Re: Memes, Biology, Language.

Wesley Schwein (
Sat, 4 Oct 1997 13:05:45 -0400 (EDT)

Date: Sat, 4 Oct 1997 13:05:45 -0400 (EDT)
From: Wesley Schwein <>
Subject: Re: Memes, Biology, Language.
In-Reply-To: <>

On Tue, 30 Sep 1997, kenmce wrote:

> Mark Mills <> Wrote:
> Ken McE wrote the indented text:
> I thought that critical age had long since been accepted
> among
> linguists, and that the window of opportunity closed around age
> six. Thirteen was much too late.
> Puberty was the critical age for syntax acquisition in the Genie book.
> Perhaps someone else has a better answer.

Ah, lingusitics to the rescue:
Puberty is generally considered the end of the critical period; 6 is about
the age most children have fully acquired their first language(s). Full
acquisition of languages continues up to the critical age. Multilinguals
retain a greater ability for language learning and (possibly) abstract

> I hadn't heard about the EEG research. What'd they find?
> The key work was with deaf children. In brief, some children are
> exposed to a fully symbolic sign system (sign language) at birth,
> others much later, a few after puberty. The discovery was that the
> early learners of sign language are training the left side of the brain,
> the same part of the brain trained by the average auditory learner.
> After puberty, a sign language learner is training the right side of
> the brain, the area generally associated with visual learning.

I hadn't heard this, but it doesn't suprise me a bit. Sign language is no
less language than speech and is produced in Wernicke's and Broca's areas.
For the post-critical period, we don't talk about language acquisition but
rather language _learning_; acquisition of language is much different
process from any other skill-learning and shouldn't be expected to show
activity in the same parts of the brain.

> In memetic terms, Genie could not replicate linguistic memes because her
> brain had fixed itself in circuits which ignored critical aspects of
> memetic replication processes.
> Perfect immunity to linguistic memes. How about non linguistic
> memes?

No, Genie could still acquire and use new words; she'd just never
developed a normal ability for syntax, so her sentences tended to be
things like "Cat sofa sit there" and "Water drink me some want".

As for memes of non-linguistic vectors, Genie learned to dress herself,
play games, and so forth. It has never been determined whether her
problems were primarily a result of extreme abuse or minor retardation;
some combination of the two no doubt, but with a population of one, what
can you say for sure?

> The borderlines of language are surprisingly vague.

"Fuzzy" might be a better word. Some, like Philip Liebermann, claim
language is an application of general cognition; others see it as
autonomous; still others, some mixture of autonomy and interaction with
other mental software.

The autistic person
> is generally very weak in understanding body-language and auditory
> language. Take out body language and the variety of non-linguistic
> memes
> may be small... at least in terms of the human experience.

What about techology? Chimpanzees and crows make tools out of twigs, and
they certainly don't have language.

> There are probably a wide number of memetic critical ages.

Sure, like openness to technological and social/political meme-complexes.

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