23. Language | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "23. Language".



Intro (00:00)

Stanford University. >> Let's get started. We switch to our next subject where the overall plan could be summarized like that, as you well know by now. Looking at language, looking at the biological roots of the interactions with environment, all the deal that we have under our belts by now.

Principles And Nuances Of Language

Language Properties and Recording (00:35)

Same strategy as usual, starting off with the behavior and then working our way back. First off, two announcements before I forget. One is we're not going to have a lecture on depression. The remaining lectures will be Wednesday at Schizophrenia. Friday is biology of religion, and the following Wednesday is the final lecture, personality disorders, individual differences. And apropos of that, not positive at the moment, but I'm leaning towards the last two lectures and not being taped for a number of reasons. Okay, also one final point from Wednesday from Friday's lecture, the complexity one, back to that business, swarm intelligence, and being able to solve the traveling salesman problem for you with remarkable efficiency. That business again about how the cortex wires up, that two generation business of cells, the first cells being those radial glia, that establish sort of a superstructure, the second generation then being the neurons did do the random wandering, hit and grow up there, and then wire up in these sort of optimal nodes. What you also get is a version, and, again, that is solving the traveling salesman problem. If you think about it, if you've got a, you know, 20, 30 billion cortical neurons there and all of them are wiring up to like 10,000 other neurons, depending on how efficiently you pack it, you could have a hundred gazillion miles of axons that you have to grow, or just a couple of kilometers worth. And again, the pressure is to come up with the traveling salesman efficiency, to be able to pull off the wiring that you want with the minimal amount of expenditure of axons, and what you see when you look at the way the cortex does wire up, people working on this showing remarkably efficient solutions coming out of that brain's equivalent of doing swarm intelligence. Okay, so language, language, starting off with our usual strategy, starting off with what the behaviors look like, and the place to begin is with some of the universals of language across all the different human languages, approximately 6,000 of them, and all sorts of depressing news about that to come. First off, something that they all have in common is semanticity. The notion that there is an endless array, an infinite array of sounds that could be generated by voices, a sounds, and what all languages do is bucket them as per usual, break up this continuous of sounds into units of meaning, and where meaning corresponds to a unit itself. The notion of that being, parrot people will hear more about later, Mark Houser, Noam Chomsky, pointing out that even though you can generate an infinite number of words, you can never generate 6.5 words. That's part of what semanticity is about. Not only do you break continuous of sounds into buckets of meaning, but they are discrete buckets, you cannot have partial words. Also, what else is universal to languages? The possibility of embedded clauses, and ones that get considerably more complicated, all languages not only have A, can do B, but they all have A under this condition, but not under that condition, and sometimes on Tuesdays, when never on Thursdays, can do B. All of them will have embedded clauses like that, that being a universal. What else? All of them show recursion, which is a really important property. Old term for it would be something like generativity, which is all languages have a finite number of words, and all languages have the potential to generate an infinite number of combinations. And all you have to do to see that is come up with what you believe is the longest sentence in all of history, and all you have to do is put at the beginning of it, Bill said that blah, blah. And once that's there, then you have to have Jane said that Bill said that, and thus you have an infinite generativity, all languages finite number of words, infinite number of combinations.

Arbitrarness of Language (04:53)

What else? Very important feature of human language when we get to comparing it with animal communication displacement. We can talk about stuff from the past. We can talk about stuff from the future. We can talk about stuff on the other side of the planet. We can talk about things that are emotionally distant from us. And as we'll see with animals, the overwhelming majority of animal communication is about emotion. I am upset. I am angry. I am afraid. I am horny. I am hungry. I am whatever it is. Humans instead can talk about chest strategies. Displacement, displacement from emotion. Related to that, there's arbitrariness of language. What do I mean by this? In virtually any animal species that is communicating, for example, I am terrified out of my mind. It's going to involve something resembling that species equivalent of screaming, screaming and emoting loudly and saying, "Ah, are some equivalent of that?" We are able to say, "I am feeling a deeply corrosive sense of disquietude at the moment." We don't have the actual words being tied inextricably into their meaning. You cannot look at a word and say, "Whoa, that word has an awful lot of right angles and the letters there. It must be a word that tells you something about this type of philosophy." It's arbitrary relationship between the signal and the message. That is universal to human languages. What else is universal? The ability to have this lecture, meta-communication, to communicate about communication, to be able to step back from language and discuss it in and of itself. One extreme version of it is to have people who devote their times to inventing language. Two examples. One is the French have some national institution which is meant to save the French language from the sullying effects of words from all sorts of other languages. They make all sorts of rulings as to what words are now allowed to become French. I don't know what they decided about the Big Mac, whether that came in. This is a body that studies and decides what words should be part of its language. Similarly, there is a college in Washington, D.C. called Gholadet College, which is for deaf individuals and it's Ground Zero for American Sign Language. It's the place where some band of sign language elder PUBAS sit around and decide on new words in that language. As we'll see, that's not a very effective strategy, but nonetheless, that is meta-communication.

Motherese (07:33)

Every single language has the ability to talk about language. Every single language and its practitioners use motheries. Use baby talk. Baby talk, where typically the mother but not exclusively so, will speak to a child in a high-pitched voice, emphasizing melodic and vowel aspects of it, repeating phrases, focusing very closely in on the baby's face. All of these languages have motheries. The question becomes, is motheries about emotion or is it about instruction? What you see is some real similarities between motheries and how people often talk to their pets. You're usually not trying to teach your pets how to speak your native language. One difference though, with speaking to pets, you get the repetitive high-pitched voice stuff. You don't get the close clarity. You do not make a point of making the sound slowly and clearly you are not teaching your dog language there. So that is a difference. Nonetheless, in every single language, you get motheries. Next, you have what's going to be an issue throughout. When trying to make sense of the biology of this, when we're looking at what's going on with brain, that sort of thing is language in those cases, what you're doing with your lips, your larynx, your throat, is language mostly about the motoric aspects. This is a system involving the generation of sound and the reception of sound, or is it more about cognition?

American sign language (09:02)

Is it more about the conceptual structure? And the general view in the field is it's overwhelmingly about the latter. And some of the strongest evidence for that comes from sign languages, American Sign Language. American Sign Language, which shows all sorts of very subtle, deep properties that are similar to spoken language, emit it not being a spoken language, and emit using completely different systems in the brain. One example of this. You look at babies who are born deaf and will be learning American Sign Language and right around the age that hearing infants begin to babble with their spoken language, deaf babies begin to babble in American Sign Language and are starting to make signs with that. Just like hearing babies, they tend to babble the most before going to sleep. It's the same property. There is not a rule that says somewhere around nine months of age begin making sounds that are fragments of stuff you've been hearing. Somewhere around nine months of age begin to practice fragments of whatever communicative system you are being exposed to. Similar evidence that language is about the cognitive structure and not about lips and tongue when older individuals who are native speakers of American Sign Language happen to have a stroke, they can get the exact same sort of communication disorders in sign language that speaking individuals do. We'll see that in more detail what some of these pathologies look like. It's coded for in very similar parts of the brain. Both spoken language and sign language have something called "prosity" which we will hear more about. "Prosity" is not the words in the language. "Prosity" is the tone. What you're doing with your face. What you're doing with your hands, the gestures, your body posture, all the things that are communicated through those routes there. All the things which virtually by definition, e-mail you can't do "prosity" beyond little smiley face things. That's about the limits of "prosity". You find "prosity" in American Sign Language. People doing very different facial expressions. One classic example of sign language "prosity" is if somebody in American Sign Language is describing a conversation between two people, they will subtly shift their body as they're going from one person to the other there. This is "prosity", this is reinforcing the information, this is a dialogue. That this is exactly what spoken language people do in terms of that. "Prosity" is the same thing in American Sign Language. Next, amazing evidence from ASL, American Sign Language, that this is about cognition, not about lips and tongue, what makes it for language, which is you look at someone who is born deaf and where ASL is their native language, and when you are signing to them, their auditory cortex activates.

Sign languages (12:03)

The same regions that do some of the initial processing of hearing language, that's again about the deep concepts within. More evidence, you get accents in American Sign Language, and apparently this consists of different speeds, slurring, that sort of thing, and there's regional accents in ASL, and I have no idea if it matches in some ways the accents of the spoken English there. My guess is no, but you have accents there. You have poetry in American Sign Language, where you will have a sign that is some movement followed by this movement, and I'm obviously just making this up, and then you can have this movement followed by the same movement, that counts as rhyming words. You get poetry in American Sign Language, and you get storage of American Sign Language when it is a second language in the same sorts of regions of the cortex as when people get a second spoken language. This is not merely about languages, what you do with sounds and hearing, languages instead about the underlying cognitive structures. Okay, cool thing, if you ever start learning American Sign Language, almost certainly somewhere on the first day, they're going to show you what a cool language it is by teaching you the following word. This is always the first word you need to learn in American Sign Language. Okay, just to show you, building back to that, this is the word for milk. Okay, you can kind of see some iconic stuff going on there as to this means milk. So what does this word mean in American Sign Language? Who said that? How do you know, do you know it already? Oh my God, how's that? Identical twins separated birth, do you flush the toilet before you go? Okay, yes, giving it away, past your eyes milk. Oh, oh, can you believe that? You better get to folks at that goal at college when out and celebrated the rest of the day when somebody came up with that one. Yes, you can have puns in American Sign Language. Yeah, it's you and me there with the pasteurized milk sign. Yes, the very first thing you learn in most cases, this is a real language. You have emotion, you have physical prosody, you have accents, you have puns, you have poetry, and it's got nothing to do with lips and tongue. And as we'll see more and more here about the neurobiology of it, it will be more and more evidence for that.

Neurobiology Brain (14:35)

Thus, we now shift over to the neurobiology. What's going on in the brain in terms of language production, language comprehension? Right off the bat, there is this sort of irritating debate that goes on the field, which is how modular of a function is language in the brain, which is another way of saying, neurobiologically, how fancy and separate is language from the rest of the cognitive stuff that the cortex does.

Is Language Context (14:59)

And what we certainly just argued with ASL is insofar as language might be an isolated, a relatively isolated module, it's sure not a module that's very concerned about tongues and ears, it's about the cognitive element, how different are the cortical devices devoted to making sense of language different from the other cortical regions. And at one extreme, there's a view that talks about the cortex of the brain as a Swiss army knife, that it has all these separate little functions, language being one of the most isolated, identifiable ones, my sense, and I know next to nothing about it, is that this argument doesn't stand up. Here's the two things that people always cite when discussing how much is language a courtically modular function. First one is the disease we heard about the other week, that rheum syndrome. And that's that strange genetic disorder of you have these kids who are wildly verbal and expressive and warm and affectionate and have a weird vasopressin, oxytocin world going on with them, they're extremely adept with language, yet they typically have IQs in the borderline retarded range around 70 or so. Whoa, how can you have functional language amid everything else being a mess? This is an argument for language as a distinct module. Conversely, you have things called specific language impairments, which are also heritable disorders where you have individuals where you have pedigrees, where people have a huge amount of time producing language, comprehending language, and this is not sensory problems, this is amid people having perfectly normal IQs. Ooh, separate module. The arguments that both the Williams and the selective language impairment sort of disorders argue for a module breaks down with the fact that when you look at language in the Williams kids, they're very fluent and very generative of words, but there's not a huge amount of meaning in there, and likewise the people with the specific language impairments, it's turning out, it's usually not in the normal IQ range in these individuals.

Neuorobiology of Language (17:13)

So I think generally there's this pretty strong argument against language being a strict module, nonetheless people who actually think about this for a living as opposed to spout off, this is a very, very controversial issue. More. The next most characteristic thing about the neurobiology of language is it's lateralized. Lateralization of brain function, the notion that somewhere in your cortex, your cortex could be doing something or other and it turns out that it will only do that something or other on one side of your brain. There will be specializations on different sides of the brain. That goes back to last Friday, that's one of the ways you got to solve the traveling salesman problem. If you have these massive numbers of neurons in the cortex, you got to start inventing lateralization to save yourself some axons, and it's not until you get to monkeys and apes that you see substantial amounts of lateralization. Human brain lateralization for language is probably the most distinctive lateralization we've got other than handedness. And for that we begin to look at the relevant brain regions going on here. How first do you see that brain regions, that language production, language comprehension, is carried out by only one side of the brain? Our usual ever reliable research technique, which is getting people whose heads are damaged and accidents or warfare and seeing you get damage on one side of the head and people are far more likely to get language problems afterward than the other. What turns out to be the case is about 90% of people have language lateralized to the left side of their brain. As we'll see, not so fast, it's not that clean, but nonetheless you begin to see them. Another test, another way of seeing that which is considerably more subtle than somebody getting their head bashed in is something called the WADA test. The WADA test where, weirdly enough, you would not set the ties one half of somebody's brain. You infuse anesthetic into one of the carotids and you put one hemisphere to sleep. And what you see is you do it on the left side and the most people, they lose their language production. And you do it on the other side and other stuff disappears. Whoa, that must be a fun thing to do at parties. When does this happen? First off, it is very brief at last for only a few minutes or so until the anesthetic clears. But what you do that for is in circumstances where somebody has intractable epilepsy and they're going to go in and cut out part of the cortex in cases where it is cortically localized. And if it's near what might be the language center of the brain, they go in and they do a WADA test first to see is this person doing language on the left side or right side. If it's the side where we're doing the surgery, we've got to be that much more conservative in terms of getting this out, getting the tumor out, whatever. It gives you a sense of whether that's going for the language center. And what you do is the person is sitting there and they're supposed to be reading or you're reciting something to them and they're supposed to be writing it down or some such language you think and you infuse a barbitch to it into one carotid and suddenly ten seconds later they can't speak or they're not understanding language and you've now identified that that's the side with the language lateralization. I'm not sure about my guess would be that the WADA test is going to disappear soon because you could do it just with brain imaging. You look at someone, you give them some sort of linguistic something or other and if one side of the cortex activates preferentially in the areas we're about to hear about, you've just identified the side.

Relevant Areas (21:05)

So the relevant areas very broadly, there are three regions in the brain, the cortex that are most pertinent to language. First one is called Broca's area. Broca's area which is sitting on the cortex in a region called the parietal lobe and simply what it is is it's the bottom most part of the strip of the cortex that does motoric stuff, moving your body. And by the time you're getting down here, what this is about is moving your lips, moving your earrings, language production. We've already seen it's not just going to be about that if people with American sign language get a stroke here and they get problems producing this but nonetheless on a first crude pass, it's a part of the cortex devoted to motoric regulation of lips, tongues, throat, larynx, etc. So what happens when you get damaged there? General term and aphasia. Aphasia is the broad neurological term for being unable to communicate effectively because of a neurological hit. You get a broken's aphasia, a production aphasia. This is someone who now has a great deal of trouble generating meaningful words, meaningful messages. It comes out haltingly. The actual content can be quite impaired. Amid them being relatively good at comprehending. Then, just south of there, you've got this area called vernikis area, again named for famous poo-bond that area and this is right near some primary auditory cortex.

What's Vonakis About (22:54)

What's vernikis about? Of course, obviously it's about language comprehension. And you get someone with stroke damage to there. You get a vernikis aphasia and you get someone who just is fluently generating of language they can't comprehend. They can't comprehend directions. Put your right hand on your left, whatever, that sort of thing. But what you also see is they're very fluently generating language that often makes no sense whatsoever because they are not comprehending anything spoken around them. They produce what is often called a vegetable salad, a language salad. Somebody knows? Word salad. Yes! Okay, you guys come down and teach this. I'm going to go back there and check my emails. Okay, so word salad. So you've got vernikis, you've got brokis, you've got vernikis aphasia, you've got bokas aphasia, and then you've got this area, the archuit fasciculus, which was not named for somebody named Archuit fasciculus, but it's the bundle, it's the set of projections, the axons connecting vernikis with brokis.

The Arcae Fasiculus (23:54)

So what's that about? It's about connecting comprehension to language production. In theory, if you had an absolutely pure wiping out of the Archuit fasciculus and both these guys were completely intact, you would get somebody who could completely understand language, you could give them complex instructions, what to do, they would be able to follow it. This would be somebody who could produce language perfectly, say anything they want to. This would be someone who is incapable of going from vernikis comprehension to production, you could not successfully say to the person, "Say the word cat." They could not connect this auditory command to production there. So that would be a pure archuit fasciculus damage, not surprisingly you hardly ever see anybody with stroke damage causing an aphasia where it's cleanly only in one of these areas. Almost everyone who gets an aphasia has some sort of mixed brokis, vernikis, connection, conduction, aphasia there, it's always a mess. And in the past, but I don't think we have time for this year, I would bring in a tape to listen to a number of different types of individuals with aphasia's post stroke hearing a relatively pure brokis, a relatively pure vernikis, but those are quite rare.

Whats American Sign Lanuage (25:32)

Okay, so those are some of the relevant brain regions, production. What you've got there is motoric stuff. Okay, so back to, we've just defined that this is the part of the brain having to do with your lips and tongues, this deal again, this is about hearing. So what about people who are deaf and born deaf with American sign language? These are the areas that light up when they are hearing, when they are seeing, when they are being spoken to in American sign language. This is the area, brokis that activates when they are communicating. What you've done here is hijacked, yeah, this is traditionally about tongues and lips and all of that, but we can hijack it for a very symbolic way of doing the same sort of cognitions. Yeah, this part of the brain is for somebody sticking a pin in your finger, but it's been hijacked to feeling the world's pain. It's making use of sort of new ways that we're doing stuff here, just jamming it into old sites. You're going to try to communicate using your hands and suddenly you're going to have to make use of some of these spoken regions there if you don't speak a language. So that, more examples of how ASL is about the content rather than the motoric aspects. Take someone who is speaking and they're having to recite a bunch of words quickly and you're checking them for accuracy and you give them a distractor that they have to do at the same time. They have to tap their feet, they're left foot three times and once on the right, three times once and your performance gets screwed up at that point. That's not as accurate because you're also paying attention to this. Now do the same thing with someone with American Sign Language, give them the same foot distractor. If American Sign Language is heavily about it's just stuff you're doing with your hands, it's just another way of communicating. Spoken language on is really about his tongues and lips and throat. American Sign Language what it's about is motoric stuff. If it's motoric it should be screwed up by this task to a greater extent than people are messed up when they're using a spoken language. It's messed up to the exact same extent. The pertinent thing about this is not what you're doing with your muscles, it's the same cognitive structures that you're tapping into with a spoken language. Finally in that realm there is some weirdo whistling language that's used on some island on the Canary Islands that people have been whistling at each other and that they're sheeped for centuries and centuries. And apparently it actually fits some of the profiles of what a true language is. There's a very complex structure to it and what you've seen in one study so far is when people are producing it they're lighting up here, when they are hearing it they're lighting up their degrees. Again basic off the rack hominid for a long long time. This is about ears, this is about tongues and instead it's about the abstract, the symbolic elements of language. Demonstrating that further depending on where you get the stroke damage there's this whole world of bizarre aphasias or disorders of communication you can get. You get alexias, you get a graphias. People who can speak can comprehend, can read, they simply cannot write anymore. People who can do all those things, they simply can't read anymore. People who lose the capacity to recognize certain letters, certain types of words gerunds, there's some gerund aphasia out there, whatever gerund is, which I once knew. You get all these sorts of specializations by having far smaller strokes, all these subroutines. Apparently there's been at least one case of a sailor, an elderly sailor who had a stroke who had learned semaphores, which I guess was some big thing in World War II or something, and had a semaphore aphasia. This is not a very common hominid event to have happened. This is all the different ways. This is lips and ears. It's reading. It's writing. It's semaphores. It's pantomime. It's who knows what. It's much, much more abstract than that. Okay so you got the left cortex. The left cortex with its specialization in 90% of cases, you get slightly different localization of vernicies and brokas. In particular, the areas related to reading when you have a language, which instead of an alphabet is a pictograph language. For example, Chinese, a pictograph language, you get slightly different areas of activation and thus slightly different areas of strokes will produce a Chinese rokas aphasia or an alexia, that sort of thing. Doing language as pictures as opposed to doing language of building blocks of individual letters slightly localized differently in the brain. So the brain is completely devoting its energy on the left side to language, 90% of people lateralized, you don't have a brokas or vernicies on the right side, destroy the equivalent areas, you do nothing to language, cut through the brain and cross section and this on this side, the cortex will be a little bit thicker than the cortex on the right side, the equivalent area.

Neuropsychology And Modalities Of Language

Modalities of language: verbal, written, gestural (30:49)

So language is all about the left hemisphere. So of course, this is not true because you get the prosody stuff in the right hemisphere. That's where you get the coding for tone of voice. That's the part of the brain that's telling you if the person is having a sarcastic tone in their voice when they're saying that that's the area that's picking up on facial expression, body language, all of that is right hemisphere in 90% of people and what you see is stroke damage, you can get prosody disorders as well. People are perfectly normal in their auditory comprehension, they're reading, running their production, all that sort of stuff but they can't understand context and spoken language from body posture, from tone of voice, things of that sort. So you can have prosody damage right cortex. Next more pertinent areas in the brain, a region, a sub-cortical region called the basal ganglia. What's the basal ganglia about? It tells a lot of your muscles what to do. For example, when your frontal cortex has finished wrestling with all the limbic regions, a lot of what the outcome is is activation of the basal ganglia making you do something. Oh, go do the harder but the right thing. That sort of thing. Basal ganglia is about motor stuff. Okay, duh, this is not surprising, this is not really interesting. Obviously, language involves motoric stuff, whether it's spoken, whether it's signed, whatever. Obviously, the parts of the brain that generate relevant muscle movement, they're going to get activated also, they're involved. Just a couple of things that makes this basal ganglia more interesting though, which is, the next time you're talking on the phone or watching somebody talk on the phone, see the frequency with which they're making hand gestures. Your hand gesturing under those circumstances, your hand gesturing to your GPS system when it's talking to you, your hand gesturing in all sorts of circumstances where there's no visual communication going on. Blind individuals when they are speaking to each other use the same sorts of hand gestures as seeing individuals do. It's not just, okay, we got to get the basal ganglia in here because we got to do something rather with our jaw and our lips. Something about the emotiveness is centrally tied in to the motoric output because it's impossible to talk on the phone and not to be gesturing with your hands. If you're talking about anything that's at all sort of activated or aroused or emotional, your hands are going like crazy and it makes no sense. The basal ganglia is really central to all of this. Next finally, in terms of a brain structure, the rest of the limbic system. Totally clear what that one's going to be about, which is the limbic system has nothing to do with language. The limbic system has to do with screaming your head off of your terrified. The limbic system has to do with singing. The limbic system, it's emotional. It's got nothing to do with, okay, let's embed a clause here now in order to express some emotion. What you see is initially a nice clean dichotomy with that and a remarkable thing you will see. So somebody has had a stroke and they've got a broke as aphasia, which is to say they're having a production aphasia, it is really next to impossible for them to speak. It is halting. It is broken. They can't get the words. It is insanely frustrating. And one of the things that speech therapists do is get people to sing what it is they're trying to say. Because if you make sort of a running leap there and start singing it before you think about, ooh, here I am singing the menu at the restaurant for the customers here, before you start doing that, if you can jump quickly into it, people with broke as production a phasia can sing often what they want to communicate. Because they are sending it down south subcordically and looping it through limbic language areas, sort of marinating it in some emotional content, music in this case, and out it comes. Not surprisingly, accuracy is not so hot under the circumstances, but it's a lot better than when you've got the broke as aphasia not being able to speak at all. So that's pretty interesting.

Lateralization, cortical thickening and grammar (35:36)

Next thing that suggests that the limbic system has something central to do with language. You look at people with Tourette's disease, which we're going to hear a lot about on Wednesday, and Tourette's disease, everybody knows what Tourette's disease is about, it's the disease where you curse uncontrollably. As we'll see, there's much more going on than that, but cursing, it's all about limbic stuff. Tourette's is involving not problems with broke as cortical regions generating, sort of cursing. It's about limbic hyperactivity in all sorts of other realms. The limbic system having all sorts of access to your language production. Another realm in which there is clearly the second you think about it, an intersection between your cold, machine-like, analytical, cortical regions doing symbolic language production comprehension for you, and your emotional limbic world, this remarkable phenomenon of you can feel better when you are upset about something as a result of talking to someone. Psychotherapy is completely built around the notion that there are very deep fundamental connections between one's language world and one's limbic one.

Neural circuits that modulate language, song and voice (36:49)

So again, this is doing in the notion not only that all language is about, it's motoric aspects of generating language and auditory, it's about the deep cognitive structures, it's also not some cold cognitive task there, it is highly intertwined with limbic structures. As you would thus expect, studies showing that if you, for example, stimulate some sub-cortical regions and individuals as part of again neurosurgery, trying to figure out where a tumor is, stimulate some of those regions and people will say emotionally loaded things, they will say something very emotionally expressive, positive, negative, whatever, stimulate some of the same regions, say in Reese's Monkey, and it will give a threat call, it will give an alarm call, it will give a solicitative call, it will express something emotive. So limbic system has all sorts of ways in which it's talking to these cortical regions, and not surprisingly it's got lots of ways of talking to the prosody areas in the right hemisphere, since that's where a lot of the emotional expressivity is coming through, not in the words but in the tone of voice, the facial expressions, all of that. So, neurobiology, now looking at it in the taxonomic context, other species, everyone would have guessed up until people actually went and looked that we're the only folks with a broker with a vernicus area, that this is a human specialization, and what you see is that's pretty much the case, but you see the starts of it in a number of primate species, a number of apes, and chimps and orangutans, and Reese's monkeys, what you see is the cortical thickening just on one side, corresponding to this area, not as thickened as in the human brain in the left hemisphere, but nonetheless you get thickening like that. Moreover, how's this very interesting? Does everybody know the factoid that it's the left side of your brain that's telling the right side of your body to do something, and it's the right side of your brain that's cross wiring, whatever it is it does? Okay, get a monkey who is vocalizing, and while it is vocalizing something communicative, while it is doing that, if it is doing any sort of facial expressions, it's more pronounced on the right side of the face. If it's doing something with its arms, it's more likely to be the right arm. In other words, generating the vocalization is preferentially coming from the left hemisphere and pulling in more motoric stuff on the side of the brain that operates this part of the body, it is lateralized communication. The same has now been seen when you do imaging on monkeys, when they're communicating, there is a bias towards the left hemisphere, the thickened area. It's the start of the specialization. Moreover, in both humans and in other apes and monkeys, there is very, very close connections between the Broca's area or the pre-proto-broca's area and a monkey, and all sorts of muscle groups having to do with facial expressions, intensely intertwined connectivity there, and that's that prosody stuff. Seemingly, a monkey making some of its emotionally loaded vocalizations, there's some facial prosody that goes along with it because the wiring is very, very intertwined there, and it's facial stuff that tends to be lateralized to the right side of the face. Finally, when a monkey in a brain imaging machine is hearing a vocalization of its own species, the left hemisphere preferentially activates in the proto-equivalence of these areas.

Neural riddle (40:47)

And then, finally, finally, what people are beginning to see in skulls from ancient ancestors, like Australopithecans, is these are really tough things to infer very indirectly from endocasts of what would be the brain inside the skull, but Australopithecans a million years ago or so are already a little bit of an asymmetry in the left hemisphere. So this has been something that's been developing in monkeys and apes for a long, long time. Switching now from neurobiology, moving back, there is hormones that are relevant and acute environmental whatever, but we're going to skip over those just because a huge feature of the field is language acquisition, language development early in life. And there you have one of the great debates in the field coming in around the 1960s or so, which was between these two silverbacks in this whole field, both of whom you've heard of before. One, B.F. Skinner, the king of behaviorism, who probably was his most influential by the 1960s, 1970s or so, and Nold Chomsky, a champion of a very different view of language, Chomsky who is still around and who I sort of the extent that I can understand it, revolutionized linguistics when he was about four and a half years old and has been the dominant figure in the field for two thirds of a century since. Okay, so here was the basic match up in their wrestling match. Behaviorist view, you can already construct what the behaviorist view of language acquisition is going to be, which is you begin to make a sound attempting to learn a word. And if you say it right, you get rewarded. Please feed me very well said, I'm going to feed you now. And now you've learned to say that, you don't get fed and you get severely hypoglycemic and you try to find other until you happen to stumble on the right way to say it. And whoa, I've been negatively enforced when saying, you know, and I've been positively and just do that all the time.

Genius response (42:52)

And that's how I learn language. And a classic behaviorist framework. Chomsky meanwhile was taking a stance that this bears no resemblance at all to what is going on. And what we'll see is more versions of his view have prevailed. Basically, the behaviorist view was just sheer raving gibberish. But this produced these fireworks of debates between Skinner and Chomsky in the 60s and 70s Skinner was at Harvard Chomsky was at MIT. And they were regularly lobbying missiles across at each other and sort of shooting across their vows and stuff. And this was this huge debate simply because behaviorism was so totally dominating psychology, American psychology at the time with a complete stranglehold that there was Skinner and like three and a half other people out there who had any sort of academic training who would seriously argue that you require language to standard behaviorist rules. That was their extreme view and a behavior sort of standing in the sand on that one and virtually no evidence for it at all. So what's the Chomsky in view about instead? The very nature of language acquisition shows that it is not behaviorist because of a very significant critical thing that kids do as they learn language. A landmark somewhere along the way, 15 to 20 months of age, this major, major event, the first time a child says a combination of words that it's never heard before. "I like chocolate ice cream," says the child. Now you say, "Ooh, here, there's such a thing as Velcro ice cream." And the child after tasting it, never before having heard the sentence, "I like Velcro ice cream," now says, "I like Velcro ice cream." It is just generated a language construction that it has never heard. The generativity of language, the possibility that kids, not only that business of finite number of words, but an infinite number of messages, but at some point kids do something which is impossible by strict behaviorism.

Its just gibberish (44:53)

They generate examples of things they have never heard before. And this is in the Chomsky in view, this inflection point where something explosive exponential occurs, that's where it goes off. And there was a Chomskyite disciple, a guy named Roger Brown, who was a professor for many years at Harvard, who did this insane obsessive study to actually demonstrate what everybody can infer, like if they ever had kids, which was having kids where he and his band of researchers would keep track of every single word kids would say during their first year of life, "God knows how the parents put up with these people hanging around in the nursery and stuff," but what they showed was, "Yes, suddenly you have kids generating language constructions that they have never heard before." And Chomsky is advanced a whole view that there is an innate structure to language, and this is one of the key bits of his argument that right around a certain point of development, kids are able to generalize the rules of language into constructions they have never heard. Moreover, kids are able to generalize the rules of language when they have only gotten imperfect instruction by adults speaking around them who may not be grammatically perfect, and one individual may be off here or there in one word, somebody off in another one, if nothing else, not producing every possible combination, and out comes a sense of grammar from kids when constructing rules out of imperfect examples and constructing completely novel combinations of words that they've never heard before. So the argument that has always been sort of at the core of the Chomskyan view is when kids suddenly explode into this language acquisition.

Sociolinguistics And Language Acquisition

Tough act (46:53)

To give you a sense of this, there are long, long stretches where you are learning about 10 words a day during development. By college, typical person has a vocabulary of 60,000 words. You are not going to have gotten those 60,000 from behaviorist reward and punishment stuff. What is this explosion about? And what's always been an argument in favor of the Chomskyan notion that there's something innate. There is a innate drive towards language acquisition is what's called the poverty of stimulus argument, which is stated quite simply, kids are generating a lot more examples of language than they're hearing. They're generating all sorts of things that they have never heard. This whole example here, kids have to be learning in some prepared learning, ethological way, and that's a term that definitely comes into the field, because they are generating constructions they have never heard before. They cannot possibly be taught to do that and they are not being sat down and being explicitly taught the structure of grammar. They are constructing rules out of imperfect partial examples. So that's always been a very strong argument. And there's always been a counter argument saying that you don't have to have strict instruction of every single type of construction of words that you generate. You can have statistical learning. You can pick up rules from statistical patterns. And you can do that with artificial intelligence programs. And you can do that with adults who could pick up patterns. And a number of years ago, extremely cool study showing that kids way before they start using language six months of age or so can actually pick up statistical patterns and language. How would they show this? They would have a whole bunch of nonsense syllables, which they would play long strings in them at these kids where there would be combinations. These two nonsense syllables, the first one would be followed by the second one 100% of the time. This combination would be followed 90% of the time. This one 75, this one 10% this one never. And long strings of these and showing that kids would begin to alert the statistical associations. How do you know? Because you play a novel pairing, you get one of these pairings where 90% of the time you make this sound and it's followed by this on the tape. Now instead you make this sound and it's followed by something it's never associated with. And the kids heart rate increases because this is a novel combination. And it is not an all or none. It is merely a statistical linking of the two. So really young kids can do statistical learning picking up statistical patterns and language very different than people would have guessed. Okay, so now let us take a five minute break and we will start marching through some of the developmental landmarks and what the biology is of it's. What do you see in terms of child development language acquisition is one very clear phenomenon, which is right at the beginning of life. A kid can learn any single language out there. There are hundreds and hundreds of different vowel sounds in different languages, even more consonant sounds and any kid can learn any language. And what you see in the child in one to three months of age is roughly equal response to any phonemes, any sounds that are building blocks of language. And what development is from there is you lose that ability. As you begin to acquire your own, you start being unable to hear the difference between other sounds and suddenly you're back to taking biopsies out of bears instead of pairs, depending on what language you're in. As you acquire your own language virtually by definition in acquiring it, you are losing the capacity to hear vast amounts of phonemic subtlety from all the other languages. By three months of age, kids are already beginning to preferentially pay attention to a spoken language rather than nonsense syllables. They're already beginning to note structure of language in terms of what they pay attention to. By three to six months of age, they're already preferentially paying attention to vowel sounds. They're beginning to learn that sounds are broken up. They're beginning to do that statistical relationship stuff of combinations of sounds. Somewhere by about eight, nine months of age, babbling starts. And again, that business about babbling during sign language, that is showing that what you also see is when kids start babbling, they tend to have stronger facial expressions on the right side of their face. That same argument about the left hemisphere beginning to take some control over stuff. What else by nine months of age, kids are beginning to recognize structures, weird combinations in terms of responding to them. They are beginning to have lost an awful lot of their ability to pick up phonemes from other languages. By about 11 months of age, they're beginning to generate the typical vowels, consonants of their language and out of that pop language soon afterward. Okay, so a feature of language acquisition in humans, which is pretty bizarre, is that adult members of our species sit around and invest huge amounts of energy in a one-on-one level to an intentional premeditated manner help youngins acquire the communication of the species.

Settle down (52:24)

We do direct the teaching of language. And this is unique. And it turns out, this is not what is found in most cultures on this planet. In most of them, kids pick up language purely by observation, by hearing, by being witnessed to. It is a relatively recent westernized invention, I don't know, maybe in the last thousand years or so, where you sit down children and you generate simple examples of the language, which you present in a repetitive way, simple versions of words of grammar, where you direct it towards them and where you then correct their attempts at repeating it. That's a relatively new invention. And bizarrely enough, it's not entirely clear if that accelerates language acquisition, which would be a real drag after everyone being tortured with phonics, back when or some such thing. This is a relatively new hominid invention. It is relatively rare culturally and it's not so clear if it actually accomplishes a whole lot. Now, part of what you also find with kids beginning to not be able to discriminate between two different sounds in some, what will prove to be another language other than the one they're learning, that begins to be when you're doing imaging there, that vernikis is not distinguishing between the two sounds in terms of its activation pattern. That's where you're beginning to lose the ability to hear universality of language sounds and instead begin to focus in on your own.

Subversive societies (53:52)

What else do you see? Second languages. Where do second languages fit in with this? And there are all sorts of critical periods of development with it as to when it comes in. One of the ones that everybody knows is if you learn a language anytime after roughly age 12 or so, most typically, you will never be able to speak it without an accent for the rest of your life. That seems to be one of the landmarks, exceptions, blah, blah, the usual, nonetheless, that seems to be generally the pattern. What about brain coding for a second language? What is found is if you get a second language before roughly six years of age, essentially if you were growing up bilingual, both languages are coded in very overlapping regions of vernikis and brokis. How can you see that? Because you get individuals when they have a stroke, we'll get, for example, a comprehension ofphasia in both of the languages that they are native speakers of, that they grew up with. Learn a language after six and what you typically see is the vernikis area that does the second language tends to be a more peripheral area.

Genies for language acquisition (55:05)

And likewise, what's activating a brokis, you're not getting the center seats, you're not getting the orchestra seats for where you're doing a second language if it's coming in later. And thus, you can get the truly bizarre cases of people who get a very selective stroke and will lose one language and not the other. So you begin to get back there. What accents are about? What the critical period is on accents, God knows, but you have that coming in there by around age 12 or so. Next, acquisition, invention of new languages. And this is relevant to the child acquisition of language because of what's a truism in the field, which is new languages are invented by kids. Adults do not invent new languages. Adults may be able to go to the office each day and decide whether this or that word should be protected from the French language, but languages are invented by kids. And what you see with that is a standard pattern of age distribution of novelty, which is not only do languages tend to be invented by kids, but nobody a whole lot older than them ever learns the new language. New languages are invented by the young and have lateral and downward transfer. This is what you see. Great example of this about 20 years ago in Nicaragua, where for the first time after revolution there for the first time, there was anything done in the country in the way of education for deaf children who otherwise were just left to sort of languish in villages and ignored and not educated all of that. The first attempts to have schools explicitly for deaf children. And people there are teaching them were beginning to grow for, okay, how are we going to communicate with these kids? What's going to be an efficient way? And worth noting in addition to American Sign Language, there's British Sign Language and there's French Sign Language, there's all different ones. And what began to emerge after the first year or so in the school was the kids came up with their own language. They began to generate their own sign language, which over the subsequent generations became more and more mature and sophisticated and we'll see ways in which that occurred. And this is now Nicaraguan Sign Language. This is the sign language that is taught to deaf individuals there and this was invented by kids. This emerged from the students there while the adults were trying to figure out and having conferences and meetings about what sort of sign to use for this and they're the kids in the dorms generating their own language. 10 year old kids was the average age there where this was happening, languages invented by new kids. And what you saw with the Nicaraguan Sign Language was it took about three generations worth of school kids to have a fully formed grammar in the language as complex of a grammar capacity for embedded clauses, all that sort of thing as you would find in any other sign language. It took about three generations and with each new elaboration it was whichever kids had come up with it and everybody younger. Even after a while the original generation who had invented Nicaraguan Sign Language, that first generation they weren't very good at the later fancier versions, that same deal, languages are invented by the young and languages are greatly shaped and changed and modified by the young as well and there's not a whole lot of people older than them who ever pick up on it. So that's a pattern again and again. So acquisition of language, what's going on in the brain there? Prenatally you were already beginning to get, okay let's cut the brain. There you have it. There's the brain and cross-section cutting right through there and what we have, this is the left side, is thickening of what would be broca's, thickening of vernicies. It's around 12 to 16 weeks of age in a fetus that you begin to see different patterns of gene expression around here versus there and a couple of these are genes that have already been identified to have mutations in families with language production disorders.

Myelin age timing (59:26)

So around then begin to have differential gene expression. By around 30 weeks this part is now thicker than on this side. You're beginning to get the structural asymmetry. Interestingly during the first few years of language you don't see enhanced metabolism on this side relevant to that side when kids are talking, even amid the right side of their face being more expressive. It's not until a few years that you lateralize all the metabolic activation there. The next bit of development that's pertinent is that stuff about myelin. Myelin you remember the axons and you wrap them up with myelin and your frontal cortexes which are not myelinated fully yet and most of you guys, what do you see developmentally with language is something not terribly earth-shattering which is kids tend to myelinate their vernicies area about three months before they myelinate their broca's area. Kids are starting to comprehend language before they are producing it. So vernicies is beginning to wire up around nine months of age. Typically broca's takes a few months past that. That's the time course. Okay so intrinsic neurobiology of language acquisition. How about social aspects, environmental aspects and right off the back we pick up on something we heard from an olelen the other week, a couple of weeks ago, that whole business about the importance of peer socialization rather than parental influences and that's the work of that psychologist Judith Rich Harris arguing that peer influences are far more important than the literature is usually given credence to and the area where it is most clearly the case is language acquisition and that was her whole point as to why kids grow up with accents of the community around them rather than the accents of their parents if the parents were not native speakers of that language. Why do you pick up the accents of your peers around you and those a little bit older because peers are pretty important and back to that issue of it being a relatively new invention for humans to try to have somebody acquire a language by sitting them down and instructing them and correcting their errors. What most of language acquisition has been about for a gazillion years and humans is you learn from your older sibling and your cousins who are a little bit older than you and they learn from their cousins who are a little bit older and that's where language is attained and you watch the adults and listen to them. We're very wired to pick up our language influences from peer groups and slightly older ones so her emphasizing right off the bat that remarkable deal when you think about it it's totally amazing nobody winds up with the accent of their home language they wind up with the accent of the community around them. For the rest of their life they may be incredibly good at imitating their parents in the home accent and surprisingly early as I mentioned they do not want to answer their parents in the home language they start preferring the outside language all is evidence of the strong peer socialization. What's intrinsic in that is language acquisition also involves a huge amount of inculcation and to the values of the society that uses that language and intrinsic in that is kids at very young ages already getting embarrassed about their parents accent and wanting to answer them not in the home language values built into that. Examples one that we heard already back in the aggression lecture that whole business of languages that have a formal U class and informal to and fluent French for example and a business that after revolutions as a value statement in terms of that pseudo kinship stuff everyone is supposed to use the informal structures there everyone is supposed to use the informal conjugations. Great thing in Tolstoy's sort of autobiography back when he was a kid apparently the one point the family nurse who adored him and had raised him and all of that one day sort of spoke to him and used the informal verb tense in Russian and he threw a fit because she was not of his social class and how dare she use the informal she should be addressing him as the young master or whatever the Russian conjugation equivalent was that one laden laden with social values.

Malayan Peninsula (01:03:52)

More examples of this in different languages very different notions about relationships expressed between people for example in English you can be talking to a relative and say something like my aunt your mother or you could be saying my aunt your grandmother and that's how you communicate it in certain languages for example one and in the Malayan peninsula what you find is if you were saying my aunt your mother is a completely different word than my aunt your grandmother it is not possible to state a kinship word without it reflecting also the person you're speaking with you cannot talk about kinship terms outside of the context of it being a conversation and interaction much sort of more indicative of intertwined relations there. How's this here's another example here you have in what would be termed egocentric languages like English you refer to directions with respect to your body it's over there you say indicating where it is with respect to your body where's that person standing just behind him what you see in a lot of other languages less egocentric ones is directions are entirely a function of external landmarks and thus in a bunch of aboriginal languages in Australia you can't say something like oh my right foot is on fire you can only say oh my foot that's to the northwest is on fire the world is

Cross-Cultural Linguistics And Animal Communication

Australia (01:05:21)

based by external landmarks rather than ones that are internal great example I heard of this from Leah Berditsky oh no I just mispronounced her name I'm sure and that's shameful given that is a Russian name like mine but in any case in the psychology department and telling you this great example that you get in some of these non-ego language ones okay we tend to think of stories going from left to right if you give somebody a bunch of tiles which is part of frequent IQ tests for kids and they make a story if you put them in the right sequence in English what we do is we put the first scene on the left and it moves to the right from there stories progress from left to right what you see in these languages that are based by external cues is stories begin in the east because that's where the sun rises so if you were sitting facing south and you were given the tiles you would put the story starting over here because that's where the sun comes up and if you were sitting instead facing north you would place the tiles starting from the right to left because the only pertinent direction

The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (01:07:26)

is nothing with respect to where your body is where your arms are directions things start in the east and that determines things far more than your body's orientation classic very non-ego centered directionality and language so that is very frequent so what begins to be intrinsic in all of this is the notion that language shapes the way you think and this harks back to a grand old theory in linguistics and language acquisition and two guys early in the 20th century, Severe and Wharf and the Severe Wharf hypothesis being that language constrains thought that your capacity for thinking the way in which you think is constrained by the language that you have been taught the language you speak and that has been debated endlessly in terms of just how much evidence is there for that versus how much the style of thought shaped with the languages this has endlessly been debated and it's one of the sort of hallmarks of what linguistics is about in the last decade two populations two traditional populations in the Amazon that were studied that are viewed as giving really major support for a strict superior wharf notion that your capacity for thought the nature of your thought is deeply

The Piraha, The Munduruku (01:08:15)

shaped potentially deeply constrained by language so these two tribes the one the first is called the peraha and the other is called the manduruku i believe and what you have in both of them is a very different number system than we have then virtually every westernized society does in the first group the peraha their number system consists of three numbers one two and something bigger than two and manduruku it's essentially the same thing but it's five terms it goes up to six terms one two three four five and all other numbers that are bigger than five and i don't do it completely what that suggests about how often you have to count stuff down there but what it suggests is this is going to be a very different relationship with numbers and what they show studies with these folks is doing mathematical uh computations doing estimates doing everything in the second tribe with numbers up to five the exact same level of accuracy as would a westernized individual but get above five and accuracy goes down the drain somebody in that society has a huge amount of trouble telling the difference between six objects and eight objects eight objects and tenon because they all get bucketed as how many are there it's the number that means more than five and in the first group you see the same exact thing for any number above three there's a lot of trouble being accurate distinguishing three from four from five and so on because they all have the same term they are that number that is bigger than two all of that occurring once you get above those numbers guess is essentially at the chance level so that's kind of impressive and very interesting but maybe there's always this potential kind of uh counter-interpretation as to what's happening there which is maybe these are not terribly sharp folks there and maybe have had all sorts of issues with protein malnutrition or cerebral malaria godness what no because in each of these populations each of these cultures they know thousands of different types of edible plants and medicinal plants these are enormously sophisticated people in those realms numbers just aren't a big deal and what you see is somebody growing up in that society who has not invented the language but are instead acquiring it it constrains their ability to tell the difference between the numbers three and four very shape and shaping in that regard so all sorts of people debating endlessly how much does language shape the way you think how much is thinking shape the sort of language you come up with but at the end of the day there's this whole sort of philosophical business that no matter how similar the language is that you're using with someone else it's going to mean something slightly different to you and thus you have the flip side to our etheology sound by etheology is interviewing an animal but it's an own language sort of the flip side a quote once the effect of if you could interview a lion in its own language you wouldn't have a clue what it was talking about because communication is so intertwined with mind with values with meaning all of that that it would essentially be inaccessible and you hear about people who are multilingual how many of you are pretty adept at a second language third language any hands up there whoa okay so those of you who are really comfortable in multiple languages do you find you have different emotional emotive styles of communicating when you're switching languages do you tend to have more expressivity in one of them do you tend to be more analytical you know whatever okay i'm going to pretend that there was just hundreds of faces going up and down agreeing with that stance because that's a well-known fact based on years of teaching bio 150 yeah languages serve different functions and different emotions and different cognitions very intertwined and at a true extreme interviewing somebody in their own language even if it is the same language that you ostensibly share with them you're not quite going to be speaking the same language shifting now over to animals animal communication and in what ways is it completely distinct from what we do and in what ways are there major overlaps is going to be the same sort of themes as with the sex lectures the aggression lectures all sorts of things that people used to think were unique to humans turn out to be less so for example other species show the building blocks of cementicity the fact that a sound a discrete sound can have meaning and meaning distinctive enough that it is separate from emotion we've already heard a great example of this with the vervet monkeys who could tell the difference between vocalization saying something scary up in the air get down and something scary down on the ground get up in the tree these are and common in terms of the emotional content but in terms of the cementicity the factual information transmitted they're diametrically opposite this is what a word is it is communicating a stable concept that is independent of motion vervet monkeys have the starts of that it turns out chickens do that as well i have no idea what chickens evoke emote about but they have different types of ones that communicate information about what they are being managed by again predator stuff vervets not only do they have a vocalization for scary raptor up in the sky versus scary snake down on the ground but they have two vocalizations for one of them and i forget which they have a synonym they have the building blocks of synonyms what else animals in their communication systems somehow have incorporated the fact that facial expressions and auditory communication go hand in hand how can you show this take a Reese's monkey and show it a film clip of another monkey making some vocalization with a facial expression over and over and then some other facial expression in the motion where they tend to go together vocalization now pop up there where the monkey that is watching is giving an alarm vocalization and a come-groomy sort of smiley face and the monkey is immediately oriented and heart rate increases it knows that facial expression doesn't go with that vocalization it's incorporated multi-modal pathways of communication like that something else that used to be thought to be unique to humans intentionality of communication i am making the sound not because i am terrified because i am happy because i am hungry whatever where i would be making that regardless of who else is around i am going to communicate something only if this person is around but not that intentionality and it turns out you find that in other species as well you see that in vervitz for example vervitz will give alarm calls much more readily when their relatives are around and when non-relatives are around squirrels will do the same thing with alarm calls and if squirrels have been having aggressive interactions with some other squirrel they are less likely to give an alarm call when a predator is around and if it was somebody they liked there is intentionality in that realm what's implicit in that at least some proto building block steps of theory of mind so what else what things remain unique in human language dramatic displacement that ability to talk about things on the other side of the globe and things that never happen in imaginary whatever is in philosophy the arbitrariness the embedded clauses the recursiveness and a very important thing about human language pretty uniquely the capacity to lie and that has to do with the arbitrariness you are human and you are in some confrontational situation and you are terrified out of your wits and the last thing you would do is say oh my i am terrified out of my wits because you do not want to have the other individual know that you are terrified what do you do you suppress the expression of emotionally revealing language or you can even do something like start uh chest thumping and say all sorts of things implying anything but fear and in fact sort of bullying you know pognacity and there you're lying as well humans have the capacity to do that a dog who is terrified is going to be terrified an animal that has a strong emotion is going to give off ceremonial signals for example depending on the species that communicates it no matter how much that is not the thing they want to be doing at the time and here's a great example of it you take a dog when it's scared and it doesn't want to let an opponent know that it's scared if this is some sort of dominance confrontation and what it's doing if it's scared is it's pumping out scared pheromones pheromones with high levels of breakdown products of stress hormones we know this already it's pumping them out and that's the last thing it wants to be doing it would love to be able to lie and say no i'm not scared at all but it can't do it because there is not an arbitrary relationship between being scared and how it's communicated they are intertwined the same phenomenon the scaredness is the signal of it they can't prevent the pheromones from coming out in terms of shutting down the glands so what does a dog do when it's scared and it's giving off all these scared pheromones from its anal glands it tries to shut down the glands it tucks its tail between its legs it tries to cover up the pheromone release and what does a dog do when it's perfectly content and perfectly willing to let the rest of the world know how it's feeling about things it wants

Teaching Non-Humans Humans Language. (01:18:32)

to spread those pheromones around it wags its tail dogs can't lie all they can do is try to put their hand over their mouth when they're about to say something revealing they tuck their tail between their legs so humans retain this capacity to lie now in terms of other species and what they can do what we transition to is a really interesting subfield of this whole subject which is attempts to teach human languages to other species attempts to teach language to other primates and that has a long and storied path with all sorts of disastrous outcomes and huge controversies getting at this issue of what sort of cognitive aspects of language do we potentially share with another species okay all of this has been with chimps up until the last 20 years or so and it started off with a poor chimp named Vicki who belonged to some researchers back in the 1930s and I forget who and where and what they decided was they were going to teach Vicki to speak to speak English naturally and to speak and how are they going to do it using the then cutting edge just emerging principles of behaviorism Vicki was subject to behaviors rules if she wanted water she would have to make a sound that vaguely sort of sounded like the word cup she'd have to make this sort of exhaling barky sort of thing which if your imagination really ran away with you would sound like the word cup there were another a few other one syllable words where they wouldn't feed her unless she made whatever sound they said was close to the word food this was one screwed up chimp in terms of seeing films of this chimp this was one incredibly neurotic animal and thank god after only a few years the researchers decided you know this isn't working and this poor animal was allowed not to have to go through this anymore oh this doesn't work soon after that there was another chimp that had one of these sorts of upbringings and this was raised by a psychologist named Kellogg at I believe Yale and what this person was oriented to was Judith Rich Harris's work on peer influences even though she wasn't born yet the notion of peer influences why couldn't Vicki learn English because she didn't have a peer you need to have a chimp grow up with a human the two of them growing up together with the exact same environment and same treatment and the human who's really good at acquiring language the chimp then will have a peer will have a role model all that and will pick up English as well and thus the Kelloggs raised their child Donald Donald was raised with this chimp and I'm forgetting the chimp's name but Donald fared almost as poorly as Vicki and they did this whole study on the acquisition of some sort of studies of the two and these whole books written about Donald and his chimp brother there and what was supposed to be happening was the chimp was going to learn English from Donald and what you saw developmentally the chimp of course was miles ahead of him the chimp was climbing trees while Donald was still cruising on sort of the couch kind of thing but in terms of language stuff it never went that direction what wound up happening was Donald started making the vocalizations of the chimp at which point his parents stopped the experiment but this was totally nutty they were doing things like they did this experiment on like auditory acuity in the two of them you could see this in the book they filmed them there's Donald and I believe the chimp's name was Gua and the two of them were sitting there being perfectly happy sitting on a lawn and they're being filmed high-speed film and what does the damn father do he sneaks up behind them with a starters pistol and shoots it so that they can get on film but which one of them has the faster reaction time of being scared out of their wits by the father shooting this thing behind them and sharing oh what do you know Gua had slightly faster panic reaction stuff so this was something that fortunately hit a wall and Donald I believe wound up having a very interesting life and I don't think it was urban legends I wish I remembered but it made perfect sense given what a bizarre childhood he had okay soon people realized or not so soon then in the 1960s some researchers finally realized what the problem was with this which is it is absurd thinking that a chimp is going to learn how to speak a language because they simply do not have the larynx that can do it they do not have the larynx that could produce discrete sounds like that it's impossible not because they're not smart enough but they simply don't have the anatomy to do it and thus this was a couple university of Nevada named the gardeners who came up with the brilliantly creative idea of teaching a chimp American sign language to bypass the vocal limitations and just get it a system that chimps have great manual dexterity tap at the cognitive aspects of language bypass the sound vocal business and thus came the first sign language ape a chimp named washo was the darling of sort of linguist psycho linguist in a while because there was something so so cool about a chimpanzee sitting there being able to sign and sign language washo by the time she was about a half dozen years old had acquired about 150 different signs in English and she could communicate with the gardeners with it and people were producing like these glowing sorts of articles about them where I remember this one guy a science writer who happened to have deaf parents so he was raised bilingual with both English and American sign language and this article about going to visit washo and the bizarity of speaking to a chimpanzee in his native language and how cool is that and washo was being reported to do a hallmark feature of language use which is to begin to invent words where she combined the word water and the sign language for bird put them together to water bird and that's what she called ducks oh my god she's made a new term she babble before going to sleep she would do her favorite signs to herself and babble herself to sleep she used sign language to lie and to do all sorts of stuff she shouldn't have been doing and washo lived in this trailer on the campus there and they often had this video camera up sort

Teaching Non-Humans Human Language. (01:25:23)

of at night filming her and they would have a little light there and every now and then you would see things like there was a refrigerator there and washo was not supposed to open up the refrigerator and steal food out of it at night and suddenly the camera is there and the trailer is absolutely quiet and empty and suddenly you see washo walking across signing saying quiet washo quiet washo and raiding the refrigerator that way totally cool stuff they brought in a second chimp a second chimp to have washo and the chimp start learning sign language and start talking to each other and a couple of months into it they had the first conversation in sign language ever by another species the two chimps were sitting there and facing in opposite directions and they both made use of what in every one of these projects was the first word that any chimp ever mastered which was tickle because chimps love to be tickled and the first sentence they ever mastered would always be tickle me tickle me so there's the two of them sitting washo and boei i believe his name was they're sitting there and washo says tickle me and boei says tickle me and washo says tickle me me me me and boei says tickle me tickle me tickle me and finally the two of them get up and walk off in opposite directions there you have failed detente in the very first conversation there so my god they're even talking to each other this is totally cool meanwhile a guy at the university of pennsylvania named david pre-mak at his chimp named sera and he was very irritated about the imprecision of sign language he was teaching sera a whole sort of pad a whole language a symbolic language pattern of different shaped magnetic tiles and showing very rigorously that sera could do if then type clauses could begin to do embedded clauses saying things like he would put up the sign saying if the red ball is in the bucket go who'd crazily enjoy and you know sera would be able to do this and be able to construct these as well nothing very much resembling the fluidity of language would nonetheless showing really sophisticated structure to it so these guys were rolling along and everybody loved this and this was the greatest stuff ever chimp speaking american sign language and you can sort of hang out with them and tickle them and they'd never tickle you back apparently but showing interviewing an animal in its own language none of that reciprocity of tickling stuff with a human then then along came the ape to end all apes when it came to sign language cocoa cocoa the gorilla cocoa the gorilla started off her linguistic life here on campus cocoa was originally a gorilla up in the san francisco zoo and a graduate student i don't by now i can't remember how many decades ago named penny patterson in the psychology department decided that for a bunch of reasons gorillas were going to be a lot more focused compared to gorillas chimps all have add and cocoa was going to be the one and she managed to get a loan of cocoa from the san francisco zoo and apparently during that error like half the days you could be going around campus and there would be like cocoa going by on a bicycle with penny patterson or some such thing so cocoa is this baby growing up here on campus totally cool cocoa begins to learn american sign language and what was clear was this was the ape of all time when it

Coco could lie (01:29:30)

came to learning american sign language cocoa was amazing cocoa was learning stuff patterson was reporting the most astonishing thing cocoa could report dreams cocoa could gossip could gossip as in there would be two people on the project who like had a fight in front of her in the morning and later in the day she could tell one of the other humans that the two of them were having some fight thing or whatever cocoa could gossip in american sign language cocoa could do anything cocoa could philosophize cocoa could cocoa could lie like crazy of course because all of these chimps and apes immediately begin lying like crazy here's one of the things she was reporting is doing so cocoa is left alone in this room and there's a plant a potted plant there and nobody's around and cocoa being a gorilla what does she do she looks around there's nobody there so she eats the plant so after a while in comes patterson and says oh what happened in sign language to the plant where's the plant and cocoa who like has been caught red-handed here cocoa says bill ate it bill the poor bastard grad student on the project oh blame the grad student so patterson says

Case Studies In Animal Language Acquisition

Me-Terrace (01:30:57)

don't tell me that bill's not a gorilla humans don't eat plants gorillas only eat plants and cocoa sits there and says some other gorilla some other gorilla so this was amazing cocoa was just the best so suddenly suddenly cocoa was like double dating with Madonna and endorsing dance skins and aerobic exercises in the cocoa diet and things of that sort and it was totally great and this was the best gorilla ever and this was the best ape and they brought in this male who was supposed to like unlock up cocoa so that she could have baby and teach her baby sign language and multi-generational gorilla teaching philosophy to their children and all of this was great and then around 1980 all of it got ruined and it got ruined by a guy at columbia named her bteris terrace had been another one of the ones starting one of the sign language chin projects and he started with a champ who was going to disprove no mchonsky no chomp ski who argued that there was no way anything that these chimps or gorillas could do what would actually count as language he was going to prove him wrong with his chimp who he named nim chimpsky to disprove no mchonsky so there was nim chimpsky and nim chimpsky starts learning nim chimpsky starts learning american sign language like all the other ones and nim chimpsky as opposed to like washer who's living out there in the american west and manifest destiny and all of that nim chimpsky lived in a townhouse up on the west side in manhattan and you know it was a irregular favorite at Lincoln center and zebars and all of that and the person who got the bagel probably knows what i'm referring to but nobody else does and nim was just growing up there and learning sign language and nim was great and nim was terrific and learning just as fast as the other ones and actually the fresh and the summer after my freshman year i spent the summer working with nim which was incredible fun and tickling him and him not tickling me back and it was also exciting and getting to do this all day long with a chimp and moving on and then terris and crew beginning to expand on this and then suddenly i've got three years later outcomes this big landmark paper in science by terris and some of the colleagues there basically saying you know what nim is totally cruel and he is a blast to spend a long weekend in with and that sort of thing but he's not learning language this really doesn't count and you know what none of the other ones are either and what you had was the first real hard-ass analysis of what these animals were producing and what terris demonstrated in this paper in great detail was nothing nim was doing fit the criteria for language nim was not inventing words nim was not getting word ordering correct word ordering was basically at the random level knee eat and eat me 50 chance of either when expressing the same notion nim was failing to do something that was very fundamental to language which was the more words in your string the more meaning to it and what i have on the hand out of the very top was like some famous quote from nim who was just babbling on something incoherent suggesting like a broke as aphasia except the use for the as the utterances got longer they didn't contain more information moreover the utterances were not spontaneous language is not about answering questions language is about choosing to communicate nim was not generating any of this he was responding to if

Waterbird (01:34:37)

you answer this you will get a fruit loop which is what he mainly ate and thus most of the people on the project were constantly stealing his fruit loops from him so this looked pretty bad and what terris then proceeded to do was the same analysis on all the other projects and none of the chimps were doing anything all of them were failing the same criteria of accurate word ordering expanded meeting with longer utterances spontaneous all of that washer oh coming up the duck is a waterbird was saying water bird but no it had not just neolurgistically come up if that's the word with a new

Coco for emancipation (01:35:11)

word for duck in american sign language it wasn't doing that the word ordering made no sense it was completely random terris ripped apart the whole literature so out of that emerges the great bloodied prize fight of 1983 between terris and penny patterson penny patterson who had by that pointed stolen cocoa from the san francisco zoo and you think i'm kidding she had been promised cocoa for only a certain number of years and then of course she was going to give him back and when it was time for him for her to give him back she said i'm not giving him back because he has human values now and would be unfair for him to live with a gorilla so that was just on the edge of being a lawsuit built around whether or not cocoa could be emancipated along the lines of having human values because she had been you know like skating on lake laga nida when it was frozen or things like that and the san francisco zoo seeing a public relations disaster on the horizon decided what the hell let's give cocoa let's give this sixty thousand dollar gorilla to penny patterson who by that point had pretty much had her association with stanford cut and then by then was up in the woodside hills at a large estate paid for by gorilla enthusiasts and hanging out there with cocoa so patterson winds up being the strongest defender down to the end that this is real language that cocoa is doing and terris going completely after it and one problem with that point was there were no actual data that had ever been published by patterson all there were were some several heartwarming films of cocoa cocoa and global warming and cocoa and the trade deficit and cocoa and

Incorrect sign (01:36:58)

this with that and there were no data scientists couldn't make any sense of it because there were no numbers there was no anything you can actually analyze and then you look at the films and they would be pitiful they would be pitiful cocoa would be sitting there for one thing would never be generating spontaneous utterances cocoa would be sitting there having the same word order random this is all the chimps cocoa would be having and part of the problem was patterson kept enabling cocoa she would ask cocoa what do you call this thing and cocoa would come up with a completely wrong sign and patter patterson would say oh stop kidding around and then patterson would show him like then show her the next one and cocoa would get it completely wrong and patterson would say oh you funny gorilla and then and i'm really serious and i meet at this time and she when he gets along here and oh cocoa is being so ironic these days what what are you talking about she's going on like that on these films here and as you look closely using this sort of criteria that terrace was using your socks new more american sign language and then this gorilla

Continuity of teachers (01:38:13)

did and showing none of the spontaneity none of the word ordering none of any of that stuff so out came the knives and here were the basic stances terrace's stance was patterson wouldn't know a controlled experiment if it hit her over the head patterson's response was terrace was this cold affectless fish who would driven them into virtual autism and this guy terrace was not someone who you would want to sort of cozy up and sit on your he'll sit on his lap and i haven't tell you that time stories or whatever and another feature that patterson pointed out very very accurately was nim had no continuity of teachers nim had all sorts of people who in three new three and a half more words of sign language than he did like me for example who would show up for a summer and then disappear he was going through twenty thirty different teachers a year oh that's not a very good setting for learning stuff that's not ideal language is not just about language it's about the emotional relationships and nim ultimately wound up being a pretty screwed up chip in terms of like nobody's stable in his life except for this cold fish terrace who basically didn't like

Kokos romantic life (01:39:28)

him so it's going back and forth and these accusations and patterson coming out with just incredible stuff and terrace going after her and then then things got really dirty really dirty patterson beginning to suggest that well maybe nim wasn't playing with a full deck compared to the other oh so terrace got the stupidest chip in the entire sort of literature there and did the best analysis on his inadequacies and he's trying to take down the whole field totally messy messy sort of conflict there and pretty much the whole field collapsed in the aftermath of it patterson is still up in the hills of

Music And Language

Music died in the end (01:40:04)

woodslide although i hear rumors she's about to move to hawaii with coco to a larger state that she's gotten somebody to give her um she sends out things like newsletters uh talking about coco sends greetings for world peace and things of that sort um i met her once and she wanted to talk about uh this gorilla michael was brought in and michael who was supposed to mate with her but they brought him in when he was too young and they did a kaburts brother and sister deal instead and just did folk songs together and michael wasn't working he wasn't mating with her so they eventually brought in this big larger male and michael promptly died of heart disease which i thought probably had a major stress component and that seemed perfectly legitimate and was talking with that and then was informed that october is going to be really tough because the end of october is michael's birthday and cocos got ever really hard say is anybody else hearing this?

Conzi (01:40:32)

you know some things off here they have continued there and terrors pretty much took down the rest of the field in the aftermath and the remnants of it there remains one shimp who i think legitimately qualifies as using something beginning to resemble true language and this is a bonobo chimp named conzi and conzi they are doing everything right it is clear that conzi is incredibly smart they are doing all sorts of data analysis and conzi is learning stuff conzi is doing embedded clauses conzi does if then stuff logical progressions conzi is able to do a whole bunch of things conzi

Semiotics And Meaning

Semantic categories (01:41:22)

can do analogy small ball is to small bucket as big ball is to and she will indicate big bucket she can do analogies like that and most intriguingly not only is conzi generating language and spontaneous and all of that is that when conzi makes mistakes identifying things they tend to be within semantic categories she accidentally comes up with the sign for apple when she means to say orange she doesn't accidentally come up with the sign for existentialism when she means to say orange it's semantic categories exactly the sort of stuff you need so with this stage most of that field

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Wisdom In a Nutshell.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.