Re: Paper on chimp culture

Bill Benzon (
Sat, 19 Jun 1999 20:40:38 -0400

Message-Id: <>
Date: Sat, 19 Jun 1999 20:40:38 -0400
From: (Bill Benzon)
Subject: Re: Paper on chimp culture

At 10:10 PM 6/19/99 +0200, Mario Vaneechoutte wrote:

>Creole starts from pidgin. So there is a basis to work with. So, it is possible
>that a society of chimps might develop some sign language of their own,
>that we give them a start. In the end: we have once started language, chimps
>not. That is what remains to be explained.

The question that interests me is whether or not a society of chimps can
maintain signing over several generations without any human contact. I
suspect that they can't, that they need human support for their signing.
But I don't know this.

>But that is what we claim in some way: we say that animals have general mental
>capacities shared with us. Some mental grammar exists in animals. Different
>modules in an animal brain must be 'talking' to each other before a decision is
>made. But self-talk somehow becomes only truly possible when you have symbols.

I agree with this. You should take a look at Lev Semenovitch Vygotsky's
seminal _Thought and Language_, which talks about the childhood development
of inner speech from interaction with others. You should also look at
Sydney Lamb's remarks on inner speech in his recent _Pathways of the Brain:
The Neurocognitive Basis of Language_ (pp. 125 ff.).

>have to be careful, since I recall some people some time ago on this list
>reporting that they were thinking in images and had to translate that to words.
>This thinking in images might be what animals do, while we have made this much
>more efficient because we could develop words. Could those people comment
>I'd like to know more about this interesting phenomenon).

I certainly think in images, I even draw them. As a musician, I think
directly in inner music.

William L. Benzon 201.217.1010
708 Jersey Ave. Apt. 2A
Jersey City, NJ 07302 USA

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