What makes the human language unique?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by YinyangDK, Nov 16, 2008.

  1. YinyangDK Registered Senior Member

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    If you should single out One command in the human language that would make it unik, what would it be?
     
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  3. theoneiuse Theoneiuse Registered Senior Member

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    "Y" u niky
    qe
     
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  5. YinyangDK Registered Senior Member

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  7. Search & Destroy Take one bite at a time Moderator

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    maybe "eat your mouth"
     
  8. PsychoticEpisode It is very dry in here today Valued Senior Member

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    No spoken words, just 'the finger'.
     
  9. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    The human ability to communicate complex ideas with sound or symbol is already unique.
     
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Other animals communicate surprisingly complex information. Bees can tell each other the direction and distance of a source of nectar by performing a dance. The cetaceans... well we still don't know exactly what they're saying to each other because it's much more than a simple code.

    Human language is not so much unique, as more complex by several orders of magnitude.

    Individuals of two other species of ape (Pan troglodytes and Gorilla gorilla) have been taught American Sign Language, and the things they say display intelligence and communication ability far beyond what we suspected. They even teach it to their babies.

    An African Grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus) learned rudimentary English syntax and was able to answer questions with multiple details.

    It appears that other species may have the latent ability to develop and use language. Except for the whales and dolphins, they just haven't gotten around to it yet.
     
  11. PsychoticEpisode It is very dry in here today Valued Senior Member

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    How about, "Ask me"
     
  12. firdroirich A friend of The Friends Registered Senior Member

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    As an aside, a certain African Grey that belonged to a friend of mine was bilingual. Maybe not in the full-blown sense, but it spoke English and Nyanja, a language in Zambia. Another curious behaviour it showed was mewing like a cat when the dogs were in other parts of the house, keeping quiet when they came running in, only to continue at their departure. The dogs were none the wiser after years of this.
     
  13. YinyangDK Registered Senior Member

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    This is what I was looking for in an answer.
    We are not Unik.
     
  14. PsychoticEpisode It is very dry in here today Valued Senior Member

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    Who in their right mind could ever figure out the answer you desired when you used language like that to ask the question? The question asked and the correct answer associated with it are most certainly unique if not downright misleading.
     
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    I would single out the word "command" in the OP as being particularly confusing. But I think we're dealing with someone who's not yet an expert in our language so we can cut him some slack. This board is all about language, after all.
     
  16. disease Banned Banned

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    I would hazard that the only unique words in any language are words for places, or for specific people.
    Nouns are probably the most fundamental words, we may have first used 'place-words' to identify known sources of food or water, or other materially useful items like flint, for example. The next logical step is the introduction of words for 'going' to places, gathering, etc.

    Nouns and verbs are the unique parts of a sentence, and all the other parts just connect them. Some languages use them interchangeably or imply both with the same inflection - of the location/preparation of a food resource, for example, with eating it, or gathering it, so the place name stays unique, the "food-word" is used as a locative and a verbal. The resource and getting the resource are generalized, so the location which is unique, "inflects" the food-word's meaning.
     
  17. FelixC Registered Senior Member

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    F: thats so funny, that little bird was using its brain

    I watched a special about parrots, said they had the brain & curiosity of a 5 year old human

    a smart alec I guess
     
  18. Ophiolite Valued Senior Member

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    Delightful story, and a good example of why the phrase 'bird brain' is wholly inappropriate.
     
  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    We used to raise several species of parrots and we still keep them as pets. It's like having a five-year-old kid who never grows up and goes off to college. Their zygodactyl toes (two point one way and two the other way) give them a prehensile ability almost like opposable thumbs, and their hooked bill acts as a third hand, with the tongue for sensitive exploration and manipulation. So they're very dextrous and can use their high intelligence to figure out how things around the house work. Our macaw used to disassemble her cage from the inside and when I replaced all the nuts and bolts with left-hand threads she solved the problem in about a day and a half.

    Their claws don't have quite the musculature and flexibility of primate hands, so parrots have not been able to learn American sign language like gorillas and chimpanzees have, so more linguistic progress has been made with apes. Nonetheless, even without the advantage of a speech center in their brains, parrots have made great progress in learning how human language works. Alex, the famous African Grey who unfortunately died recently at the young age of 30, could respond to questions of the form "What is this?" with answers of the form "Small red key." They've got two other Greys ready to continue his work, so it will be interesting to see if psittacines have the language ability of apes.

    There are also a couple of famous budgies who clearly understand what they're hearing and saying to a certain extent, not just mimicking interesting sounds.
     
  20. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

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    I disagree.
    Grammar.
    Punctuation.
    Form.
    Rules.

    That that is is necessarily "better" or more complex, but certainly unique.
    How many other animals have a written language?

    We have developed it from simple communication and mating calls to an abstract art form.
     
  21. PsychoticEpisode It is very dry in here today Valued Senior Member

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    Unik sounds like an Eskimo word. Something that makes language Unik to an eskimo might be the use of the nose for an affectionate peck on the cheek.
     
  22. Cyperium I'm always me Valued Senior Member

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    Unik is unique in swedish

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