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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

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Jerry Moore

"All that sort of thing—reputation, favors, trade, moral codes, group identity—depends on language.
Speech made us who we are."

So, Language or its Speech manifestation?
BLOGGER: For most of its history, language was speech.

Jerry Moore

"For most of its history, language was speech"

Could you, please, define what is historical time? Is it time after vocal production fully developed ( or Language existed long before and triggered the vocal apparatus development?
BLOGGER: Since writing is so recent, the timeline in this case is not going to change my point, even if you go with some absurdly recent date for speech of 50 or 75 thousand years. On this blog I go with vocalizations for about 3 million years, words for 2 million, sentences for a million. Abstract or metaphorical sentences before 200 thousand years ago.

Jerry Moore

"On this blog I go with vocalizations for about 3 million years, words for 2 million, sentences for a million. Abstract or metaphorical sentences before 200 thousand years ago."
Let's say, it is not sound absurdly enough.
Absurd is to avoid or cut short all other channels of linguistic expressions from issue of Language, except vocal production.
This is why you are mixing up Language and Speech so often. I can suggest you to keep the relation of these terms in consequence of Cause and Effect, but not as General and Particular as you intend to do.
BLOGGER: Speech does include accompanying gestures and facial expressions and has, I assume, done so from the beginning. The reason I chose to say this blog was about the origins of speech rather than language was because speech is a behavior, language an abstraction. Although I often write about "language" on this blog, when given my druthers I like to be concrete.


All that sort of thing—reputation, favors, trade, moral codes, group identity—depends on language.
Actually, it doesn't. Deaf adults without language demonstrate all these things.

For most of its history, language was speech.
You know this how? I'm sure Jerry was referring to signed language, not writing.

As I commented earlier, Uniformitarianism, + modern day language genesis = we already know how language evolved originally. The only part we have not observed directly is the transition from gestural language to language consisting of gesture+speech.

However, language is cumulative culture that starts with the direct indexical relationship between a pointing finger and a referent, uses it as a a tool to link a sound symbol to the attentional triangle, after which the original gestural tool becomes optional. There is no yada yada here, as opposed to the alternative: arbitrary sounds, yada yada became associated with referents, pilot attention, language.
BLOGGERS: One thing I do want to make clear is that I am referring to the effects of speech over generations. We all benefit from the free lunch provided by earlier generations. I’m not talking about individuals but the evolutionary history of the lineage. Deaf people, even those without a widely shared sign language, do indeed enjoy reputation, favors, trade, moral codes, group identity.

Jerry Moore

Hi Uzza! You wrote:
"...language is cumulative culture"
I hope, you mean it, when you consider Language as Culture (not its trend or part of it). Otherwise we can find ourself in the Tomasello's position, juggling with dependence and supremacy of the right link in the chain of evolutional events “Consciousness-Language-Culture-Cognition” (yada yada).
I feel it is more productive to consider Language the biological ability as, for example, bipedalism is. Its syncretic behavioural output (acts of expression) is obvious and where Linguistic perception of reality is Speechless by default! Possession of the Language ability, as the research issue, stays far apart and is independent from vocal production as the culturally motivated (and physiologically triggered development) channel to vocalise some of Linguistic expressions. As far apart as are to read notes and to blow a trumpet.

To complete the picture, I suggest observing indexing or all still images as Noun, gesture or motion as Verb, vocal expressions or sounds heired as Interjections. This way we can have perfect start for the Syntactic perception of reality and the Conscious expression of our relation to it.


Jerry Moore

Hi Edmund,
"speech is a behavior, language an abstraction"

Language is not abstraction if a single term of the broader paradigm is not hijacked or exploited to be a such.(For example, as a reference to multiplicity of speech practices).
We can call it the Ability to Act Linguistically. Where Speech is the one of the well physiologically developed manifestations of such Act.
BLOGGER: Call me, Blair. The “ability to act linguistically” is a fine and precise phrase. It’s what I’m interested in, although I don’t think I’ll be adopting that mouthful.


Blair---Well, I'm talking about the origin of language, before there is any free lunch provided by earlier generations. Not deaf people without a widely shared language, people without any human language whatsoever.

Such people inevitably are also deaf, as for example George, an orphan described by Raija Nieminen in her book Voyage to the Island, who lived somewhere in the jungle and came into town every day to make his living as a newspaper vendor, even though he could hear no speech and had never encountered people who signed [notice these people have no trouble doing math].

He understood himself to be a member of that local community and enjoyed reputation, favors, trade, moral codes, group identity, as do all such people. Since they do so today without language, I assume they did so anciently before language was invented.

Jerry--I like your “Ability to Act Linguistically”, as compared to any actual using of language. I don't try to separate language from culture, only note that both are “group behavior that is passed on socially rather than genetically”.

I don't know what you mean by syntactic perception. People without language have no syntax and organize their communication by functional roles, like agent-act-object.

Example = moving a closed hand from their head towards you might signify 'me-INFORM-you', metaphorically transferring some thing (message) from them to you. All without vocalizing, this is a word, an entire sentence, and a metaphor.

Technically it's gesture, or mime, not language, and not syntactic since it's not part of an organized system with grammatical categories like nouns and verbs.

Under the right social conditions people will begin to inflect it, into forms like 'you-INFORM-me' with the hand going in the opposite direction to reverse the participant roles.

Then it's syntactic, and what I am calling “language”, but apes can't do this, and people like George don't, without help.

Jerry Moore

"I don't try to separate language from culture, only note that both are “group behaviour that is passed on socially rather than genetically”."

Please, try to not think like "..they booth..", but consider them like a single entity.
No Language - No Conscious Conduct - No Culture.

"I don't know what you mean by syntactic perception. People without language have no syntax and organize their communication by functional roles, like agent-act-object."
We are (including deaf and blind) acting on the merit of our (uniquely human) reception (or compensatory mechanisms) and expressing ourself by most suitable motor reactions. Here is no other way to communicate!)))
You "People without language have no syntax and organize their communication" sound not right. These people HAVE Language, they have NO Speech. Their Language is around them like it is around you or me. Try to look around yourself, hear, feel - around you as far as you can see, hear or feel tectally - are Words. Words in form of table, windows, dog, weather you skin can percept, sky, movements you able to differentiate and sounds telling you about things, distances or events. Now try to group them syntactically. ..only Nouns, Verbs, Interjections... :P
You perceived reality. Who need more then this? From this point we ready to express ourself by motions (gesture, speech, writing, pointing, wood carving...)
Our human (conscious) perception and expression are Syntactic. But... we have left something from animal past, what we call instincts and reflexes…

Jerry Moore

Language in my view is biological ability (the way human sensory system evolutionary tuned up). My Language can not be Russian, Persian, Hebrew or even English...)) When we are looking at the Tree we see the Tree, but not how it sound in Greek, English or French or doesn’t sound at all for deaf person or feel like its substitute for deaf+blind. Perception is independent of any of speech practices. Best example is our encounter with something what is not named by word: nevertheless, we are in 100% able to differentiate such thing syntactically (noun, verb and interjection).
Tell me, Uzza, if this kind of vision of core of Language is silly

Jerry Moore

Blair, Uzza -- Sorry for my patchy posts. I need to comment on example with George.
Autism is not only form of illness, but can be encored socially like in case of George. Both cases are characterise distortion of sensory system.
These examples are very important in implication of links as Language-Consciousness-Cognition-Culture as a singular entity(conscious activity), which often observed from different perspectives.

Raymond Weitzman

I regard language as the verbal practices of a human group. Speech is just the way individuals of that group engage in these practices. If you examine the ontogeny of reason and logic in children, I think you will find that a significant part of what is called intelligence can be attributed to the verbal practices of human societies. If other species of animals have culture, they have it to the extent of their verbal abilities. Our cumulative culture is bound to our verbal abilities. Otherwise, why do we still have people who believe in a flat earth or how is it that people today are still informed by texts that were written thousands of years ago? They are maintained by the continuing verbal practices of human groups. The verbal practices of a human group don't just include sounds (if speech) and grammar, they also include what is talked about with those sounds and grammar.


Tell me, Uzza, if this kind of vision of core of Language is silly


Raymond Weitzman

So is your comment.

Raymond Weitzman

Tell me is the core of "Language" radioactive?

Raymond Weitzman

On second thought, maybe the core of "Language" is what is left after the apple is eaten.

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