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Anth 240

by: Hallie Notetaker
Hallie Notetaker
Minnesota State University, Mankato
GPA 3.66

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Evolution of Language
Language and Culture
Dr. Chelsea Mead
Class Notes
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This 6 page Class Notes was uploaded by Hallie Notetaker on Thursday September 22, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to Anth 240 at Minnesota State University - Mankato taught by Dr. Chelsea Mead in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 7 views. For similar materials see Language and Culture in Anthropology at Minnesota State University - Mankato.

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Date Created: 09/22/16
Evolution of Language Key Terms  Communication – one organism receives a signal that originated with another  Language – “set of discrete vocal sounds, meaningless by themselves, that can be strung together to produce higher-order units endowed with conventional but arbitrary meanings where uses can generate an unlimited number of unprecedented comments about events removed in time and space”  Specicentric? Human andAnimal Forms of Communication  Communication – one organism receives a signal that originated with another  Communication serves a variety of social needs o Foraging, hunting, defense, procurement of mates, etc.  Transmission of information accomplished through a variety of perceptive mechanisms (senses)  Channels of communication o Acoustic, optical (visual), tactile (touch), olfactory (smell)  Redundancy is a common feature of animal communication, human and non-human Similarities we share with other animals  Communicate  Purpose o Survival, social, emotional, etc.  Means o Multiple channels that humans and other animals use  Displays o Birdsongs, croaking, chirping, charging colors or ruffling feathers, chest beating, etc. Differences  1960s Philip Lieberman o Human vocal tract – the larynx (home of vocal chords) is lower in humans than other primates o Lower larynx makes a longer pharynx (space above vocal chords where aid resonates)  You can produce more vowels  Tongue movements change the shape of the pharynx and oral cavity adding to the creativity of sounds o Human tongue is more flexible Human Communication – Unique?  1960s Charles F. Hockett’s  “Design features” of language  Only humans share all 13 features  Many are shared with primates o Displacement o Productivity o Cultural transmission o Duality o Reflexiveness o Learnability  Vocal-auditory channel o Some animal sounds are not vocal – chirping o Some are not received through auditory channel – bees  Broadcast transmission and directional reception o Speech sounds move out from sender, do not have to see each other to communicate  Rapid fading o Speech signals immediately disappear, clears channel for new message o Important because channels such as olfactory communication take time to dissipate  Interchangeability – speakers of human languages can be speakers and listeners o Other species, it can vary between castes and sex, etc.  Complete feedback o Speakers hear themselves when they talk and can make prompt corrections  Internalize communication = “thinking” o Fish cannot see their changing color and make corrections  Specialization – speech is only for communication o Other animals often transmit signals as by-products of biological functions  Ex. Panting in dogs  Semanticity – speech has meaning o Salt means salt and not sugar o Specific and elaborate correlations  Arbitrariness – not intrinsic relationship between the form of a unit of language and the concept that it stands for  Discreteness – human language is made of discrete elements, not continuance communication (siren or a bee dance) Uniquely Human  Displacement – humans can talk about something that is far removed in time or space from the sitting the communication occurs  Reflexiveness – humans can use language to talk about language, or communication in general  Learnability – any human speaker can potentially learn any human language Communication in theAnimal Kingdom  Questions: o How do various forms of human communication function similarly to other forms encountered throughout the animal kingdom? o What aspects of animal (and human) existence seem to be associated with dependence on communication? o What are the dimensions of human language set us apart from other modes of animal communication?  Insects o Many of the elements that characterize complex human societies appear to have parallels in the social structures encountered in the insect world  Organized communities  Hierarchical structures  Divisions of labor  Ant Society o Colony populations range from a few hundred to several million (hundreds of million in the case of supercolonies) o Behaviors of all members are directed toward the growth and stability of the whole society o Hierarchies are reinforced through a rigid division of labor, with various “castes” responsible for the fulfillment of specific needs o Efficient communication techniques are thus of prime importance to the sound function of the society  Complexity through Repeated Interaction o Ants communicate with one another via tactile and auditory channels o Socially coordinated behaviors require constant interactions for population-specific pheromone based signals o Constant chemical signals shared by each member communicates information between each ant to their neighbor  Bees o Like ants, bee societies are heavily dependent on cooperation, a division of labor, and social cues to indicate specific bits of meaning o Use of pheromones from the honeybee Queen by her attendant bees to suppress ovarian development in worker bees o Von Frisch, The Dancing Bees (1953)  Found that the specialized movements of honeybee scouts performed in the presence of other members of the hive indicated the direction and distance to newly discovered sources of pollen o Distance of the nectar from the hive is indicated by form of dance performed on the vertical surface of the honeycomb  If close = round dance  If farther away = figure eight  Length of time + tail wagging = distance  Angle between direction of tail wagging run and line directed to earth’s gravity = angle between the sun and nectar source; hive is point of reference  Liveliness of dance = richness of food o Different bee species have different dances that are similar but unique to each species o How is this similar to human communication? o Dialect?  Mammals o Mammals have great capacities for learning and adaptation o Social relationships often highly developed  Learning  Habit formation  Heredity  Biological differences o Sometimes exhibit “cultural” inheritance (learned behaviors) from one generation to the next o In species variability  Wolves o Highly social o Pack members remain together year round o Cooperate in hunting, caring for young and playing o Constant intragroup communicative engagement  Posture  Look  Physical contact  Auditory such as howling to promote pack unity and reinforce territorial claims o Hierarchical  Dominance relations transmitted through facial expressions and body language  Primates o All primates share a set of unique traits derived from our arboreal ancestors, including:  Sociality  Familial behavior/high degree of parental investment  Brain complexity/dependence on learning  Old World Monkeys: Vervets o Vervets employ a complex threat-specific call system  Leopard call – other monkeys run into trees, go as high as possible and look back at ground o Eagle call – monkeys descend into lower branches of trees and look up o Snake call – monkeys stand up and look for snake in grass  Old World Monkeys: Baboons o Extreme sociality – troops include 25-250 members o Large societies (and rigid internal organization) necessary for coordinated defensive behaviors against other predatory savannah dwellers o Social bonds based on kinship  Strongest between mother and infant o Emphasis on learning implies that social behaviors are not fixed, but need to be acquired – sapolsky Hominids and Language  Hominoids (Apes and Humans) o Generally more complex behaviorally o More complex brain and enhanced cognitive abilities o Increased period of infant development and dependency o Because of these major characteristics (among others) that humans share with other great apes, there has within the last century been much interest in the possibility of other apes’capacity to acquire linguistic capabilities  Viki the Chimpanzee (late 40s-50s) o Keith J. Hayes and Catherine Hayes adopted Viki o Raised as a human child in their home o After six years, she could only produce four words o Viki successfully taught to produce some vocalizations in a home setting  Washoe the Chimpanzee o 1960s – based on Chimps’tendency to naturally gesture, the first major attempt to teach one sign language in a laboratory setting o By second year, used 30 signs spontaneously o After five years, used 150 hand signs, understood more than 300 o Could use combinations o By the end of her life, Washoe knew about 250 distinct signs o Washoe’s adopted son Loulis was the first chimpanzee to acquire sign language without explicit human direction  Koko the Gorilla o Training inASL began in 1972 with Penny Patterson at Stanford University o It is claimed that she understands upward of 1000 signs along with a significant amount of spoken words  Kanzi the Bonobo o Doesn’t use sign language – instead illustrates a vocabulary of around 400 symbols picked from lexigram boards o Also understands a significant amount of spoken English o But also, Kanzi appears to have uniquely grasped some of the structural aspects of our language, including uses of  Embedded clauses (Bill said [that Peter danced])  If-then statements  Analogies (small bucket to big bucket as small ball to big ball) Is it Language?  Herbert Terrace (Project Nim) – discredited all ape-language projects conducted up until the 1960s and 70s  “Dog bites man”  Nim Chimpsky’s longest recorded dialogue: o “Give orange me give eat orange me eat orange give me eat orange give me you”  Operant conditioning What do we mean by language?  “Set of discrete vocal sounds, meaningless by themselves, that can be strung together to produce higher-order units endowed with conventional but arbitrary meanings where uses can generate an unlimited number of unprecedented comments about events removed in time and space”  Pre-language o Earliest hominids likely used signals  Visual, acoustic, olfactory, tactile Language as Evolution  Did language suddenly develop all at once or was it a gradual process?  Did language develop under selective forces directly acting upon it or was it a secondary- by-product of evolutionary processes? Continuity vs. Discontinuity  Continuity o Speech must have ultimately developed from “primitive” forms of communication used by lower animals  Language evolved in a straight line over time (simpler forms to more complex) o Human language and animal language differ only in complexity  Discontinuity o Human language must be recognized as unique, without evolutionary antecedents o Because all humans possess the biological potential for the acquisition of language, the capacity must have characterized the common ancestors of all humans before populations adapted to different environments and physically diversified


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