence for the conclusions which were drawn and a specific description of changed methodologies compared to earlier research which should at least lead the readers of this thread to look at older research results in context, apparently the fact the synopsis was written by the researcher most involved in the work has led some to discount the synopsis out of hand.

So, here is another detailed review of the literature from a different source. Again, forgive me if it has already been cited in the thread.

If any of you are truly interested, I recommend you take a look at this paper which summarizes much of the research in detail. Again, the summary conveys my point about those who would criticize the research results before thorough testing of the hypotheses have even been done.

Pondering the reasons future results are so easily dismissed, I wonder if it is because early results were over-interpreted, sort of a crying wolf issue? Or is it because the critics (published critics, not thread critics) whose opinions are being adopted haven't shifted their paradigm of the human species. I do remember when the claim was made only humans use tools. They understand evolution, but can't quite shake all the remnants of older concepts out of their belief systems. We believe the germ theory but still think a coat in winter prevents infection.

As a skeptic, I'm as concerned with drawing such final conclusions before the research is complete, as I am with concluding Koko signs as a clear communicating being when that is only the case in the edited version.

Quote:
Welcome to the homepage of the NHPs [non-human primates] and Language project. This project is part of a theoretical course on Syntax and Grammatical Theories taught by Prof. Dirk Geeraerts at K.U.Leuven. This is one of the optional courses in year three or four of Germanic Languages at K.U.Leuven. This year, the course centers on Chomsky's idea of an innate, universal and uniquely human language competence.


Language competence in NHPs: An assessment of the field in the light of a 'universal grammar'

Introduction

The language competence of non-human primates is one of the most controversial issues in present-day linguistics, with disbelief ranging from bored indifference to vitriolic accusations of fraud. The present paper aims to assess the current state of debate from an open-minded, critical and detached perspective.

In a first part, a brief outline of earlier research in the language abilities of non-human primates - more precisely of apes (bonobos, urang-utangs, chimpanzees and gorillas) - is sketched. The second part focusses on the landmark studies published by Dr. Emily Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and her colleagues. A third section looks into the views of the Chomskyan field, leading up to the concluding section on the innateness debate.


[snip -The body of the paper has detailed review and very thorough analysis of the research and research issues.]


...The fact that different definitions of language might yield other 'results' in an assessment of apes' abilities is one thing. The fact that critics kept upping the demands each time a break-through was reported, is another. Clearly, there are insurmountable upper limits to an ape's abilities, mainly caused by limited brain size for as far as complexity is concerned, and an unsuited vocal tract with regard to speech production. One cannot expect an ape to use language as we do, but one can equally no longer deny that the capacity for language is present at a basic level. The research in this field may have been misled at times – Savage-Rumbaugh herself was known as a bit of a "disbeliever" back in the seventies (Savage-Rumbaugh and Lewin 1994:43-47) – but it quickly recovered the right track and forces attention to a number of important questions, such as: what is language? what is its origin? what do Kanzi's abilities tell us about language acquisition in children? how does the existence of a capacity for language in apes affect our view of ourselves – can we go on pretending to be the rightful rulers of the world? can Descartes' strict dividing line between 'body' and 'mind', and his subsequent denial of rational thought in animals, be maintained? might grammar not be learned rather than prewired? and finally, why are so many scientists unwilling to accept the idea of a continuity between the minds of humans and those of apes, almost 'on principle'?

In sum, recent research on language in non-human primates is a model of critical but open-minded, multidisciplinary scientific research, carried out with the greatest methodological concern. In addition, it has been of immense 'practical' importance to severely mentally retarded children and their families, as it was found that lexigram keyboards can be used succesfully to allow such children to communicate in spite of their handicap (cp. Savage-Rumbaugh and Lewin:chapter 7). On the whole, it is extremely sad that a significant part of the scientific community is not even prepared to engage in a serious debate of some sort.

Notes to get to the paper: The link goes to a different page - from there link to "paper" from the left hand column. After the page loads hit stop. It's loading pop-unders you don't need.
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