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InvisibleDividedQuantumM
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Is language a genetic phenomenon?
    #26843134 - 07/24/20 05:32 PM (21 days, 14 hours ago)

Language is such a fabulously rich and complex process – involving myriad neurological factors, cultural dynamics, different types of breathing, larynx and vocal fold manipulations, convoluted movements of the muscles of the mouth and tongue, etc. – that to try to account for it, as Dr. Chomsky does, as explicable in terms of a gene or a set of genes, seems awfully simplistic and frankly absurd. Language involves an undivided, flowing, harmonious and holistically unified movement of all of the variables described, and to believe that this entire symphony is located in the genome is, I think, a mistake, to put it very mildly.

Of course, Noam Chomsky, who is probably the most famous linguist in the world, feels that a specific gene constructs the grammars of all languages, and that these grammars can be shown to be isomorphic -- clearly, because they arise from the same genome. This requires all languages to have recursion, and so has come under fire over the last few years as linguist Daniel Everett brought to light non-recursion among the Piraha of Brazil. He worked with them off and on for thirty years, living with them the whole time, and feels that the Piraha language has a lot to show us regarding the veracity of Chomsky's "universal grammar."

Everett feels Chomsky is dead wrong, because he can detect absolutely no recursion in the Piraha language. This in itself would topple Chomsky's edifice. Anthropologists and linguists are trying hard to find recursion there, and while the matter is still not settled, it is looking like Everett knows what he is talking about.

So what do you think? Are we humans able to employ language because of a specific language gene, or is the matter more complex than this? Despite all of the attacks, is Chomsky right after all? Or do other factors come into the picture making this language gene idea too simplistic?


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OfflineKickleM
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Re: Is language a genetic phenomenon? [Re: DividedQuantum]
    #26843166 - 07/24/20 05:44 PM (21 days, 13 hours ago)

I think it's always more complex than we think. And simultaneously simpler. Just depends what direction you feel like searching in.

I have zero experience in the field of genetics beyond that of a biology class here and there. But I do have much more experience in the neurology world. And aphasias are pretty interesting with regards to language.

Brochas aphasia and Wernicke's aphasia are two significant structural findings that suggest language has a localization in the brain as opposed to a more globalized production. Now with that said the muscle coordination of speech is not affected in either of these aphasias. But I think it does suggest that muscle coordination is not what dictates language. There are a variety of non-verbal expressions of language such as reading and writing. And these are also impacted by the aforementioned aphasia's. So it seems language at large is localized while the form it takes is more malleable depending on a variety of conditions, such as having vocal chords or not...

This is where I fall apart tho. I have no idea if a good rule of thumb is to say localized physical structures typically have a singular gene correlate.


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Being unable to make what is just strong,
we have made what is strong just. -- Pascal

Why shouldn't the truth be stranger than fiction?
Fiction, after all, has to make sense. -- Mark Twain


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Invisibleredgreenvines
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Re: Is language a genetic phenomenon? [Re: Kickle]
    #26843232 - 07/24/20 06:10 PM (21 days, 13 hours ago)

I would start by admiring the linguistic work, and discounting any claims in genetics and molecular biology by non-molecular biologists.

Chomsky is using gene the way others use the term meme, and I think he has the right to use any word any way he wants.

Human language extends animal expression a great deal, but it is more about our hands and upright stance and many faceted minds that encouraged language development beyond a few grunts.

so definitely not just one gene unless one gene does all of that (and it could, developmentally speaking) so until developmental molecular biologists have a more complete handle on what genes do what during embryological development, I would go with Chomsky taking liberties with this term.


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Invisiblelaughingdog
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Re: Is language a genetic phenomenon? [Re: DividedQuantum]
    #26843252 - 07/24/20 06:18 PM (21 days, 13 hours ago)

Quote:

DividedQuantum said:
Language is such a fabulously rich and complex process – involving myriad neurological factors, cultural dynamics, different types of breathing, larynx and vocal fold manipulations, convoluted movements of the muscles of the mouth and tongue, etc. – that to try to account for it, as Dr. Chomsky does, as explicable in terms of a gene or a set of genes, seems awfully simplistic and frankly absurd. ....




As well as the brain structures to control the "breathing, larynx and vocal fold manipulations, convoluted movements of the muscles of the mouth and tongue, etc."

As well as the brain structures to control the associations, internal images, find the right word, etc.

As well as the brain structures to  note the responses of the one, or group, one is communicating to, & and adjust one's style accordingly.

So yes any simple explanation 'seems awfully simplistic".

Seems language is part of the whole dynamic that makes humans human, and very social creatures.


--------------------
“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” or  “Science advances one funeral at a time.”
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"The situation is hopeless, but not serious."

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend,
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InvisibleDividedQuantumM
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Re: Is language a genetic phenomenon? [Re: DividedQuantum]
    #26843632 - 07/24/20 09:26 PM (21 days, 10 hours ago)

Fascinating responses so far. :thumbup:


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OfflineMarkostheGnostic
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Re: Is language a genetic phenomenon? [Re: DividedQuantum]
    #26843892 - 07/25/20 01:20 AM (21 days, 6 hours ago)

It would appear that by focusing on the unknown genetic vector you are waxing reductionistic. I have no doubt there is a genetic level to language. I read Chomsky in grad school '79-'83 and I'm still reading him today albeit in the political realm. I think Ken Wilbur's AQAL (All Quadrants All Levels) is a very useful heuristic that can be applied to any given phenomenon. It is depicted graphically if you are unfamiliar with it although not described here. It seems that our consciousness which has only one invariant feature according to Phenomenologist Edmund Husserl - intentionality - spot-lights aspects of a given phenomenon. One aspect does not actually predominate in reality but our consciousness is like a lens which makes specific foci seem larger than the rest.

If, for example, I want to make some gunpowder using the 3 main ingredients of saltpeter, sulphur and charcoal, the quarks and quantum level of the sub-atomic structure of everything in this mixture are all present as is the social (legal) level of its manufacture. Every level can be extrapolated from the AQAL template placed on the compounding of this mixture but my consciousness is focused largely on the level of physical chemistry, not the quantum level or social level or cellular level of the particular plant source for the charcoal.

Language also partakes of all of these levels divided into quadrants assuming the meta-model is universally applicable to all phenomena. Everything has its links in the Great Chain of Being from simple to complex, micro to macro, inner and outer, psychic and physical.





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γνῶθι σαὐτόν - Gnothi Seauton - Know Thyself


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Invisiblenooneman
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Re: Is language a genetic phenomenon? [Re: DividedQuantum]
    #26843904 - 07/25/20 01:41 AM (21 days, 5 hours ago)

Yeah, some language capabilities are genetic for sure. Not all of them, but some of them. Lots of animals are very smart, but none of them have language like we do. It must be some genes that give us that unusual ability, otherwise it would be easier for other intelligent animals to learn at a high level. In addition, I think some grammar is probably in-born. The critical period for acquiring language is basic human biology and therefore language must have some basis in genetics. Noam Chomsky might have gotten the details wrong, but I think the core premise that some language ability is in-born in humans and has a genetic origin is dead on accurate.

Lots of people like to fight him on it because prior to his take on language there were all sorts of other crazy theories that he killed with his theory, but those theories were straight up insane bullshit. You wouldn't believe how crazy some of them were. They had no basis in anything, and they were totally crazy, and people defended them with an insane zeal like you wouldn't believe. And all those other theories lead to a lot of bullshit. I don't really feel like going into it all, but how I feel about Noam Chomsky is pretty much "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."


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InvisibleDividedQuantumM
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Re: Is language a genetic phenomenon? [Re: MarkostheGnostic]
    #26844210 - 07/25/20 08:45 AM (20 days, 22 hours ago)

Quote:

MarkostheGnostic said:
It would appear that by focusing on the unknown genetic vector you are waxing reductionistic.





Actually, if you read the original post, you will see that I am saying that it is probably not the result of genetic factors alone, but a confluence of a host of factors. But I appreciate your insights. :thumbup:


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InvisibleDividedQuantumM
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Re: Is language a genetic phenomenon? [Re: nooneman]
    #26844215 - 07/25/20 08:48 AM (20 days, 22 hours ago)

Quote:

nooneman said:
Yeah, some language capabilities are genetic for sure. Not all of them, but some of them. Lots of animals are very smart, but none of them have language like we do. It must be some genes that give us that unusual ability, otherwise it would be easier for other intelligent animals to learn at a high level. In addition, I think some grammar is probably in-born. The critical period for acquiring language is basic human biology and therefore language must have some basis in genetics. Noam Chomsky might have gotten the details wrong, but I think the core premise that some language ability is in-born in humans and has a genetic origin is dead on accurate.

Lots of people like to fight him on it because prior to his take on language there were all sorts of other crazy theories that he killed with his theory, but those theories were straight up insane bullshit. You wouldn't believe how crazy some of them were. They had no basis in anything, and they were totally crazy, and people defended them with an insane zeal like you wouldn't believe. And all those other theories lead to a lot of bullshit. I don't really feel like going into it all, but how I feel about Noam Chomsky is pretty much "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."





I like the balanced nature of your reply. You seem to advocate not throwing the baby out with the bath water with Chomsky's approach, and I think very few people are doing that. Interesting take. :thumbup:


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Invisiblelaughingdog
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Re: Is language a genetic phenomenon? [Re: DividedQuantum]
    #26844298 - 07/25/20 09:39 AM (20 days, 22 hours ago)

Considering that complex spoken language use involves
1) physical changes: voice box ("larynx and vocal fold manipulations, convoluted movements of the muscles of the mouth and tongue, etc.")
2) a higher level of intelligence than other animals including primates have
3) specifically abilities to organize data on multiple levels almost simultaneously
4) abilities to encode data
5) abilities to decode data
6) ability to remember thousands of arbitrary subtle auditory signals
and so on

7) then this ability to use symbols to encode reality, and communicate it, appears as cave paintings as well, around 30,000 years ago,
and then writing, among the Sumerians,....maybe around 10,000 years ago...and a little later among the Mayans, Chinese, and Egyptians.
8) our symbol usage now also includes music, and mathematics
9) peoples abilities in using all these symbol systems varies greatly!
10) Surprisingly a few autistic people are unbelievable better at some of these, than any of the rest of us.

"that to try to account for it, as Dr. Chomsky does, as explicable in terms of a gene or a set of genes, seems awfully simplistic and frankly absurd."

Language is also obviously a cultural phenomenon, as those rare cases of children unfortunately raised in isolation, who never learn to speak properly, show.


--------------------
“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” or  “Science advances one funeral at a time.”
― Max Planck

"The situation is hopeless, but not serious."

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend,
inside of a dog its too dark to read."


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InvisibleDividedQuantumM
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Re: Is language a genetic phenomenon? [Re: laughingdog]
    #26844353 - 07/25/20 10:08 AM (20 days, 21 hours ago)

Excellent points, and I would point out that humans have a "descended" larynx, without which speech would be impossible. The only other animals with this anatomical feature are red and fallow deer. So, playing devil's advocate and assuming that we do have a grammar-driving language gene, without this descended larynx all we would be able to do is grunt.

So we're a pretty amazing product of evolution coming together just right. On the other hand, without our abilities to write and speak, this would be a much more serene and peaceful planet. I doubt we could make napalm without talking to each other.


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Invisiblelaughingdog
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Re: Is language a genetic phenomenon? [Re: DividedQuantum]
    #26844376 - 07/25/20 10:33 AM (20 days, 21 hours ago)

"So we're a pretty amazing product of evolution coming together just right."
as regards language yes
in other regards not so much
"Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes Paperback – May 7, 2019
by Nathan H. Lents  (Author)"
"An illuminating, entertaining tour of the physical imperfections that make us human

We humans like to think of ourselves as highly evolved creatures. But if we are supposedly evolution’s greatest creation, why do we have such bad knees? Why do we catch head colds so often—two hundred times more often than a dog does? How come our wrists have so many useless bones? Why is the vast majority of our genetic code pointless? And are we really supposed to swallow and breathe through the same narrow tube? Surely there’s been some kind of mistake.

As professor of biology Nathan H. Lents explains in Human Errors, our evolutionary history is nothing if not a litany of mistakes, each more entertaining and enlightening than the last. The human body is one big pile of compromises. But that is also a testament to our greatness: as Lents shows, humans have so many design flaws precisely because we are very, very good at getting around them.

A rollicking, deeply informative tour of humans’ four billion year long evolutionary saga, Human Errors both celebrates our imperfections and offers an unconventional accounting of the cost of our success. "

https://www.amazon.com/Human-Errors-Panorama-Glitches-Pointless/dp/1328589269/ref=pd_sbs_14_1/138-4751324-2698161?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=1328589269&pd_rd_r=0dbd2f9f-f01c-4849-aeca-1e4176ccf66f&pd_rd_w=Iwoun&pd_rd_wg=fSb2j&pf_rd_p=bc074051-81d1-4874-a3fd-fd0c867ce3b4&pf_rd_r=KECHVAHSKR0H5BWA29VD&psc=1&refRID=KECHVAHSKR0H5BWA29VD


--------------------
“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” or  “Science advances one funeral at a time.”
― Max Planck

"The situation is hopeless, but not serious."

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend,
inside of a dog its too dark to read."


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Invisibleredgreenvines
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Re: Is language a genetic phenomenon? [Re: DividedQuantum]
    #26844379 - 07/25/20 10:35 AM (20 days, 21 hours ago)

nonsense

check out this bird https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyrebird
Quote:

The lyrebird's syrinx is the most complexly-muscled of the passerines (songbirds), giving the lyrebird extraordinary ability, unmatched in vocal repertoire and mimicry. Lyrebirds render with great fidelity the individual songs of other birds and the chatter of flocks of birds, and also mimic other animals such as koalas and dingoes.[3] The lyrebird is capable of imitating almost any sound and they have been recorded mimicking human sounds such as a mill whistle, a cross-cut saw, chainsaws, car engines and car alarms, fire alarms, rifle-shots, camera shutters, dogs barking, crying babies, music, mobile phone ring tones, and even the human voice.




https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Superb_lyrebird_mimicking_Australian_native_birds.ogg


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InvisibleDividedQuantumM
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Re: Is language a genetic phenomenon? [Re: laughingdog]
    #26844414 - 07/25/20 11:00 AM (20 days, 20 hours ago)

Yes, I meant particularly as regards language. Evolution of all animals, humans included, of course is full of suboptimal traits.


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InvisibleDividedQuantumM
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Re: Is language a genetic phenomenon? [Re: redgreenvines]
    #26844418 - 07/25/20 11:02 AM (20 days, 20 hours ago)

You have a point about birds, I never thought about that. I read years ago what I said about the descended larynx. Could it be that birds cannot talk indefinitely? What I mean by that is, any time I've heard birds mimic language, it is always for very short bursts. Could a bird replicate a longer sentence or a poem without breaks?


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OfflineThe Blind Ass
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Re: Is language a genetic phenomenon? [Re: redgreenvines]
    #26844435 - 07/25/20 11:13 AM (20 days, 20 hours ago)

They’re a very trippy bird.  I’ve heard Parrots that can mimic/recite a few lines from Mexican soap operas and it is funny as hell.
Also Check out the phenomena of displaced reference in various animals, which means reference to things that are not present here and now.  In other words, to objects or events that are remote in space or in time.  Signifying abstraction and whatnot.

Here’s the lyrebird from planet earth



Budgerigar Parrot 🦜 mimicry



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Edited by The Blind Ass (07/25/20 11:34 AM)


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InvisibleDividedQuantumM
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Re: Is language a genetic phenomenon? [Re: The Blind Ass]
    #26844474 - 07/25/20 11:37 AM (20 days, 20 hours ago)

But does mimicry count as a capacity for language? I think most would say no way.


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OfflineThe Blind Ass
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Re: Is language a genetic phenomenon? [Re: DividedQuantum]
    #26844480 - 07/25/20 11:42 AM (20 days, 19 hours ago)

It’s the same method? / mechanism  by which human infants begin using language.  It’s necessary, but not the beginning and end of language.


Edited by The Blind Ass (07/25/20 11:53 AM)


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Invisiblelaughingdog
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Re: Is language a genetic phenomenon? [Re: DividedQuantum]
    #26844553 - 07/25/20 12:19 PM (20 days, 19 hours ago)

Quote:

DividedQuantum said:
But does mimicry count as a capacity for language?




apparently politicians 'think' so


--------------------
“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” or  “Science advances one funeral at a time.”
― Max Planck

"The situation is hopeless, but not serious."

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend,
inside of a dog its too dark to read."


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Invisibleredgreenvines
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Re: Is language a genetic phenomenon? [Re: laughingdog]
    #26844652 - 07/25/20 01:26 PM (20 days, 18 hours ago)

mimicry and repetition lead to "creative" expression.

anyway I think if you talk with a bird about a topic that is interesting to it, you could begin to make linguistic progress. Pick a species with a longish life.

nuanced language takes time to develop.


of course it would help if they could also read and write; that often improves language.


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