What would human life be like without language?

Esmeralda

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Nothingness

I woke up at night and my language was gone
No sign of language no writing no alphabet
nor symbol nor word in any tongue
and raw was my fear—like the terror perhaps
of a man flung from a treetop far above the ground
a shipwrecked person on a tide-engulfed sandbank
a pilot whose parachute would not open
or the fear of a stone in a bottomless pit
and the fright was unvoiced unlettered unuttered
and inarticulate O how inarticulate
and I was alone in the dark
a non-I in the all-pervading gloom
with no grasp no leaning point
everything stripped of everything
and the sound was speechless and voiceless
and I was naught and nothing
without even a gibbet to hang onto
without a single peg to hang onto
and I no longer knew who or what I was
and I was no more

~Aharon Amir, translated from the Hebrew by Abraham Birman
How might it be among our worst nightmares to wake up and find language gone?
How important is language to human beings?
The poem implies that we are dead the minute we lose language. In what way(s) is this true?
Having once acquired a language, is it ever possible for us really to stop talking? Once we
take on a language, can we ever really lose it?
If languages are systems of symbols, if one takes the symbol away, does not the thing itself remain?
 

Unkotare

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The point is that we would no longer be human.


And no, you could not take it away.
 

midcan5

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"You learned the concept 'pain' when you learned language." Ludwig Wittgenstein

Interesting speculative idea but all animals use some form of language. Anyone with a dog understands it after a while, and the dog understands a lot of words. Ears are an interesting evolutionary product. But consider the use of language as agitprop or the limits of language and that limit on what we know? That is the area in which the mind and the person exists.

State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax | World news | theguardian.com

"The limits of my language are the limits of my mind. All I know is what I have words for." Ludwig Wittgenstein


"When we survey our lives and endeavours, we soon observe that almost the whole of our actions and desires is bound up with the existence of other human beings. We notice that our whole nature resembles that of the social animals. We eat food that others have produced, wear clothes that others have made, live in houses that others have built. The greater part of our knowledge and beliefs has been communicated to us by other people through the medium of a language which others have created. Without language our mental capacities would be poor indeed, comparable to those of the higher animals; we have, therefore, to admit that we owe our principal advantage over the beasts to the fact of living in human society. The individual, if left alone from birth, would remain primitive and beastlike in his thoughts and feelings to a degree that we can hardly conceive." Albert Einstein


"Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation." Noam Chomsky


"The world does not speak. Only we do. The world can, once we have programmed ourselves with a language, cause us to hold beliefs. But it cannot propose a language for us to speak. Only other human beings can do that." Richard Rorty


"Language is legislation, speech is its code. We do not see the power which is in speech because we forget that all speech is a classification, and that all classifications are oppressive." Roland Barthes
 

dblack

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"You learned the concept 'pain' when you learned language." Ludwig Wittgenstein

Interesting speculative idea but all animals use some form of language. Anyone with a dog understands it after a while, and the dog understands a lot of words. Ears are an interesting evolutionary product. But consider the use of language as agitprop or the limits of language and that limit on what we know? That is the area in which the mind and the person exists.
And one might argue that's exactly why we're willing to credit dogs with a degree of consciousness.

One of the more interesting ideas for how intelligence and consciousness evolved posits the notion of 'auto-stimulation' as the source of thought. The idea being that the simplest kind of reaction would be for a brain to respond 'instinctively' to a sound. Perhaps the warning bark of a fellow pack member, for example. A brain could evolve to respond to different types of signals in different ways - to flee from danger, seek out food, etc...

But how might a brain respond to it's own signals? - I don't have a lot of time today, but that sort of gives the basic idea. That suggestion is that thought began as the process of responding to our own auditory signals. Get enough feedback going on there and you have a conscious thinking brain.
 
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Unkotare

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Interesting speculative idea but all animals use some form of language.

No, all animals (and others) use some form of communication. Only humans use language.
 

midcan5

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""Chasing Doctor Dolittle" is an easy read. Organized into nine chapters including "What is language?", "A New Theory of Language", "Let Me Love You", "Back off!", and "What's the Big Deal?" Slobodchikoff shows that we are not the only animals who use language. In addition to charming and highly verbal and linguistic prairie dogs, other animals including bees, squid, birds, bats, monkeys, whales possess languages of varying complexity. Prairie dogs, for example, have different alarm calls for the various predators who try to eat them, can describe the color of clothes, and can communicate about the body style (tall, thin, or short) of a human being. "

Dr. Dolittle To the Rescue: Animals Do Indeed Have Language | Psychology Today
 

Unkotare

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""Chasing Doctor Dolittle" is an easy read. Organized into nine chapters including "What is language?", "A New Theory of Language", "Let Me Love You", "Back off!", and "What's the Big Deal?" Slobodchikoff shows that we are not the only animals who use language. In addition to charming and highly verbal and linguistic prairie dogs, other animals including bees, squid, birds, bats, monkeys, whales possess languages of varying complexity. Prairie dogs, for example, have different alarm calls for the various predators who try to eat them, can describe the color of clothes, and can communicate about the body style (tall, thin, or short) of a human being. "

Dr. Dolittle To the Rescue: Animals Do Indeed Have Language | Psychology Today


Wrong Dolittle book. For something accessible to the lay reader but more accurate regarding the topic, try this one:

[ame=http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Dolittles-Delusion-Uniqueness-Language/dp/0300115253/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386684981&sr=8-1&keywords=Dr.+Dolittle+linguistics]Doctor Dolittle's Delusion: Animals and the Uniqueness of Human Language: Stephen R. Anderson: 9780300115253: Amazon.com: Books[/ame]

All animals communicate, but only humans really use language.
 

Peterf

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Interesting speculative idea but all animals use some form of language.

No, all animals (and others) use some form of communication. Only humans use language.
Isn't all communication a form of language?
No. A language can express any idea or emotion, describe any scene or object. None of the very many kinds of communication used by other animals remotely fulfills these criteria.
 
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Esmeralda

Esmeralda

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No, all animals (and others) use some form of communication. Only humans use language.
Isn't all communication a form of language?
No. A language can express any idea or emotion, describe any scene or object. None of the very many kinds of communication used by other animals remotely fulfills these criteria.
It seems to me the idea of language you describe makes you feel superior to other living beings.

No one is trying to say other animals are equal to humans or the same as humans; that's not the point of the discussion.

So you are saying only a method of communication that has symbols, letters, an alphabet, is language. However, scientists tell us that body language accounts for most of human communication, and body language does not have an alphabet.
 

Unkotare

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Isn't all communication a form of language?
No. A language can express any idea or emotion, describe any scene or object. None of the very many kinds of communication used by other animals remotely fulfills these criteria.
It seems to me the idea of language you describe makes you feel superior to other living beings. .

In this sense, we are. In a variety of other ways, humans are inferior to other living beings.
 

Unkotare

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No one is trying to say other animals are equal to humans or the same as humans; that's not the point of the discussion.

It's not a matter of an agenda, it's just that "language" actually means something.
 

Unkotare

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So you are saying only a method of communication that has symbols, letters, an alphabet, is language. However, scientists tell us that body language accounts for most of human communication, and body language does not have an alphabet.



A writing system is not the only, or a necessary, component of language. "Body language" is a figure of speech, not an actual language.
 

Lipush

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I woke up at night and my language was gone
No sign of language no writing no alphabet
nor symbol nor word in any tongue
and raw was my fear—like the terror perhaps
of a man flung from a treetop far above the ground
a shipwrecked person on a tide-engulfed sandbank
a pilot whose parachute would not open
or the fear of a stone in a bottomless pit
and the fright was unvoiced unlettered unuttered
and inarticulate O how inarticulate
and I was alone in the dark
a non-I in the all-pervading gloom
with no grasp no leaning point
everything stripped of everything
and the sound was speechless and voiceless
and I was naught and nothing
without even a gibbet to hang onto
without a single peg to hang onto
and I no longer knew who or what I was
and I was no more

~Aharon Amir, translated from the Hebrew by Abraham Birman
How might it be among our worst nightmares to wake up and find language gone?
How important is language to human beings?
The poem implies that we are dead the minute we lose language. In what way(s) is this true?
Having once acquired a language, is it ever possible for us really to stop talking? Once we
take on a language, can we ever really lose it?
If languages are systems of symbols, if one takes the symbol away, does not the thing itself remain?
There is no such thing as 'without language'.

Behavior is language. Emotions are language.

Words and letters are the most primitive 'language' of all.

Most creatures on earth today don't use them.

Deaf-mute can see past it.
 

Peterf

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Isn't all communication a form of language?
No. A language can express any idea or emotion, describe any scene or object. None of the very many kinds of communication used by other animals remotely fulfills these criteria.
It seems to me the idea of language you describe makes you feel superior to other living beings.

No one is trying to say other animals are equal to humans or the same as humans; that's not the point of the discussion.

So you are saying only a method of communication that has symbols, letters, an alphabet, is language. However, scientists tell us that body language accounts for most of human communication, and body language does not have an alphabet.
"So you are saying ..... " followed by a lot of things that I did NOT say. I think there may be a word for this particular sort of lie.

Complex ideas can be expressed in words, spoken words. They need not be written down. And they cannot be communicated using body language alone.

Yep. When it comes to language even you, Esmeralda, is indeed "superior to other living beings".
 

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