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Author Topic: What is the impact of culture versus nature involving "Language"?  (Read 2565 times)

Offline Chopinwhore

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If I read all things right the "qualia' of colour/color is one that is shared by both nature and culture.

Can it not be that perhaps the only language there is,  innate to humans, is the language we understand and filter from the language a deaf mute person throws on us and we really understand? Is it not a matter of 2 systems in our brains: 1 lymbic system and 1 neocortex?
Isn't it the neocortex that enables us to differentiate ourselves from other mammals by means of "culture and speech"?
We all know a parrot can copycat. As goes maybe even further for the "Lyre Bird".
Despite those 2 nonsense creatures aforementioned. What about dolphins?
A flock of geese may not have the syntax to put warning signals across but it definitely has an alarm that let others know that a bird of prey is out there somewhere. Sorta like the human equivalent of "watch out" or maybe even deeper like "Ouch!!"  Why do not animals say "ouch!!"? This is, humans are animals too.

Can it not be that maybe the human language is both cultural and nature?

There are genes and memes recognized as the only 2 replicators in life. And some say "fire", but I do not see how.
A feril child: does it learn and copy the language of the creatures it was raised by?
A child raised without any living creature, but instead merely with a pacifier milk bottle. Will it be able to grasp the language it is initially confronted with?
Deaf people who were born deaf and were raised by ditto parents have a significant, if not unsurmountable, advantage over people who later on in life got deaf. Does not the sheer fact that learning whatever study in life gets tougher when you age prove that it is both a nature and both a culture thing?  At the age of 3 to 16  (or whatever) you can learn 20 languages from birth. But once you get beyond 17 you start to see a significant decline in ability to comprehend "stuff".
And unlike american legislature, we, scientists, realize that the human brains are mature only when hitting the 27th birthday. Though I am not sure about females...they tend to age way sooner. But that is probably reproductive speaking. I do not mean this derogatory but in the vain of evolution.
Should not a young female be prepared and more adult than the young childish adolescent raping her?
This is exactly what is still happening today, but less drawn into a caricature.

Eugentics is over, as goes for Lamarckian days....but how can we still not know the reason why certain people deem light green the same as light blue? And Homer, c.q. one of the writers, describes the sea as black as wine and the sky metallica instead of blue.


I am afraid, extrapolating on this, that eastern culture is really thinking anti-western for a purpose.
And in that regard you can not blame them unless you blame yourself. If we can not even settle on colour, I believe that what they say about oriental minds being different from western may be more true than I ever imagined it to be. I mean: colour is merely one thing in a human mind, let alone hatred.









« Last Edit: 10/02/2013 03:52:42 by evan_au »


 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: culture versus nature involving "Language"
« Reply #1 on: 10/02/2013 03:38:16 »
Deaf people who were born deaf and were raised by ditto parents have a significant, if not unsurmountable, advantage over people who later on in life got deaf.
Perhaps someone who was born deaf would learn to read lips better than someone who became deaf much later in life.  However, those that were born deaf often have extreme difficulties with clear speech, and thus would be at a disadvantage to those who became deaf later in life.

Parents of deaf children can generally learn sign language quite well, so I would assume adults could learn it as needed.
 

Offline Chopinwhore

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Re: culture versus nature involving "Language"
« Reply #2 on: 10/02/2013 04:02:29 »
people born by deaf parents HAVE advantage over those who do not. They do even show signs of auto-correcting the grammar faults their own parents make. The latter will with age soon disappear a virtue.
This really says a lot about innate grammar skills in humans. But is is very obvious that humans, with their neocortex, are using it to correct or even alter their innate grammar skills. Can you not improve it?
Did not grammar started being a part of the mammalian brain, the limbic system millions of years  gone by?
I really believe that the neocortex is sometimes completely shut down when intoxicated and the only reflexes left to communicate or tell if someone is yet still alive are pupillary response and heartbeat.
Maybe research should focus on drunk people, totally pissed.
I am not merely saying this for fun, but when alcohol is in the brain, the brain is shut down to its mammalian capacities, with the neocortex almost completely numbed.


Just a hunch. You should perform free research on those drunk apes.
« Last Edit: 10/02/2013 04:04:55 by Chopinwhore »
 

Offline cheryl j

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Language ability is affected by both biology and culture, and you can demonstrate this in all sorts of interesting ways. Grammar differs from language to language, but the brain seems hardwired to learn and understand it. People with damage to a particular part of the brain from a stroke can lose the ability to conjugate verbs correctly, even though the rest of their vocabulary is intact.

On the other hand, our language is affected by what we learn and hear as a young child. I worked with a girl named Jan and one named Jane, and another co-worker who I believe was from Viet Nam said he could not hear any difference in the pronunciation of the those two names, even though they sound very different to a native English speaker. As a child grows older, he loses sensitivity to certain sounds that are not important in his own language.
« Last Edit: 10/02/2013 20:53:57 by cheryl j »
 

Offline Minerva

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I don't believe the brain is hardwired to understand language per se.....more that language fits the type of sensory input that the brain and nervous system responds to.  The nervous system is fundamentally a transducer which takes various environmental signals/stimuli and turns them into electricity/neurochemicals and then creates a pathway or a snapshot of what was happening.  The key to learning is repetition because when you hear the same thing again and again that same pathway/snapshot is reactivated and strengthened (Hebbian learning). 

And what do most Western adults spontaneously do when faced with a baby? They start making repetitive noises which are actually bits of words - da-da-da-da etc. The underlying rhythms and tones of languages are what the nervous system responds to and strives to repeat and we have specialised in it because we have been doing it for so long.  We culturally calibrate our infants nervous systems to speak the language we speak.  But I don't think we should be fooled into thinking language is innate just because it is our species specialisation-we wouldn't consider music to be an innate function of the brain even though other species enjoy and make it - although not quite to the same extent as us.  But music is really just another type of "language" that fits in with the way our nervous system works.
« Last Edit: 10/02/2013 11:41:53 by Minerva »
 

Offline CliffordK

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Humans haven't made great inroads into the understanding of natural language used by other species.  It is obvious that most birds and mammals have some form of audible communication.  How complex?  A few dozen words?

There are notes of a dog that learned about 1000 names of toys, plus many other commands.  However, human-animal communication is still very limited.

Every human culture has developed some type of language, often very different from one to another.  Put two people who speak different languages together for an extended time, and very quickly they develop some sort of Pidgin language.

Do any animals engage in philosophy?

You have to conclude there is something fundamentally different about the human capacity for language, and every other animal.
 

Offline cheryl j

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I don't believe the brain is hardwired to understand language per se.....more that language fits the type of sensory input that the brain and nervous system responds to.  The nervous system is fundamentally a transducer which takes various environmental signals/stimuli and turns them into electricity/neurochemicals and then creates a pathway or a snapshot of what was happening.  The key to learning is repetition because when you hear the same thing again and again that same pathway/snapshot is reactivated and strengthened (Hebbian learning). 

And what do most Western adults spontaneously do when faced with a baby? They start making repetitive noises which are actually bits of words - da-da-da-da etc. The underlying rhythms and tones of languages are what the nervous system responds to and strives to repeat and we have specialised in it because we have been doing it for so long.  We culturally calibrate our infants nervous systems to speak the language we speak.  But I don't think we should be fooled into thinking language is innate just because it is our species specialisation-we wouldn't consider music to be an innate function of the brain even though other species enjoy and make it - although not quite to the same extent as us.  But music is really just another type of "language" that fits in with the way our nervous system works.

It's hard for me to believe the brain is just neurological real estate up for grabs depending on the repeated sensory input it receives, especially when very specific language functions are controlled by specific areas in the brain, like Broca's and Wernicke's areas.  In addition, language development in babies follows typical patterns, despite culture or upbringing. Pathology is not a perfect indicator of how things work normally, but it can be a window into what happens when some part of the brain doesn't do what it's supposed to. Some stroke victims lose the ability to form meaningful sentences, but can still understand whats being said, and sometimes the opposite is true, which is even weirder. I've even read about stroke victims who can write, but not read or understand what they've written.
 

Offline David Cooper

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If I read all things right the "qualia' of colour/color is one that is shared by both nature and culture.

That isn't certain. It may be that an object which makes you experience red qualia might make someone else experience blue qualia and another person green qualia, but all three people will use the same colour word to describe the object. If you were to take a digital photo and switch the reds, greens and blues around you could create a variety of weirdly coloured pictures, but any of them could demonstrate the way some people actually see the world - they wouldn't be able to tell you though as these pictures would look just as strange to them too.

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Can it not be that perhaps the only language there is,  innate to humans, is the language we understand and filter from the language a deaf mute person throws on us and we really understand? Is it not a matter of 2 systems in our brains: 1 lymbic system and 1 neocortex?

I wouldn't like to try answering that as I don't understand the question.

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Isn't it the neocortex that enables us to differentiate ourselves from other mammals by means of "culture and speech"?

I think it has more to do with having sufficient space to handle the necessary level of complexity to be able to think at a high level and to translate those thoughts into language. There appear to be certain innovations in brain structure involved in parts of this too, though I don't know if they've been pinned down yet by science - what we do know is that some people appear to have genetic faults which impair their capacity to produce good grammatical language. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specific_language_impairment. (Scroll down to "Genetic and environmental risks" for evidence that SLI has a genetic cause.)

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We all know a parrot can copycat. As goes maybe even further for the "Lyre Bird".
Despite those 2 nonsense creatures aforementioned. What about dolphins?
A flock of geese may not have the syntax to put warning signals across but it definitely has an alarm that let others know that a bird of prey is out there somewhere. Sorta like the human equivalent of "watch out" or maybe even deeper like "Ouch!!"  Why do not animals say "ouch!!"? This is, humans are animals too.

There are parrots and dogs which can understand or name a hundred or more objects/concepts, but the prairie dog can communicate not only that there is a predator, but its alarms can contain information that it's a human that's approaching, that it's a large or small one, and what colour it is (colour of clothing). It's clear that some animals can specialise in being good within a specialised area of language, but the rest is missing due to lack of capacity.
Quote

Can it not be that maybe the human language is both cultural and nature?

There are genes and memes recognized as the only 2 replicators in life. And some say "fire", but I do not see how.
A feril child: does it learn and copy the language of the creatures it was raised by?
A child raised without any living creature, but instead merely with a pacifier milk bottle. Will it be able to grasp the language it is initially confronted with?

Clearly genetics is important as it builds the machinery on which thinking is carried out, but culture is required too - children brought up without language have their ability to think reduced by their lack of language, and this happens because they are unable to get abstract ideas posted into their head by other people, so they're restricted to thinking about things that are immediately obvious to them.

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Deaf people who were born deaf and were raised by ditto parents...

"Deaf parents" would be easier than "ditto parents" to understand, and would have saved you a letter.

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...have a significant, if not unsurmountable, advantage over people who later on in life got deaf. Does not the sheer fact that learning whatever study in life gets tougher when you age prove that it is both a nature and both a culture thing?  At the age of 3 to 16  (or whatever) you can learn 20 languages from birth. But once you get beyond 17 you start to see a significant decline in ability to comprehend "stuff".

Studies suggest that beyond age 12 or thereabouts, if you move to a new country and start learning the language spoken there, you will probably always sound like a foreigner to them, but if you move there while a little younger, your mind will still be able to adapt fully and allow you to sound like a native speaker. You can still learn languages effectively at any age though, so long as you go about it the right way. The way languages are taught in schools in English-speaking countries is usually awful, teaching you to avoid learning languages for the rest of your life because the rewards are far too low for all the effort put in. The key to learning languages the easy way is to focus on learning to understand the language first and worry about learning to speak it afterwards, but in our schools we do the opposite, teaching children to ask boring questions about the whereabouts of stations even though they haven't a chance of understanding the replies. What learners should do is start with parallel texts with literal translations and be taught little bits of grammar along the way, with lots of repetition of the rules, but the journey needs to be made fast while using interesting reading material which would still be worth reading even if you weren't trying to learn a language at the same time.

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And unlike american legislature, we, scientists, realize that the human brains are mature only when hitting the 27th birthday. Though I am not sure about females...they tend to age way sooner. But that is probably reproductive speaking. I do not mean this derogatory but in the vain of evolution.
Should not a young female be prepared and more adult than the young childish adolescent raping her?
This is exactly what is still happening today, but less drawn into a caricature.

That's mostly cultural - there are plenty of very mature children of 5 years old (both girls and boys), but then most of them are infantilised by being locked up in oppressive institutions which force a culture of stupidity upon them and kill their dreams.

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Eugentics is over, as goes for Lamarckian days....but how can we still not know the reason why certain people deem light green the same as light blue? And Homer, c.q. one of the writers, describes the sea as black as wine and the sky metallica instead of blue.

They can distinguish between colours perfectly well, but merely map them to an impoverished set of words or a set with different boundaries - this is based on cultural learning.

Quote
I am afraid, extrapolating on this, that eastern culture is really thinking anti-western for a purpose.
And in that regard you can not blame them unless you blame yourself. If we can not even settle on colour, I believe that what they say about oriental minds being different from western may be more true than I ever imagined it to be. I mean: colour is merely one thing in a human mind, let alone hatred.

Colour words are to some degree arbitrary and depend on culture to fix them in your head. The range of our word "blue" includes the colour cyan where there's just as much green light in there as there is blue, so it isn't directly bound by the RGB sensors in our eyes. Where there is a more substantive difference between the way people think which can be linked to language is the issue of whether languages are inward or outward reading. With an inward-reading language like Japanese, Hindi and Basque, you put all the descriptive stuff in front of nouns, including entire relative clauses, working inwards towards the central components ideas of the sentence, whereas an outward-reading language gives you a key noun first and then runs out through the description and away from the central idea. So, where in English we say, "that man who works in the garage with the red roof", in Japanese you would say "red roof's garage-in works that man".

It turns out that people who use inward-reading languages tend to focus more on the surroundings than the central players in a scene, so if you get Japanese and American students to look at a fish tank for a minute and afterwards ask them to describe as much as they can remember, the Japanese will tell you more about the contents of the tank than about the single fish (a big one) that was swimming about in the middle of it, whereas the Americans will tell you more about the fish and less about anything else in the tank. This appears to be because inward-reading languages force their speakers to start talking about things from the periphery towards the central idea they want to discuss, always beginning with its contextual setting.
« Last Edit: 10/02/2013 21:43:06 by David Cooper »
 

Offline David Cooper

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It's hard for me to believe the brain is just neurological real estate up for grabs depending on the repeated sensory input it receives, especially when very specific language functions are controlled by specific areas in the brain, like Broca's and Wernicke's areas.  In addition, language development in babies follows typical patterns, despite culture or upbringing. Pathology is not a perfect indicator of how things work normally, but it can be a window into what happens when some part of the brain doesn't do what it's supposed to. Some stroke victims lose the ability to form meaningful sentences, but can still understand whats being said, and sometimes the opposite is true, which is even weirder. I've even read about stroke victims who can write, but not read or understand what they've written.

Generating sentences is a lot harder than understanding someone else's, and it appears that many individual bright animals (typically a gorilla, chimp, bonobo or dog) can understand most of what people say to them, though they will struggle with many ideas which they simply can't process. Their communications back to us are stunted, restricted to a few simple words which need to be part of a sentence, but they don't have the ability to structure a sentence or to monitor how well they're putting it together. Human babies likewise can understand much of what is said to them before they have started to work out how to go about constructing any kind of complex reply.

I can remember an incident when I was 12 months old where my thinking felt as clear as it does now and I was understanding the things that were being said to me, but I had no mechanism to formulate a reply. I was being encouraged to run a toy car up a wooden ramp and onto some wooden blocks beyond it, but when I tried to do it my arm simply wouldn't go where I wanted it to and I just knocked everything apart, but my father kept encouraging me to have another go even though I knew it was a hopeless task - I didn't want to knock things apart again as I thought it would have spoilt things for them (my father and sister). That kind of thinking is supposedly not possible for children anything like that young (Piaget's faulty experiments have a lot to answer for), but the age at which children can decentre and think about things from other people's point of view is repeatedly being pushed down by ever-better experiments - it will eventually be recognised that it is perfectly possible and normal for 12-month-olds to do this.

The reason this memory has stayed with me though is that it was much more profound: I wasn't sure that I was ever going to be able to manipulate objects without being horribly clumsy and I wasn't sure that I was ever going to be able to talk like my parents and sister either, even though I appeared to be the same kind of thing as they were, but I couldn't see how I could ever get there. I was actually worried that I might be an animal which would never be able to do these things. However, my father kept on encouraging me to have another go, and I couldn't understand why he hadn't given up, but it eventually dawned on me that the reason he was still encouraging me to try again was that he didn't know that I couldn't do it. I then realised that the reason he didn't know had to be because he knew that I would be able to do it some day, and that meant that I couldn't be an animal. I was so happy at this realisation that I smiled, or more likely beamed at him, and he looked extremely puzzled at this. Eventually he gave up wondering why I was suddenly so happy and just smiled back. I wanted to explain to him why I was so happy, but I had no way of doing so. I knew though that I would be able to speak like them some day, even though I still couldn't imagine how I was going to get there - I couldn't even find the beginnings of a mechanism that I could build on to start that journey. That's where the memory ends, and sadly I don't have any memory about finding the beginnings of that mechanism later on, though it must have followed soon after.

I know that this gives a true picture of the inner thinking of a very young child, and it's one of the key things that got me interested in cognative development, but it also illustrates something of how it may be for the brightest of animals - they will be able to understand a lot, but they will be incapable of finding any mechanism for speaking back due to the difficulty of systematically building structured linear sentences out of complex thoughts with multiple branches.
« Last Edit: 10/02/2013 22:26:49 by David Cooper »
 

Offline Minerva

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It's hard for me to believe the brain is just neurological real estate up for grabs depending on the repeated sensory input it receives, especially when very specific language functions are controlled by specific areas in the brain, like Broca's and Wernicke's areas.  In addition, language development in babies follows typical patterns, despite culture or upbringing. Pathology is not a perfect indicator of how things work normally, but it can be a window into what happens when some part of the brain doesn't do what it's supposed to. Some stroke victims lose the ability to form meaningful sentences, but can still understand whats being said, and sometimes the opposite is true, which is even weirder. I've even read about stroke victims who can write, but not read or understand what they've written.

I guess that depends which perspective you take.  You can say that language is controlled by specific areas or you can say specific areas produce this kind of behaviour.  What you will find with the language loop (which includes Broca and Wernickes areas) is that it also functions in exactly the same way for deaf people who use sign language so it is more correctly associated with the production of communication rather than talking language per se.  (See hear - http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/d/d_10/d_10_cr/d_10_cr_lan/d_10_cr_lan.html).

Language development like all child development improves as the nervous system is fine tuned and calibrated by its environment but it cant outpace its own physical development.  It would be odd if the physical brain did not develop at roughly the same pace across the entire species (although obviously some develop quicker than others) but if your brain is not developed enough to co-ordinate the fine motor movements needed by the mouth and tongue to produce speech you wont be able to reproduce what you hear around you (thats also why dogs wont ever speak because they cant do it mechanically not because their brains arent equipped).  That doesnt mean that they dont understand (at least conceptually if not literally) what is being said. Language learning is a process of repetition and intonation that increases with age and experience but also requires the physical constructs to be in place to be able to make complicated sounds.
 

Offline Minerva

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It's hard for me to believe the brain is just neurological real estate up for grabs depending on the repeated sensory input it receives, especially when very specific language functions are controlled by specific areas in the brain, like Broca's and Wernicke's areas.  In addition, language development in babies follows typical patterns, despite culture or upbringing. Pathology is not a perfect indicator of how things work normally, but it can be a window into what happens when some part of the brain doesn't do what it's supposed to. Some stroke victims lose the ability to form meaningful sentences, but can still understand whats being said, and sometimes the opposite is true, which is even weirder. I've even read about stroke victims who can write, but not read or understand what they've written.

I guess that depends which perspective you take.  You can say that language is controlled by specific areas or you can say specific areas produce this kind of behaviour.  What you will find with the language loop (which includes Broca and Wernickes areas) is that it also functions in exactly the same way for deaf people who use sign language so it is more correctly associated with the production of communication rather than speech/language per se.  (See hear - http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/d/d_10/d_10_cr/d_10_cr_lan/d_10_cr_lan.html).

Language development like all child development improves as the nervous system is fine tuned and calibrated by its environment but it cant outpace its own physical development.  It would be odd if the physical brain did not develop at roughly the same pace across the entire species (although obviously some develop quicker than others) but if your brain is not developed enough to co-ordinate the fine motor movements needed by the mouth and tongue to produce speech you wont be able to reproduce what you hear around you (thats also why dogs wont ever speak because they cant do it mechanically not because their brains arent equipped).  That doesnt mean that infants dont understand (at least conceptually if not literally) what is being said. Language learning is a process of repetition and intonation that increases with age and experience but also requires the physical constructs to be in place to be able to make complicated sounds.
 

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