ISF Logo   IS Forum
Forum Index Register Members List Events Mark Forums Read Help

Go Back   International Skeptics Forum » General Topics » Science, Mathematics, Medicine, and Technology
 


Welcome to the International Skeptics Forum, where we discuss skepticism, critical thinking, the paranormal and science in a friendly but lively way. You are currently viewing the forum as a guest, which means you are missing out on discussing matters that are of interest to you. Please consider registering so you can gain full use of the forum features and interact with other Members. Registration is simple, fast and free! Click here to register today.
Reply
Old 30th September 2006, 08:12 AM   #1
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Science Hoax: Simian Sign-Language - Greatest Science Hoax Ever?

I'm continually surprised to discover how many educated and informed people believe that gorillas and chimps have been taught sign language.

Yes, some primates have been taught to make gestures, and to get what they want by using them, but this is a trivial trick that can be done with all sorts of animals.

Truth is, no gorilla or chimp has ever been taught sign language, or any sort of language.

To be clear, language is not just any set of agreed-upon calls. Many animals use calls and signals.

A language consists of a socially-agreed-upon (and inevitably evolving) set of arbitrary symbols (e.g., crying is not a component of language) coupled with a set of grammatical rules which allow these symbols to be combined in an infinite variety of unique and meaningful expressions.

Screaming "Aaaah, aaaah, aaaah!" is communication (depending on how it's inflected, it could mean "I'm extremely frightened" or "I'm ecstatically excited") but it is not language.

Language allows us to invent previously unimagined communications, like George Carlin's example "I'm going down to the softball field and beat up Hitler's widow". Even though we've never heard this combination of words, and even though it describes something unreal, we nevertheless understand it. That's the power of language.

The rules of grammar also disallow certain constructions. For example, the phrase "Car got ride over crash yesterday the for vanity" is not a valid English construction -- it holds no meaning.

So take a look at this "interview" with the most famous of the simian signers, Koko the gorilla, and see what you think.

This is from the researchers' own site. It is the best they can do.

It's no wonder that these simian sign researchers are so protective of their data.

There is also this:

Originally Posted by Sophia A. Malamud
One of the most damning critiques of the claims of the early primate sign language researchers, which is reported in Pinker, comes from a deaf signer on the team that worked with Washoe -- the only person on that team who was a native speaker of the ASL that they were supposed to be teaching the chimp:

Every time the chimp made a sign, we were supposed to write it down in the log ... they were always complaining because my log didn't show enough signs. All the hearing people turned in logs with long lists of signs. They always saw more signs than I did ... I watched really carefully. This chimp's hands were moving constantly. Maybe I missed something, but I don't think so. I just wasn't seeing any signs. The hearing people were logging every movement the chimp made as a sign. Every time the chimp put his finger in his mouth, they'd say "Oh, he's making the sign for drink," and they'd give him some milk ... When the chimp scratched itself, they'd record it as the sign for scratch ... When [the chimps] want something, they reach. Sometimes [the trainers would] say, "Oh, amazing, look at that, it's exactly like the ASL sign for give!" It wasn't.
Source: U Penn

It is also telling that they use sign-counts, guided "interviews" and other such methods to "test" the animals.

If I claimed to have taught my nephew Spanish, there would be a simple way to test this -- have him sit down with a native speaker and have a conversation.

Yet this is never done.

The whole thing is a hoax. These animals are not using language.

There are many cases of non-scientists abusing science in order to perpetrate hoaxes, such as Intelligent Design, and pass them off as science. But it is rare for funded researchers to do it themselves, although a few have appeared in Randi's commentaries.

Not many people have heard about Sheldrake, for example. But the notion that "apes have been taught to talk in sign language" is a highly pervasive meme.

And it chaps my butt no end.

Time to expose these frauds, perhaps the most successful scientific fraud of our time.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 08:33 AM   #2
pgwenthold
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Sep 2001
Posts: 17,165
There was a really funny skit on an early MadTV where Mary Scheer was supposedly a sign language teacher for a gorilla, and the gorilla is making all these signs, and Mary is oohing and aaahing about all the things he is saying. Nicole Sullivan says, "Excuse me, I know sign language and that's not what he said. He just said, 'Mary...sit...Koko's...face'" and the gorilla gets all excited, puts his finger on his nose and points ats Nick (like in charades).
__________________
"As your friend, I have to be honest with you: I don't care about you or your problems" - Gidget, Secret Life of Pets
pgwenthold is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 08:50 AM   #3
TX50
Graduate Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 1,863
You might also like "Gerald the Gorilla"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MpbMm0433I
TX50 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 08:52 AM   #4
GreedyAlgorithm
Muse
 
GreedyAlgorithm's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 569
Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
Time to expose these frauds, perhaps the most successful scientific fraud of our time.
I would not call this a hoax or fraud, just bad science. Not every mistake is a deliberate attempt to mislead. This IMO is an example of wishful thinking biasing researchers plus media shenanigans. The media is very, very bad about reporting on animal language topics.

This comes up fairly often on the Language Log. Here's one example on animal communication: Monkeys.
__________________
while(true);
GreedyAlgorithm is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 09:02 AM   #5
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by GreedyAlgorithm View Post
I would not call this a hoax or fraud, just bad science. Not every mistake is a deliberate attempt to mislead. This IMO is an example of wishful thinking biasing researchers plus media shenanigans. The media is very, very bad about reporting on animal language topics.
When scientists persist in making unfounded claims, and refuse to release their data, I call that fraud or hoax.

That doesn't mean that there is not also wishful thinking involved, and certainly sloppy media reports are to blame for how widespread the idea has become, but to my mind, there's a definite streak of willful misrepresentation in the backbone of this whole mess.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 09:12 AM   #6
pgwenthold
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Sep 2001
Posts: 17,165
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?
__________________
"As your friend, I have to be honest with you: I don't care about you or your problems" - Gidget, Secret Life of Pets
pgwenthold is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 09:17 AM   #7
Orthoptera
Scholar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 118
Great post, Piggy!
Herbert Terrace was probably the first to point out the problems with ape language studies, way back in 1979. His Pyschology Today article is still worth reading. Nearly all linguists dismiss ape signing as animal tricks, but of course as Greedy points out, cuddly talking gorillas are great news stories. Anyone who has raised a child realizes the vast difference between a two-year old, with their amazingly complex language structures, and the primitive "utterings" of even the best ape subjects.
Orthoptera is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 09:32 AM   #8
.13.
Muse
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 570
Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
I've seen IRCbots make more sense...
.13. is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 09:38 AM   #9
ImaginalDisc
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 10,219
Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
When scientists persist in making unfounded claims, and refuse to release their data, I call that fraud or hoax.

That doesn't mean that there is not also wishful thinking involved, and certainly sloppy media reports are to blame for how widespread the idea has become, but to my mind, there's a definite streak of willful misrepresentation in the backbone of this whole mess.
Piggy, primates taught sign language aren't taught ASL. ASL experts wouldn't recognize most of the signs.
ImaginalDisc is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 09:57 AM   #10
chriswl
Muse
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 944
Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
So take a look at this "interview" with the most famous of the simian signers, Koko the gorilla, and see what you think.
Wow, that's hillarious. Its so bad it could be a parody.

But are scientists actually claiming that chimps can really master sign language? I don't see anything wrong with attempting to teach them and seeing how far they get, finding out what they can and cannot do. It is slightly interesting that gorillas and chimps can recognise and use hundreds of signs in simple ways.
chriswl is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 10:27 AM   #11
GreedyAlgorithm
Muse
 
GreedyAlgorithm's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 569
Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
When scientists persist in making unfounded claims, and refuse to release their data, I call that fraud or hoax.

That doesn't mean that there is not also wishful thinking involved, and certainly sloppy media reports are to blame for how widespread the idea has become, but to my mind, there's a definite streak of willful misrepresentation in the backbone of this whole mess.
I guess I'm just more naive... I'm willing to believe that in almost all cases, the misrepresentation is not willful. Humans are really good at fooling themselves. Even scientists (who are humans).
__________________
while(true);
GreedyAlgorithm is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 10:30 AM   #12
Tez
Graduate Poster
 
Tez's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 1,104
In the same vein, I always loved this article:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3430481.stm

Apparently the parrot is telepathic in addition to having a command of language that outdoes half our posters. Gotta get two nobel prizes ya know, one just doesn't cut it any more.

Hmm - are any of you out there grey parrots? I wont tell, really I wont...
__________________
"There's two possible outcomes: if the result confirms the hypothesis, then you've made a discovery. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you've made a discovery.Ē --Enrico Fermi

www.physicsnerd.com
Tez is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 10:37 AM   #13
Ririon
Cool cat
 
Ririon's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 2,059
Originally Posted by Tez View Post
...
Hmm - are any of you out there grey parrots? I wont tell, really I wont...
I am a bottlenose dolphin. (Btw: Thanks for all the fish, guys!)
__________________
Engineer by day, scientist by night.
Ririon is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 10:56 AM   #14
andyandy
anthropomorphic ape
 
andyandy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 8,377
Quote:
PENNY: Koko, do you like to talk to people?

KOKO: Fine nipple.

snip

KOKO: Hurry give-me mouth nipple.
Myabe Koko's a gorrilla from the isle of Lesbos
__________________
"Contentment is found in the music of Bach, the books of Tolstoy and the equations of Dirac, not at the wheel of a BMW or the aisles of Harvey Nicks."
andyandy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 11:11 AM   #15
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
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?
You can go to koko.org and follow the links to the research.

Here are the results from Google scholar.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 11:13 AM   #16
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by ImaginalDisc View Post
Piggy, primates taught sign language aren't taught ASL. ASL experts wouldn't recognize most of the signs.
ASL experts won't recognize the signs, because these primates haven't learned ASL. That doesn't mean that the researchers aren't claiming that they have.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 11:15 AM   #17
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by chriswl View Post
But are scientists actually claiming that chimps can really master sign language?
Some are, yes. The majority consensus is that they can't.

Originally Posted by chriswl View Post
I don't see anything wrong with attempting to teach them and seeing how far they get, finding out what they can and cannot do. It is slightly interesting that gorillas and chimps can recognise and use hundreds of signs in simple ways.
I agree. The results are interesting in their own right. Or would be, if these researchers would publish them properly, conduct proper experiments, and stop short of making false claims.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 11:18 AM   #18
Amapola
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 8,254
You know, I always wondered about these studies. Humans and animals don't think alike or care about the same things, really...... so what are you going to talk to them about? I was never sure that we actually had a common ground from which to start. I'll be the first to admit it would be really cool if we could talk to them, though.

Animals certainly do communicate. if you work at it you can become skilled at understanding what they are thinking and what they want. But it always has to do with the here and now, like food or water, dynamics in the herd, warning each other of danger etc. and it seems to happen whether they want it to or not, sort of involuntary body movements that coincide with their thought. And their thoughts do not involve wondering about whether they will have offspring in the future (like in the Koko interview linked above). Humans can think things like that, but I have never heard of any evidence showing animals can. The "interview" does not seem to me very good evidence, as all the "replies" were inferred by the trainer and not actually communicated by the gorilla.

Does anyone know if this type of claim is made with dolphin studies? (I mean, that dolphins can actually communicate abstract ideas in a human language.)
Amapola is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 11:41 AM   #19
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Y'know, one of the things that worries me is that this myth gives people wrong ideas, not just about language, but about animals. Wouldn't it be better to understand them as they are, and ourselves as we are? And should we value animals more who seem to be more like us?

Anyway.... When you isolate Koko's reported signs, without Penny's interpretations, you can see just how limited, repetitive, and ungrammatical they are. It doesn't even have the richness and coherence that we would expect listening to a toddler speaking into a telephone to her grandmother.

Contrast this with Penny's claim in a PS on the transcript page:

Originally Posted by PennyPatterson
When Koko was later asked how she felt about the fact that gorillas are endangered, she signed: "People need (to) hurry!"
Does that seem credible, given this performance?

Quote:
KOKO: Fine.
KOKO: Nipple. (Koko sometimes uses 'nipple' as a 'sounds like' for 'people.')
KOKO: That red pink. (Indicating Penny's shirt.)
KOKO: Hurry good.
KOKO: Pink. (Koko reaches for Penny's pocket which contains treats.)
KOKO: Good.
KOKO: That red. (Indicating her own hair.)
KOKO: XXX XXX. (XXX looks like 'sun'.)
Koko is trying to sign 'black.' Penny touch prompts 'black'.
KOKO: Black. There hurry. (Indicating Penny's pocket.)
K has one ape doll kiss the other.
KOKO: Kisses.*
KOKO: Lips lipstick.
KOKO: Lips fake candy give-me. (Then Koko reaches for Penny's pocket.)
KOKO: Good.
KOKO: Bad hear (left hand on lt. ear) hear.(left hand on rt. ear) Hurry. (Koko reaches for Penny's hand.)
KOKO: Hear. (Koko reaches for Penny's treat pocket.)
Koko pulls Penny close and kisses her cheek.
KOKO: Pink this. (Grasping Penny's shirt sleeve.)
KOKO: Pink this pink. (Indicating Penny's shirt sleeve.)
Koko pulls Penny's phone hand closer.
KOKO: Listen.
KOKO: Koko-love eat ... sip.
KOKO: Unattention.
KOKO: Listen.
KOKO: Huff.*
KOKO: Purr.*
KOKO: Dog.
KOKO: Candy give-me.
KOKO: See give-me. (Indicating the phone?)
KOKO: Foot... (Many times, first on the doll's foot then on her own foot.)... Foot. (Twice on the doll's foot.)
KOKO: Hear lip.
KOKO: Huff* no. (Headshake.)
K pulls PP's head close & kisses her cheek.
KOKO: Fine nipple.
K climbs up on lg. box & PP asks her to turn around.
KOKO: Give-me. (For more treats.)
K starts getting down from box and it comes away from the sink.
KOKO: This. (Indicating a picture in a magazine she is looking through.)
KOKO: This. (Indicating another picture in the magazine.)
KOKO: Lip apply-lip lipstick. (Looking at the picture of a woman model in the magazine.) This. (On the page)
Koko turns the pages then puts magazine down then grooms the fingers of the large stuffed gorilla doll.
K takes Penny's hand and Penny sits down close to Koko.
KOKO: Purr.*
KOKO: Sip.
KOKO: Drink apple.
KOKO: Myself lip.
KOKO: Lips.
(Koko comes back)
KOKO: Fine.
KOKO: Look.
KOKO: Think XXX. (XXX - Koko's hand is partially out of frame - possibly 'lie-down.')
KOKO: Birthday... Food smokes.
KOKO: (No response)
KOKO: (No response.)
KOKO: (No response.)
KOKO: (No response.)
KOKO: Hear come.
KOKO: Huff.*
KOKO: Lips hurry good give-me.
KOKO: Kiss.* (Koko kisses the lady doll.)
KOKO: Tell-you-hurry. (Koko takes Penny's hand.) Hurry.
KOKO: Fake.
KOKO: Hat that toilet. Good tell-you-hurry.
KOKO: Fake stink tell-you-hurry.
KOKO: Fine (on head at 'hair' position). Drink XXX give-me.
KOKO: Fine (at brow) you-hurry.
KOKO: Lips good hurry-you.
KOKO: This. (Indicating flower on scrunchie).
KOKO: This...stink. This. (Indicating flower on scrunchie).
KOKO: That. (Indicating sunflower on scrunchie.)
KOKO: That fine eat know give-me. (Koko scratches her face.) Eat. (Koko scratches her face again.)
KOKO: Obnoxious.
KOKO: Sleep lie-down. This (indicating red scrunchie) red red hurry.
KOKO: Good sip give-me.
KOKO: Foot, foot, bigtoe-foot (simultaneously, each hand active) good go.
KOKO: Nipple.
KOKO: Good kiss* go hurry. (Perhaps Koko wants PP to hang up?)
KOKO: Kiss. (The lady doll.)
KOKO: Good hurry-you.
KOKO: Good hurry.
KOKO: Frown bad bad bad.
KOKO: Toilet down kiss* good go hurry. (Penny thinks Koko's meaning is: Kiss-bye & to hang up.)
KOKO: This (indicating flower on scrunchie) stink go.
KOKO: Down obnoxious. (Koko signed 'obnoxious' four times.)
KOKO: Kiss (on fingertip) go behind (pointing toward her right rear) down.
KOKO: Lipstick...
KOKO: ...lips.
KOKO: This (on word? inside card) nipple this. (On card.)
KOKO: People (on her head the way Penny signed it) apple give me.
KOKO: Fine (at 'people' position) don't-know red-bad.
KOKO: Love no. (Headshake.)
KOKO: Browse (tenative) for there hurry. (Indicating cereal treats in Penny's pocket.)
KOKO: Browse drink polite nipple there hurry.
KOKO: Kiss kiss kiss (on alligator toy) Koko-love. (Hugging toy.)
KOKO: That nipple go drink, go. Lights-off good.
K picks up a picture of a chimpanzee.
KOKO: This. (Indicating the picture.)
KOKO: Mouth give-me. (Indicating browse Penny is taking from her pocket.)
KOKO: Give-me. (Asking for browse.)
KOKO: Me.
KOKO: This nipple. (Pointing to a picture of a chimpanzee.)
After signing 'this nipple,' Koko then holds the corner of the picture to her breast.
KOKO: This. (Tapping the picture several times.)
KOKO: Give-me do. (Asking for browse.)
KOKO: Good kiss* give-me.
KOKO: Purr...darn (Indicating chimpanzee picture).
KOKO: Give-me hurry kiss* good give-me.
KOKO: Fake.
KOKO: Good give-me.
KOKO: Lip hurry there.
KOKO: Obnoxious...fake.
KOKO: Gorilla.
KOKO: Frown red bad bad... red good give-me.
KOKO: Kiss* give-me.
KOKO: Hurry give-me mouth nipple.
KOKO: Good kiss* give-me.
KOKO: Fine have food lips lipstick hurry.
KOKO: Hurry.
KOKO: Bye-kiss* hurry.
KOKO: Blow. (On the palm of her hand.)
KOKO: Good-kiss.*
KOKO: Good kiss* kiss* kiss* blow go.
KOKO: There look have.
KOKO: Hat this (indicating alligator toy) you hurry come.
Koko takes Penny's hand and puts it on the toy.
K picks up a wall mount for a video camera which is a two foot length of hollow metal pipe.
KOKO: Blow. (Into pipe.)
KOKO: Blow blow-kiss.
KOKO: Lip.
KOKO: Kiss* good-kiss go.
KOKO: Candy hurry...candy.
KOKO: Candy hurry.
KOKO: Nipple.
KOKO: Hear.
KOKO: Huff* huff.* (Into phone.)
KOKO: Give-me.
Koko takes the phone and holds it to her other ear.
KOKO: Huff.* (Into phone.) Visitor Koko-love lips lipstick lip.
KOKO: Have good-kiss* go.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 11:51 AM   #20
Buckaroo
Graduate Poster
 
Buckaroo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Washington, D.C.
Posts: 1,931
Alex the parrot bit me on the nose once. I would've appreciated a verbal warning, but there was none.

Just thought I'd throw that out for your consideration.
__________________
"You ask me do I love you... does the pope live in the woods? Quad Erat Demonstrandum, baby... "
"Oh! You speak French!" -- Airhead, by Thomas Dolby

"When you're slapped you'll take it and like it." -- Sam Spade
Buckaroo is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 11:56 AM   #21
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by Buckaroo View Post
Alex the parrot bit me on the nose once. I would've appreciated a verbal warning, but there was none.

Just thought I'd throw that out for your consideration.
So you're an advocate of AGW (anticipatory guttural warnings)?
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 03:57 PM   #22
chriswl
Muse
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 944
Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
Contrast this with Penny's claim in a PS on the transcript page:

When Koko was later asked how she felt about the fact that gorillas are endangered, she signed: "People need (to) hurry!"
So that was literally "nipple give-me, hurry!"

She probably has similar "views" on global warming and the war on terror.
chriswl is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 04:39 PM   #23
Loss Leader
I would save the receptionist.
Moderator
 
Loss Leader's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Florida
Posts: 25,585
To the extent that any scientist is claiming to have broken the human-ape language barrier, I think they'd be fairly self-deluded. However, it appears that most of the popular misunderstanding on this subject has been generated by the media and some grant-hungry scientists.

To the extent that there is anthropomophization of gorillas, confirmation bias and, possibly, outright fraud, it is a shame. There is some excellent science to be done researching how our closest relatives communicate naturally and what they may be capable of when taught.

For example, I saw a documentary where when the vets would come in on one side of an L-shaped series of monkey cages, the monkeys who saw them first would screech. When the vets entered so that they could be seen from all the cages, the monkeys didn't screech. The scientists thought that this showed: a) the monkeys will warn each other of danger; and b) the monkeys understand when their "friends" already have information and when they have information their "friends" do not. Interesting stuff and real science.
__________________
I have the honor to be
Your Obdt. St

L. Leader
Loss Leader is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 05:02 PM   #24
HappyCat
Thinker
 
HappyCat's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 126
Does anyone know whether or not any primates have something similar to Wernicke's area or Broca's area in their brains, or are these a uniquely human trait? Since we know that both are needed to understand and convey human language of any sort, if apes do not have them, then it seems they simply don't have the hardware to learn human language. In that case, it seems experiments that teach primates human language are inevitably fruitless. I don't know how one would determine whether or not a primate has these features in their brains, I am hoping someone more clever than I has already figured this out
HappyCat is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 05:25 PM   #25
chracatoa
Scholar
 
chracatoa's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 109
Perhaps we could uplift them...
chracatoa is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 05:36 PM   #26
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by HappyCat View Post
Does anyone know whether or not any primates have something similar to Wernicke's area or Broca's area in their brains, or are these a uniquely human trait?
NIH: article

Royal Society of London: abstract
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 05:37 PM   #27
Amapola
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 8,254
I found this article about similarities between chimp and human brains. Here's a quote from the article:
Quote:
Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Columbia University and the National Institutes of Health have found that a region of the brain thought to control language is proportionately the same size in humans and chimpanzees, disproving a theory that the brain section was enlarged only in humans.
The area is called the planum temporale. I believe this is the Wernicke's area.

I guess the idea the area controls language is one possibility, but they also say another possibility (along with a few others) is that the area has nothing to do with language.
Amapola is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 05:45 PM   #28
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by Amapola View Post
I guess the idea the area controls language is one possibility, but they also say another possibility (along with a few others) is that the area has nothing to do with language.
There is also an evolutionary principle to keep in mind, that evolution uses what it has. In other words, existing structures are often appropriated for new uses. Since chimps apparently do not have language, it's most likely that the functions of this area of the simian brain were building blocks for language development in humans. It's very interesting research, still ongoing.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 06:09 PM   #29
Jeff Corey
New York Skeptic
 
Jeff Corey's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 13,714
Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
NIH: article

Royal Society of London: abstract
Links no nipple work.
Jeff Corey is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 07:00 PM   #30
Outhere
Thinker
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 143
Signing for Cats

Sometimes my Tonkinese cat of blessed memory would come when I called his name, sometimes he would come when I used the ASL sign for "Come here." That is, he obeyed when he wanted to, as cats do. I didn't imagine that he knew what meaning I attached to the sign, but he probably associated it with food or stroking.

When he wanted something from me he would stand on his hind legs and tap my hand with his paw. I was never sure who trained whom.
Outhere is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 08:26 PM   #31
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by Jeff Corey View Post
Links no nipple work.
They do on my machine. I just linked to them from your reply. Sorry, no problems here. Hurry candy this me red red.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 08:31 PM   #32
Floating Egg
Scholar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 81
Originally Posted by Outhere View Post
Sometimes my Tonkinese cat of blessed memory would come when I called his name, sometimes he would come when I used the ASL sign for "Come here." That is, he obeyed when he wanted to, as cats do. I didn't imagine that he knew what meaning I attached to the sign, but he probably associated it with food or stroking.

When he wanted something from me he would stand on his hind legs and tap my hand with his paw. I was never sure who trained whom.
I have a female Tonk, and her behaviour is a bit different than yours. She regularly calls me a lazy SOB in a high pitched voice until I agree to rub her head for at least an hour. She also has a nasty habbit of spitting in my drinks if I leave her alone for any length of time.
Floating Egg is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 08:34 PM   #33
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by Outhere View Post
When he wanted something from me he would stand on his hind legs and tap my hand with his paw. I was never sure who trained whom.
I have 2 cats, sisters, very different personalities.

The dominant cat is willful and an easy purr and not quite as aware of every little thing. The submissive cat is skittery and slinky and smart as a whip. When I'd stop scratching her before she was done being scratched, she'd hook out her paw the way cats do, to catch my hand from moving away.

It didn't take long at all before this evolved, by steps, into a paw-sign, just a movement, a very uncatlike little movement of the paw. We know what it means. And she understands, too, when I tell her I have to write now, or sleep, or eat, so I can't keep attending to her. I'm sure she has no idea what I'm saying, or that I'm "saying" anything, but she knows the sign of my voice. She was still a kitten when we established all this.

The other cat hasn't developed anything like this at all. If I stop attending to her before she's done being adored, she merely blinks and turns her head indignantly, then grooms my scent off her fur.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 08:36 PM   #34
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by Floating Egg View Post
I have a female Tonk, and her behaviour is a bit different than yours. She regularly calls me a lazy SOB in a high pitched voice until I agree to rub her head for at least an hour. She also has a nasty habbit of spitting in my drinks if I leave her alone for any length of time.
I used to date a girl like that. Only I had to agree to... nevermind.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 08:38 PM   #35
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Y'know what would be hilarious? If the Gorilla Foundation started an "Ask Koko" page. It'd be somewhere between Strongbad's email and The Onion's "Ask a worker bee" column.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 09:03 PM   #36
Buckaroo
Graduate Poster
 
Buckaroo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Washington, D.C.
Posts: 1,931
Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
So you're an advocate of AGW (anticipatory guttural warnings)?
__________________
"You ask me do I love you... does the pope live in the woods? Quad Erat Demonstrandum, baby... "
"Oh! You speak French!" -- Airhead, by Thomas Dolby

"When you're slapped you'll take it and like it." -- Sam Spade
Buckaroo is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 09:15 PM   #37
Buckaroo
Graduate Poster
 
Buckaroo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Washington, D.C.
Posts: 1,931
Isn't the consensus in linguistics that there is a Chomskyan "language module" that handles generative grammar in humans? Seems like such a thing would have to evolve hand-in-hand with the capacity to create complex articulated sounds, which no ape other than humans possesses. I can think of at least one really good reason why some analog to ASL wouldn't evolve naturally, removing that as an out to explain how such a module, if it exists in other apes, evolved. How then does the pro-ape contingent explain their purported observations?

I should read more on linguistics. Very cool stuff.
__________________
"You ask me do I love you... does the pope live in the woods? Quad Erat Demonstrandum, baby... "
"Oh! You speak French!" -- Airhead, by Thomas Dolby

"When you're slapped you'll take it and like it." -- Sam Spade

Last edited by Buckaroo; 30th September 2006 at 09:21 PM.
Buckaroo is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 09:35 PM   #38
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by Buckaroo View Post
Isn't the consensus in linguistics that there is a Chomskyan "language module" that handles generative grammar in humans? Seems like such a thing would have to evolve hand-in-hand with the capacity to create complex articulated sounds, which no ape other than humans possesses. I can think of at least one really good reason why some analog to ASL wouldn't evolve naturally, removing that as an out to explain how such a module, if it exists in other apes, evolved. How then does the pro-ape contingent explain their purported observations?

I should read more on linguistics. Very cool stuff.
The signing research was actually an outgrowth of earlier studies, which failed even worse, in which researchers attempted to teach primates to speak, even going so far as to move their lips for them manually.

Chomsky's transformational models of grammar were very influential, impacting the development of x-bar theory, parameter switching, and other important developments.

More recently, Steven Pinker has been the primary popular spokesman for the "language instinct". He's a very Darwinian evolutionary linguist, and evolutionary biologist more generally. His book The Language Instinct is a great read, if you're interested in this stuff. I also recommend How the Mind Works.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 30th September 2006, 09:46 PM   #39
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Btw, the areas of the brain which control language seem perfectly content to use hands and arms rather than mouth and larynx to do what needs done. Sign languages have their own complete and complex grammars, similar to oral grammars, and accents. There are a couple of fascinating studies of independently developed sign languages, demonstrating that the development of grammar appears similar to what is seen in the transformation of pidgins to creoles to languages.

Abu Shara

Nicaraguan Sign Language


Nicaraguan Sign Language
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 1st October 2006, 03:59 AM   #40
ImaginalDisc
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 10,219
Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
ASL experts won't recognize the signs, because these primates haven't learned ASL. That doesn't mean that the researchers aren't claiming that they have.
That is a horse of a different color then.
ImaginalDisc is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Reply

International Skeptics Forum » General Topics » Science, Mathematics, Medicine, and Technology

Bookmarks

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -7. The time now is 06:52 PM.
Powered by vBulletin. Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.

This forum began as part of the James Randi Education Foundation (JREF). However, the forum now exists as
an independent entity with no affiliation with or endorsement by the JREF, including the section in reference to "JREF" topics.

Disclaimer: Messages posted in the Forum are solely the opinion of their authors.