521-Class 2

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<sidebar>Psych521</sidebar>

What makes language special?[edit]

Readings: Hockett (1960); Burling (1993)

Tip: Always read the papers in the order listed on these pages. They will make more sense that way.

Please see here for sample QRCs that received different grades


Study Questions:[edit]

Hockett (1960)

  • What is the comparative method? How can it help us understand the origins of language?
  • You should be familiar with the design features of language that Hockett describes and which are unique to language vs. which are shared with other animal communication systems.
  • Importantly: is language a closed system or an open system? What are the differences between these two types of system? 



Burling (1993)

  • What is a gesture-call system?
  • In what ways is the human gesture-call system different from that of 
nonhuman primates? In what ways is it similar?
  • Why are alarm calls (e.g., those of vervet monkeys) useful in thinking about differences between langauge and other communication systems?
  • What does it mean to talk about “graded/continuous” vs. “contrastive/digital” communication systems. What are examples of each?
  • Where do “oh-oh” expressions, conventional gestures, iconic gestures, and 
intonations (prosody) come? Are any of these part of the gesture-call system? Why or why 
not?
  • What is the human gesture-call system and how does thinking about human gesture-calls help us think about the origin of language?