Scent of new-mown hay

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AuthorTopic: Scent of new-mown hay
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #50
One lone deaf child, growing up without any instruction in communication, will be lucky to learn to communicate at all. The known cases of 'wolf children' raised without language weren't deaf, but they never learned to speak as adults at even a childish level.

A community of deaf children, growing up without anyone to teach them to communicate, spontaneously develops a new sign language. One appeared this way in Guatemala something like ten years ago. It made the careers of the lucky students doing their linguistics PhDs on it.

Sign languages are fully fledged human languages, with grammatical structures that fit fine in current linguistic theory. They bear no relation to the spoken languages of the regions where they are used.

Kelandon is right: it was Nicaragua, not Guatemala.

[ Friday, July 22, 2005 04:27: Message edited by: Student of Trinity ]

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Off With Their Heads
Member # 4045
Profile Homepage #51
I read it was Nicaragua, but close enough. That's an extremely interesting example in itself — it must bear some relation to the question of how and when language arose among humans, which I think is a very interesting one indeed.

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Arancaytar: Every time you ask people to compare TM and Kel, you endanger the poor, fluffy kittens.
Smoo: Get ready to face the walls!
Ephesos: In conclusion, yarr.

Kelandon's Pink and Pretty Page!!: the authorized location for all things by me
The Archive of all released BoE scenarios ever
Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
Profile Homepage #52
Of course sign language is a language. My deaf comment wasn't meant to suggest that the deaf can't think, but that someone who hasn't yet learned language can't (since a deaf child is more likely to grow up without learning language: babies learn spoken language because they grow up with it, but some deaf babies must not be constantly around sign language). (That was a long parenthetical!) Anyway, the wolf children make a better example, because they show that after some critical age language cannot be learned. Has anyone determined how they think? If they are capable of the same level of thought as a linguistic human, then thought is independent of language.

I can't think of any good ways to test this, myself. We have enough trouble defining thought and types of thought. What kind of thinking or reasoning requires language and what kind does not? How can you tell if someone is thinking but unable to communicate those thoughts or not thinking as we are at all? Besides, I still believe, with no evidence, that even those who are entirely unfamiliar with interpersonal communication have some kind of thought process. Would various scans back me up?

—Alorael, who could see the thought-language connection as a clear advantage for the deaf. They are often obliged to learn two languages: some form of sign language for obvious reasons and the written form of the local spoken language for equally obvious reasons. Since sign language and written language need not and often do not have any linguistic ties, such a person has two entirely unrelated languages in which to think. Moreover, for what it's worth, the languages aren't even similar in medium. SWH proposes that predisposes you to stupidity.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
Off With Their Heads
Member # 4045
Profile Homepage #53
Well, we run mice through mazes to find food in order to test their intelligence. I imagine it would be possible to do the same with humans, although the humanitarian concerns might be a problem.

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Arancaytar: Every time you ask people to compare TM and Kel, you endanger the poor, fluffy kittens.
Smoo: Get ready to face the walls!
Ephesos: In conclusion, yarr.

Kelandon's Pink and Pretty Page!!: the authorized location for all things by me
The Archive of all released BoE scenarios ever
Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
Profile Homepage #54
We already know that mice can manage mazes. I think even a language-lacking human could manage it, and I'm not sure how well the results would correlate with intelligence. Otherwise I'm sure we'd all stop with the absurdity of IQ testing and just send people through mazes on cheese hunts.

—Alorael, who would actually consider cheese a much better reward than a number of two or three digits which one can bear as a mark of shame or pride forever. You can't eat shame and nobody wants to eat pride, but cheese can be delicious.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
Triad Mage
Member # 7
Profile Homepage #55
Language does not have to be spoken or even highly organized. I'd imagine that "wolf children" are able to communicate somewhat with the wolves through a series of gestures or howls, which counts as language in my book.

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Posts: 9436 | Registered: Wednesday, September 19 2001 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #56
The website of these linguists at Maine explains that deaf children raised in hearing environments develop 'homesign' proto-languages, and thus do learn to communicate, with varying degrees of effectiveness. I've only ever heard of two cases where 'wolf children' were studied, and one was a century ago or so. In the second case the term is a misnomer, but the point is that a girl was essentially raised in solitary confinement to the age of twelve or so, and never learned language. Since situations like this amount to monstrous child abuse, there is little data. (The case of this poor girl was not an experiment! Her father was a monster, and she was removed from his custody once she was discovered.)

I used to know more about all these things, but it has faded to the point where I'd be googling the same as anyone else, so I'll shut up.

[ Friday, July 22, 2005 06:26: Message edited by: Student of Trinity ]

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
By Committee
Member # 4233
Profile #57
quote:
Originally written by Ash Lael:

English bugs me. It's a stupid language.
Stupid is as stupid does.
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00
Off With Their Heads
Member # 4045
Profile Homepage #58
Alorael: I think the point of the mazes was to test the rate of learning. They'll use the same maze layout several times and see how long it takes for the mice to memorize the path. Then they'll use a different layout and try it again.

So it's not a test of whether they can do it or not; it's how quickly, and whether they learn.

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Arancaytar: Every time you ask people to compare TM and Kel, you endanger the poor, fluffy kittens.
Smoo: Get ready to face the walls!
Ephesos: In conclusion, yarr.

Kelandon's Pink and Pretty Page!!: the authorized location for all things by me
The Archive of all released BoE scenarios ever
Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
Lack of Vision
Member # 2717
Profile #59
I think the point is that language acts as a limit to thought - not that it is thinking itself. For instance, I know when my cats are hungry (meaning, they're brains are telling them it's time for breakfast) because they come over and meow and me and stomp on my head until I feed them. I know, for instance, that at some Zoos, the animals are mistreated because they're look sometimes angry and sometimes depressed. Of course wolf children can think, but they can't compose a poem or prove a geometric theorem, because they lack the vocabulary to do so. Thus, it represents the limits of their thought.

In other words - the limits of what one can think about are indeed defined by their language. But obviously, one can be a wolf child or a cheese runner, and think at about the level required to join SW.

Z

[ Friday, July 22, 2005 08:58: Message edited by: Zorro ]

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Pan Lever: Seventeen apple roving mirror moiety. Of turned quorum jaggedly the. Blue?
Posts: 186 | Registered: Thursday, February 27 2003 08:00
By Committee
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Profile #60
You know, it's actually difficult for me to conceptualize thinking without words now. I wonder whether this is actually more enabling or more inhibiting...

[ Friday, July 22, 2005 08:59: Message edited by: Drew ]
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00
Shaper
Member # 73
Profile #61
Some people, like myself, can think visually, you know. You don't need language to do that.

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Posts: 2957 | Registered: Thursday, October 4 2001 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
Profile Homepage #62
I was trying to envision (wrong word, but bear with me) thinking without ever having been able to see or hear. I can't do it. I can't even imagine it.

Kel: I think you could put me in a maze with directions written on the wall and, after three years of constantly going through, I'd still make wrong turns more often than right turns. More pertinently, I'm not sure how much speed of learning is related to "verbal" thinking. That could be another test entirely.

—Alorael, who supposes getting informed consent for wolf children is difficult, since "informed" means you've already spoiled the experiment. Actually, "consent" means the experiment is spoiled too.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
By Committee
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Profile #63
Well, there's the classic example of Helen Keller, who can't see or hear, though she could when she was very little before the fever (I believe this was the reason) took her senses, so she had those recollections to draw on, once she started getting the associations.

Lacking all context (no sensation at all), I reckon thinking as we conceptualize it would be impossible.
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00
? Man, ? Amazing
Member # 5755
Profile #64
Perhaps we evolved these spaces between our ears because we were so dependant on our senses for survival that we needed the extra processing power to use that sensory input. Experiments have shown that areas in the brain grow/become more active when stimulated in a certain way (ie. playing chess) over a long period of time. Perhaps the reverse is true as well, and if deprived of sensory input the human brain would evolve into a smaller organ.

*this message sponsored by the sensory deprivation research and torture chamber company*

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quote:
Originally written by Kelandon:

Well, I'm at least pretty sure that Salmon is losing.


Posts: 4114 | Registered: Monday, April 25 2005 07:00
Skip to My Lou
Member # 40
Profile Homepage #65
It seems to me that we "think" in words, images, etc. because that is the frame of reference we are accustomed to. If we were to gain a new sense, we very likely would add its perceptions to our thought process. Thus, thought is dictated by perception. It is necessarily so because thought depends upon having a subject and subjects must be percieved in some way in order for the mind to register their existence. In the absence of external perception, we would have to "think" in terms of what we percieved internally. Which, I suppose, answers nothing, only changes the question a bit. Does purely internal perception occur and thus form an internal frame of reference? Does the mind, by itself, have enough difference between its internal parts to comprehend that a subject exists?

[ Friday, July 22, 2005 16:39: Message edited by: Archmage Alex ]

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Posts: 1629 | Registered: Wednesday, October 3 2001 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
Profile Homepage #66
My thoughts are framed as communication, not perception. I can imagine feelings, smells, and tastes, but I can't think in them. With only those senses, you'd have to think in them. I imagine that Hellen Keller eventually thought in the hand speech she learned, but what about before that? Did she ever describe it?

—Alorael, who will now try to develop a pheremone language in which he can think. [i]Fresh bread - wood smoke - skunk - grass after rain? Rotting log - dirty fish tank - McDonalds!
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
Skip to My Lou
Member # 40
Profile Homepage #67
Your thoughts may be formed for the purpose of communication, but they are formed of words, images, etc. or abstract concepts. I suppose the existence of abstracts could be used as a form of proof of existence of thought that cannot be completely communicated by our perceptive manner.

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Posts: 1629 | Registered: Wednesday, October 3 2001 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #68
There's that famous bit of Proust's, which must be rather better known than his enormous big itself, which has something about madeleines and tea triggering some memory ... can't remember exactly how it went, because I have no madeleines handy.

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By Committee
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Profile #69
The new title for this thread reminded me of the character Benji from The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner, which in turn reminded me of this. Anyone who's read Faulkner will likely enjoy it. :)
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Triad Mage
Member # 7
Profile Homepage #70
The South Beach Diet Online! Get your free diet profile!

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"At times discretion should be thrown aside, and with the foolish we should play the fool." - Menander
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Posts: 9436 | Registered: Wednesday, September 19 2001 07:00
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Hmm. I'm pretty sure the link should take you to "The Administration and the Fury" at slate.com...
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #72
It does, and it was great, but there was a prominent ad for the SBD. Ya gotta wonder what Faulkner would have thought about it.

I don't mean the slightest criticism of Drew for passing on such a pitch-perfect parody, but I am a bit surprised at how vehement many people are in their belief that George W. Bush is stupid. Bush commits a lot more verbal bloopers than gifted stand-up public speakers like Bill Clinton, and he's no intellectual. But that ain't stupid. I think he's wrong about some important things, too, but that's not stupid, either. It's a sad truth, but you
learn it well from working with brilliant people, that smart people can still be wrong.

I guess this bothers me enough to comment on because of a personality quirk of mine: it offends me whenever someone trivializes a complex issue. Any complex issue -- I get riled when a physics paper I'm refereeing takes a trivial approach to a complex problem. And so it bothers me if Bush's opponents just chalk his policies up to stupidity, since it means that they are refusing to acknowledge the opposing case. And especially if the policies in question are in fact wrong, this is a shame, because I don't believe that you can ever beat the devil in the long run without giving him his every due.

PLEASE NOTE: I am NOT trying to initiate a partisan discussion. I'm not that interested: I'm a Canadian, and I'll let the Americans govern themselves. Leaving entirely aside the issue of whether ot not Bush is right or wrong on any particular issue, I'm interested in why those who think him wrong seem to attribute his errors to stupidity. In other words, I'M NOT INTERESTED IN BUSH, BUT IN THE POLITICAL CONCEPT OF INTELLIGENCE. Sorry for shouting, but I really don't want to start a flame war ...

[ Thursday, July 28, 2005 04:50: Message edited by: Student of Trinity ]

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Shock Trooper
Member # 3898
Profile #73
A small addition to SoT's point (which I quite definetely agree with) is that when people call Bush stupid, they aren't always saying "Bush is less intelligent than the average person". Often they are, but sometimes they are saying "Bush's actions are bad". However, English does not have a blanket adjective for bad, wrong, incorrect, etc, that also includes the sense of dissaproval that "stupid" does. It's the same with "gay" when used as an insult. If I say "World of Warcraft is gay", I don't think that a computer game has a sexual orientation. I just think that World of Warcraft is a bad computer game. But "bad" doesn't pack the same punch that "gay" or "stupid" do.

[ Thursday, July 28, 2005 06:09: Message edited by: Dim mnikr = Dallerdin As String ]

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I think Bush's frequent verbal bloopers, his demonstrated lack of knowledge of international affairs and events prior to being elected, his apparent inability to answer questions on the spot, and other incidents that have befallen him that may plague us everyday but are especially funny when they occur amongst the rich and powerful - I'm thinking of the pretzel choking incident, here - are what have cultivated the reputation of stupidity. It's probably unfounded, however, I do desperately wish he could speak on the spot well - it would inspire a lot more confidence in him, I reckon.

More later from me (possibly post-wedding) on Stupidity and Politics.

[ Thursday, July 28, 2005 09:01: Message edited by: Drew ]
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00

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