100 thoughts on “23. Language

  1. I always thought that humans also have fear pheromones and also can't stop them from spreading fear smell when they want to lie. 

  2. I've been looking all over for his lecture on signing primates! There used to be an upload of just that segment of the lecture. It would pop up on the "related videos" section of Koko videos, which I thought was pretty ironic. If anyone knows if that shortened clip still exists of just primates and language, please show me!

    It's amazing how many people can't see through Koko's owner's charade. (I think her name is Penny.) She has done a brilliant job of translating Koko's demands into elaborate and creative musings. I've seen her translate Koko several times saying something simple like, "Baby." or "Baby give me." when seeing a doll or a baby gorilla on T.V. into, "Koko's saying she wants to be a mommy." or "Koko wishes she could have kids.". Not very scientific. But tell anyone that the most famous signing ape is not practicing real language or not doing much more than communicating basic desires, which many animals can do, they'll get very upset.

    How has she fooled even some extremely sharp people? I think much of it has to do with the cuteness and sensationalism of it all. No one wants to think that this cute lady is being deceptive or that this cute chimp, which we've watched grow old, is not as miraculous as we thought. Not to mention the fact that the media has followed Penny and Koko off and on for the last few decades, and people expect that journalists would not focus so strongly on a story of biology-meets-linguistics that holds no water with the scientific community. Unfortunately, that's exactly the case, because true or false, a signing gorilla and her blonde owner made a great story.

    I don't really think Penny is trying to con people, but I do think her love and bond with Koko has made her far too obsessed and biased to see clearly. However, if you learn the circumstances on which she obtained the gorilla, watch her approach to teaching in that early French documentary, and see the absolute plateau of Koko's learning progress since those first few years, it's very hard to believe Koko has any real grasp of language. In fact, it's almost depressing to see her now. She's old, fat, lethargic, sad, spoiled, and yet totally deprived of what would be a natural fulfilling life for a gorilla. It's not that I think an ape can't learn language, I just think that Penny was more ambitious, smitten, and self centered to complete the task. I wonder how much money she makes in donations from gullible animal lovers.

    The newer experiments they're doing with bonobos are much more promising on every level, as Dr. Pulaski stated. Not only are they far more equipped resource-wise, they have much more knowledgeable scientists and a more social environment for their apes. It's a shame that not many people are taking notice. Thanks to Penny, the public thinks that an ape using language accurately is old news.

  3. oh god, sapolsky this lecture is great but yet again you're completely wrong about everything about behaviorism.

  4. i find this guy's lectures fascinating and im not even a scientist or a student, in fact i'm jobless and unskilled. 

  5. Let's say that, one day in the future, we are able to convey meaning through a combination of virtual reality and some sort of international icon or picture language.  Would we still be using the same areas of the brain as we do now with "modern" languages?  I noticed he said that in Chinese, they use a "slightly different" area of the brain.  I was wondering if we would be using an area of the brain that would be near this Chinese area of the brain. I like how Terence McKenna put it…. "to SEE what we mean."

  6. Sapolsky is a great lecturer and presenter, and I enjoyed this lecture.
    However, he really does misrepresent the behaviourist angle on language (and I don't think the behaviourists were correct). Firstly, the fact that he refers to 'negative reinforcement' when a child produces sounds that make no sense, shows that he is unfamiliar with the terminology and thus probably behaviourism. Sapolsky also fails to understand the behaviourist concept of 'generalisation' , and that generalisation could account for for unique utterances.

  7. It's worth doing some research on Kanzi to get familiar with his capabilities. Koko is awful and it's important to know that, but she stole time that I wish this lecture had spent describing what really is possible.

  8. As for the people who supposedly cant differentiate between 8 and 10 or other numbers, you have to consider that their mind can still conceptualize the number without being able to verbalize. For example, an individual could hold up 8 fingers and say "that many." The language has not limited the way they think. When they run out of fingers they could use sticks or rocks as counters to do the same for higher numbers.

  9. I deeply enjoy these lectures. I would enjoy them even more at higher resolution and most of all a pop-filter used during the recordings, because every time this genius speaks towards the camera there is resonant noise. The content is, however, priceless. Thumbs up and thank you.

  10. Regarding 1:16:15, and the inability of dogs to "Lie" via pheremones and their anal glands, I think that's not a fair measure. When Humans are nervous or anxious, they can't just decide not to sweat and smell either, but Humans can obviously still lie in spoken language. On the contrary, the act of covering their scent glands by lowering their tails seems like a pretty direct analog for a human "Lying" about their emotions by trying to suppress a smile or an anxious facial expression that they don't want to convey.

  11. Cetaceans (some odontoceti so far) are able to transmit precise, perhaps symbolic representational information about performing complex skills and sequences. Since sound imaging differs from abstraction in important ways, and since emotional and arousal states cannot be hidden from their detection, we observe yet other species whose brains are not evolved to coevolve around deception, for which a certain symbolic verbal communicator's brain is designed.

    Numerous cetacean species have brains 5x human, with the now-surprising Physeter macrocephalus (Moby Dick, most of whom were genocidally slaughtered for two centuries, for lamp and machine oil) having the world's largest at 9x human, with new evidence of observational capacity and some kind of descriptive communication – teaching or learning skills through sonic observation and/or expression in water far too murky for visual learning.
    Neocortex, allocortex, and neuronal density differs in various brains; Since some modulation has been found through certain glial cells, the issue is still quite opaque and unknown to human research.

    Alliance Francaise limits their language to a smaller total vocabulary. Very top-down. Most other languages accept new words, especially scientific.

    Ravens and many other animals, like the human animal, can hold 7 objects in mind – above that counting is necessary. Oddly, Clark's Nutcracker remember some 3,000 locations. They perhaps use up space for spatial memory that downslope birds use for more social skills. Location and orientation skills are an ethological subject worthy of extensive discussion, having to do with cognitive choice.
    Dr. Irene Pepperberg at Purdue and other U's later, worked with a parrot, discovering an intentional and highly social communication capacity, able to vocalize pronouns and emotional responses in English.
    Other birds pass that self-recognition test in mirrors, pecking or grooming at dabbed-on objects – once used as an attempt to prove that humans and a few primates were the only animals with "consciousness."

    I remember prosody as being emphasis, rhythm, and tone variation.

    A young adolescent Wolf who cannot understand human nuance, would become excited as I finally responded to a new intentional signal. A teacher, indeed!
    Since wolves wag tails in highly specific ways only in concordance with intent (unlike the very neotenous domestic canid), dominant and assertive wolves raise and flag their tails (yes, they mistake the obligate curled-up husky, UNTIL they realize that it is not offensively intended. They learn nearly immediately that gesture of domestics does not share their wild species' meaning). Tail wags of different speeds, styles, and heights have different distinct meaning to observers who share understanding of the signal.

    Hormonal signaling is highly important. Wolves have a great number of exocrine glands- even we retain differentially-smelling hand and feet exudations.
     A little evidence of hormonal reception as communicationevoking intentinoality: I've seen 2-day old passage of familiar canids immediately excite and promote social signaling and inquisitive tracking – different by far from prey-signaling and mere asocial curiosity; also seeing tracks washed away by waves evoke excited acceleration, gazing toward likely direction, pursuit – all with momentary stares toward companions to signal intent.

    Meanwhile the record for developmentally-arrested dog word understanding exceeds at least 400; while different breeds have lost some social attention for wolf language – gestural, postural, ears, facial, contextual.
     Familiaris retain recognition of some C. lupus vocalizations, but are mired in excessive usage. Wolves meanwhile, extremely quickly use the trope we call Theory of Mind in increasingly efficient glance/context intentional signaling. With long association in free and wild conditions, the Wolf would respond to my teasing pretension to not- or mis- understand with variable nips (hard! if it was urgent or his mood was short), up to the hilarious grasp of an entire thigh with a just-firm-enough alligator grip, dragging me toward the intended goal or action).
    Just as human babies learn meaningful sounds from adult interaction, so do wolf pups learn significance through resting in direct physical contact with elders.
    Species with separately mobile ears, from ungulates to social canids, appear to have the ability to monitor aurally in two channels. One ear attending to a bonded one, the other monitoring the environment, suggesting that differential stimulation of one side of the brain may very likely be occurring.
    Silent communication or signaling is important to most mammals. In addition to ASL, ESL, etc. another syntactic human language is Plains Indian sign, which is taught while speaking to youth and tale-telling, the best teaching method I've seen(!)

  12. There also is a whistling language in some villages in Turkey. There must be videos online. It could be a 15,000 feet high equator situtation.

  13. "New languages are invented by kids and nobody a whole lot older than them learns the new language." (Mind blown)

  14. The "past your eyes"/pasteurise, is only a pun if you can hear "pasteurise" spoken in english. So it's not a sign language pun, i.e. people who only know sign language won't get the pun unless it is explicitly explained to them.

  15. Despite this being a teacher-centered lecture, it was really fun to listen to, and quite educational.

    Correct me if I'm wrong though but I thought communicative aspects of language that were not related to speaking were called paralinguistics and prosody had to do with verbal/oral contours like pitch, rhythm and pausing and such.

  16. The linguist's name is Lera Boroditsky. Here is one of her terrific lectures on language: longnow.org/seminars/02010/oct/26/how-language-shapes-thought/

  17. combining this course while gaming is perhaps the best entertainment ive had in many years
    im going to try all the interesting ones from stanford and then move to mit

  18. Half way through the video "I hope he talks about Koko"
    … Yes! He's talking about Koko, and debunks the whole thing, wow, did not expect that.

    Would love to hear his thoughts on Alex the african grey parrot.

  19. I love Sapolsky and this lecture is great. A couple things he gets wrong though or doesn't go into all the nuances.
    1) Broca's area isn't just for language productions and mouth movement. Its most prominent role is in word order or "syntax" and more specifically in syntactic memory. But neuroscientists have moved away from models of Broca's region for syntax, Wernicke's for semantics and towards more complex models that focus on different pathways around the perisylvian fissure (the fold that splits the brain right there). Angela Friederici is one of the best researchers in terms of language in the brain if you're curious to read more.
    2) He dismisses B. F. Skinner's contributions to language research way too fast. The history of it's actually very interesting. Skinner wrote this book Verbal Behavior that adapted behaviorism to studying language. Chomsky wrote a review of it that not only decimated it but pretty much brought down behaviorism and started the "cognitive revolution." It's a brilliant take-down but the problem is that Chomsky basically just makes a lot of straw man arguments of ideas that Skinner never even held. Anyways, Chomsky's influence lasted for decades but there's been a resurgence of interest in Skinner's approach. In fact, the statistical methods that Sapolsky mentions where people learn language based on the probabilities of certain words being next to each other owes a lot to Skinner. Types of reinforcement that can be adapted from behaviorism can account for these probabilities. Statistical models are increasingly in favor and pushing out Chomsky's generative grammar. Especially since the computer models of language that have the most success (like Google translate) are based purely on statistical models. The types of learning behind these neural networks have close parallels to Skinner's operant conditioning. Anyways, Skinner's been laughed at in linguistic circles for decades but he's been gaining ground recently. It may go nowhere but he shouldn't be dismissed so fast.

  20. Professor S completely misrepresents the behavioral view of language acquisiton. His lack of understanding this view makes it impossible for him to speak with authority on the subject…although he is confident in his ignorance.

  21. What an amazing teacher !!!! Like some many I am fascinated by WHAT EVER he is teaching. in school I had only 2 teachers that
    got through my thick head, Miss Butts- 7th grade math, and Miss Sharp- 8th grade English. So few teachers that actually teach.

  22. doctor Robert Beatles language genetic manipulation professional this and that type of red herring . five whores that changed history t(IHS) doctor Robert changed base it's all good god doctor Robert the Beatles.

  23. Don't use motherese with babies or dogs or any life form. What a put down, grins. Consistency. Simplicity. Routine. Contact with your animals and learning THEIR language! They do not need to know our language! They need a language between their owner and themselves. One word or two syllables consistently used and they will love you and reward you with cognition.

  24. Dear Students, Please be considerate toward your classmates and bring cough drops and water with you to class. The coughing is very distracting, making it difficult to stay focused on the sound of the professor's voice. It's also spreading germs to other students. No one needs to catch your cold. This has been a PSA. Thank you. ?

  25. I personaly don't agree with the statment at the 1:12:35 about feelings and multilanguages…
    I speack 4 languages (Portugues / French / English / Spanish) and I don't feel that my expressiveness changes when I switch the language in my brain.

  26. Hey there, one thing about Brocca region, it's not primary motor cortex so it's not about moving lips (pyramidal path). Instead, it is secondary, cognitive-coordinative region that regulates function of the motor stripe. Connections are made during language learning process, so it's obvious it's not hard-wired to specific organ (like primary motor cortex neurons do), but more elastic one.

  27. Yep. He's right on language shaping your behavior. In English I'm naturally critical, logical and blunt, but in Thai, a very polite and deferential language, I'm polite, tolerant and forgiving in the same situation. It's why I stay in Thailand. It calms the beast…;-)

  28. Sapolsky perfected teaching with a trademark style to make it impossible not to grab and keep your attention to completely learn. Gifted like no other teacher can.

  29. All ethology is, is anthropomorphization of animals. Instead of scientific observation and reasoning, you put the animals in a cage, confine them with human limits, wring them out, and compare the little bits of what they can do within those limits to what the limits are. Sad. Look at the nature of language; spontaneity, infinitely inventive, and compare that to your methods. Real sad.

  30. 55:50 Only kids create languages? What about Tolkien? People who created Star Trek languages? Seems it's something adults can do.

  31. Consider the following:
    If one were to take any language and put that language together in all the various ways that it could be put together, all the wisdom that could ever be expressed by that language would be in there, also all the greatest and most moving speeches. Now sure, there would be a huge amount of junk in there, so proper discernment would be needed.

    Consider also:
    Un-named concept -> Given a name (could be a sound, symbol, etc) -> With an attached meaning -> And maybe other meanings depending upon context -> And maybe even other names with the same meaning.

    One could have a lot of fun mixing up concepts, names and meanings, basically creating your own language, especially if it's different than common languages to really mess with people. (Of course those other people might shun you because they can't understand you and then might fear you and/or believe you to be delusional. But, it could still be sanely done. Future psychological experiment? Hmmm……….). oslojhjfdoewuwoijioej!!??

  32. Love these lectures, but many languages don’t have a finite number of words. Agglutinative languages can create words on the fly.

  33. Love the idea of Robert Sapolsky being suddenly so hungry he starts giving a lecture regardless of whether there's any relevant audience around

  34. Judith Rich Harris' work which Robert Sapolsky loves to quote does not take into consideration the fact that 200 years ago and for a million years before, hominids grew up along side their parents. Peer relationships would have had far less of a developmental influence. Furthermore, intergenerational wisdom, which is unlikely as well developed amongst one's peers, is less well transmitted for the majority of children whose main role models may only be their peers. This may be the central reason why a deep sense of meaning or a "crisis of meaning" is more prevalent among today's youth besides the lack of a moral/ethical grounding from science that was integral to traditional institutions of belief.

  35. It is known that while adult wildcats rarely vocalize, domestic cats do it constantly. Might this simply be because cats learn quickly that humans communicate that way and so they imitate what humans do as best they can? I did once have a black cat who was very good at giving "the look", so certainly domestic cats are adept at non-verbal communication as well.

  36. Do male dog owners speak motherese to their pets?
    Let's find out. 'Rinka-chan! Who's a good dog? You are! good girl! Good dog! You are so good at being a dog. Rinka-chan you are the best at being at being Rinka-chan! that's what i like about you Rinka-chan!' Yup. higher pitched and i repeated 'good' 4 times. Holy Cow! how could i have graduated from UCSC class of 2000 without learning that.
    Rinka-chan is a 15 year old Shizu with glacoma. We rescued her and gave her a loving dog friendly home.

  37. Stay in your lane.
    Just because you're a biologist, doesn't give you credibility in neuro-linguistics(NLP). The majority of language learning research has proven that adapting new phonemes is definitely possible regardless of the age of the learner and actually IS EASIER as an adult if you have the correct training.
    If what you're saying was true about phonemes then no one would ever be able to improve their singing skills, and there would no one on the planet who would be able to speak a new language without a foreign speaker accent. Which we know is not the case.


    Why is a biologist even talking about this? It makes me question everything he is saying. He clearly doesn't know where his knowledge begins and ends. Most Opera singers/Stage Actors etc. for instance are shaping their phonemes in many languages well into middle age.
    How dumb are you?
    If you are wondering why I'm pissed, it's because there are second language instructors who are citing this BIOLOGY professor as a credible source because he can hide behind Stanford branding.

  38. I'm shocked more cultures didn't count in ways like 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 – than intervals of ten. 10,20,30,40,50 appose to 1,2, more than 3.. and 1,2,3,4, 5 or more than 5.

  39. A useful distinction that is not mentioned, is the distinction between prescriptive and descriptive liguistics. Prescriptive linguistics is the "how to speak properly" taught in formal settings, descriptive linguistics (the area that most linguists study) is the study of how language is actually spoken. Descriptive lingustics includes the study of Patwas, slang, pidgins, and any other form of communication that exhibits syntax.

  40. I've found this whole series fascinating but for pure entertainment value the whole story of Koko is a high point.

  41. 23:30 wisdom of the crowd. Just get a big room full of every major and ask a question, someone will probably know.

  42. whatcha mean we can't have partial words? (just used two in that sentence) Never heard of a ha penny (another partial IMO) May be texting wasn't as popular 10 yrs ago…..lots of partials used there or am I misunderstanding his definition of partial? I'm using this basic definition – existing only in part; incomplete.

  43. Do dog fanatics love cats? NO, not at all.
    Do psychiatrists love animals?
    Not at all.
    Do sadistic clans love animals or children?
    Not at all.
    Do rapists love animals? Not at all.
    Do "sluts" love animals or cats?
    Even more, than any rapist, dog fanatic and hooligan will be able to.
    Do satanists love animals or children?
    Not at all, they hunt and terrorise them even into death by torture, as are psychiatrists and terrorists used to in their hate to animals and as the sadists, which are used to torture, beat, chase and terrorise animals "this sluts" and humanbeings out of their way, which at least don't laugh about those sadists, which are used to torture and beat and terrorise animals and humanbeings out of their way,at least all those, which could be in despair about the damage and loss, which those brutals in their love to injustified cruelty and sadistic violence are used to, which is the torturing, beating, chasing and hunting to death of animals and humanbeings alike.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *