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Thread: True Language

  1. #1
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    Question True Language

    As asked by someone:

    My question involves and article that I read from the Ohio State
    University Language Files. In this article, it lists three “design” features
    that all communication systems share: a mode of communication,
    semanticity, and pragmatic function. Then it goes on to list the qualities that
    some, but not all, communication systems have, such as interchangeability, cultural transmission, arbitrariness, and discreteness. When explaining interchangeability and cultural transmission, the article gives examples of these aspects in non-human communication systems. It uses an example of silkworms’ chemical communication of the female sending and the male receiving messages indicating readiness to mate to explain the idea of interchangeability. Finally, the article goes on to list the two defining characteristics of what it calls “true language:” displacement and productivity. Now, my question is why are arbitrariness and discreteness not listed as defining characteristics of human language. What non-human communication systems argueably possess these qualities?

    Can anyone help answering it, since it's beyond me, I'm afraid.

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: True Language

    I'm not sure that they can- the cicada here in Cambodia seem to make exactly the same noise as those I heard when I lived in southern Europe, though a bit louder. I agree with you and disagree with the limitations imposed on the defining characteristics, at least as far as arbitariness goes. Discreteness, if the discrete meanings of non-human communication are constant, might be different if the discreteness is universal.

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