Share
Explore BrainMass

The Linguistic Approach

1. What other research(s) that differs with Lord Zuckerman's view that apes are qualitatively unlike humans with respect to language capabilities. Zuckerman suggests that humans have it and apes do not despite the fact that they can learn semantic content of individual words. Choose a view (apes are or apes are not like us) and make an argument for it.

2. Identify a verb in English that supports Whorf's linguistic relativity hypothesis in that it shapes our view of reality in a selective way. This is in the sense that an alternative view of the same thing is not only possible, but may be a better description of the relevant physical or social reality. Is your example consistent with the relativity hypothesis?

Solution Preview

1. What other research(s) that differs with Lord Zuckerman's view that apes are qualitatively unlike humans with respect to language capabilities. Zuckerman suggests that humans have it and apes do not despite the fact that they can learn semantic content of individual words. Choose a view (apes are or apes are not like us) and make an argument for it.

Zuckerman's argument, found most clearly in his well known Social Life of Monkeys and Apes, was that language acquisition has two components: syntax and lexicon. To jump from one to the other is quite fantastic. If lexicical competence had come first, it would be useless from the point of view of adaptation. What purpose would word meanings serve if there were no context to interpret it or to develop it? If the syntax of symbols had come first (i.e. rules of grammar), it would be equally useless, since the rules of grammar would exist before there are any words to arrange. It makes very little sense. Hence, both had to exist at the same time, which means having one alone will not lead to language acquisition. Both must exist as an irreducible pair.

Recently, Phillip Liberman's book has confirmed Zuckerman's thesis as to why primates cannot grasp language. Oddly, Zuckerman's name does not arise in the entire book. Like Zuckerman, however, Liberman accepts the famed Behe-like "irreducible complexity" argument in terms of language. In fact, it is far more than just syntax and lexical competence co-existing, but the entire community of meaning, action and practice that serves as its field of operation. All of these have to exist together for syntax and vocabulary to develop together, as they must (Liberman, 1993).

The fact that apes might learn lexical content is unimportant, since these are without context. Learning word meanings (particular things) is not the same as knowing the meaning of words (concepts): since content is ...

Solution Summary

The expert identifies the linguistic approach for a verb in the English language.

$2.19