Sunday, June 30, 2019

Teaching Adam to Speak

Teaching Adam to Speak
by Glenn R. Morton

But humans are extremely special in one regard that I think relates to the events in Eden (which so many reject). Human communication comes from our neocortex. All other animal vocalization comes from the emotional centers of the animal’s brain. People who study the origin of language can’t completely explain how we jumped to that area in an evolutionary sequence. Their best effort, in my opinion is the idea that we once communicated via sign language. But that isn’t vocalization!

Language is obviously as different from other animals’ communication systems as the elephant’s trunk is different from other animals’ nostrils. Nonhuman communication systems are based on one of three designs: a finite repertory of calls (one for warnings of predators, one for claims to territory, and so on), a continuous analog signal that registers the magnitude of some state (the livelier the dance of the bee, the richer the food source that it is telling its hivemates about), or a series of random variations on a theme (a birdsong repeated with a new twist each time: Charlie Parker with feathers). As we have seen, human language has a very different design. The discrete combinatorial system called ‘grammar’ makes human language infinite (there is no limit to the number of complex words or sentences in a language), digital (this infinity is achieved by rearranging discrete elements in particular orders and combinations, not by varying some signal along a continuum like the mercury in a thermometer), and compositional (each of the infinite combinations has a different meaning predictable from the meanings of its parts and the rules and principles arranging them).
"Even the seat of human language in the brain is special. The vocal calls of primates are controlled not by their cerebral cortex but by phylogenetically older neural structures in the brain stem and limbic system, structures that are heavily involved in emotion. Human vocalizations other than language, like sobbing, laughing, moaning, and shouting in pain, are also controlled subcortically. Subcortical structures even control the swearing that follows the arrival of a hammer on a thumb, that emerges as an involuntary tic in Tourette’s syndrome, and that can survive as Broca’s aphasics’ only speech. Genuine language, as we saw in the preceding chapter, is seated in the cerebral cortex, primarily the left perisylvian region.
” ~ Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct, (New York: Harper/Perennial, 1994), p. 334

I think God showing the animals was God jump starting language. We can’t have language without a time of programing. Language in one sense is a program handed down from generation to generation. Consider a man who had no programming:

The fascinating picture shown in Genesis has God teaching man this most wondrous of skills.

And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof Ge 2:19

Naming is absolutely essential to this ability. Speech requires names for objects, otherwise there can be no subject or object in a sentence. This scene is reminiscent of some cases of people learning languages late in life. This is a very rare phenomenon because normally language must be learned quite early or the opportunity is lost. Stephen Pinker related the following interesting account of a languageless man finally grasping the concept of names and naming. He says,

"In her recent book A Man Without Words, Susan Schaller tells the story of Ildefonso, a twenty-seven-year-old illegal immigrant from a small Mexican village whom she met while working as a sign language interpreter in Los Angeles. Ildefonso’s animated eyes conveyed an unmistakable intelligence and curiosity, and Schaller became his volunteer teacher and companion. He soon showed her that he had a full grasp of number: he learned to do addition on paper in three minutes and had little trouble understanding the base-ten logic behind two-digit numbers. In an epiphany reminiscent of the story of Helen Keller, Ildefonso grasped the principle of naming when Schaller tried to teach him the sign for ‘cat.’ A dam burst, and he demanded to be shown the signs for all the objects he was familiar with. Soon he was able to convey to Schaller parts of his life story: how as a child he had begged his desperately poor parents to send him to school, the kinds of crops he had picked in different states, his evasions of immigration authorities. He led Schaller to other languageless adults in forgotten corners of society. Despite their isolation from the verbal world, they displayed many abstract forms of thinking, like rebuilding broken locks, handling money, playing card games, and entertaining each other with long pantomimed narratives."1

As in the biblical account, Schaller taught this man the names of objects, just as God taught Adam the names of the animals. However, one must concede the point that even language is not a prerequisite for inclusion in humanity. Ildefonso was fully human even without language. But, while not all humans speak, all who speak are human."Glenn R. Morton, Adam, Apes and Anthropology, DMD publishers, 1997, p. 49

Language requires several brain structures, and a program to run on those structures, a set of symbols.

As we find language in man today, it is not fully inborn, but the capacity for speech and conceptual thought is certainly innate; only the symbols themselves must be learned.” ~ Bernard Campbell, Human Evolution, (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Co., 1974), p. 336

And chimps are so way and away different from us in this regard that it is hard to see how we made the jump without something unique happening to us.

Indeed, Jane Goodall believes that vocalizations are so closely tied to emotional states that ‘the production of a sound in the absence of the appropriate emotional state seems to be an almost impossible task for a chimpanzee.’ Even among chimpanzees, the sound production appears to be controlled in the brain by the ancient structures of the limbic system and the brain stem, which we’ll read about shortly and which are involved in emotional response. The ‘higher’ centers of the brain do not appear to be much involved. This is a far cry (sorry!) from language as we humans know it, which is initiated in those higher centers the cerebral cortex) and is dependent on production and interpretation of sounds in isolation from the emotional states of the speaker and hearer. It is also dependent upon rules of grammar, syntax and so forth that are totally absent from the sound combinations chimpanzees make. So, no. Not only do chimpanzees not have language; they don’t even have an incipient form of it.” ~ Ian Tattersall, Becoming Human, (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1998), p. 60-61

God programmed Adams new brain with the symbols for the first language

What is the earliest evidence of brain structures associated with language--Broca's area?  

"Moreover, the configuration of the brain's lobes took on a distinctly human aspect in earliest Homo, with prominent frontal lobes and relatively small occipital lobes (at the back of the brain), as compared with a more apelike aspect that is found in australopithecines, where the occipital lobe is relatively bigger than in humans and the frontal lobes relatively smaller. This is not necessarily indicative of an incipient language capacity, but it is at least suggestive. The left hemisphere of the brain of early Homo was slightly larger than the right, as is the case in most modern people (right-handers), at least partly because the left brain is where important language functions are located. Most language-associated mental machinery is buried within different parts of the brain and is invisible to paleoanthropologists, who can see only the overall shape of fossil brains. However, a lump on the side of the brain and toward the front, known as Broca's area, is associated with some aspects of language function. It is not the clear signal of language abilities that anatomists once thought it was, but again it is suggestive. Broca's area  is visible in 1470, that is, Homo habilis, and in subsequent Homo erectus skulls that are complete enough that the hump can be looked for." Carl C. Swisher III, Garniss H. Curtis and Roger Lewin, Java Man, (New York: Scribner, 2000), p. 177-178

The earliest habilis is  2.4-2.8 myr old.

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