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3 things that differentiate human language from animal languages

discrete infinity, displacement and joint attention


What is discrete infinity of human language?

discrete infinity: The ability for human language to construct sentences of infinite length.


displacement ability human language

displacement: The ability for human language to convey information about ideas and objects in time (present, future and past), space(distance and location) as well as the non-existent.


joint attention ability human language

joint attention: The ability for human language to establish goals and cooperation between several individuals on a particular task, idea, object etc.


what determines whether a language is a natural language?

1) If children are raised speaking it.
2) If there is a community that identifies with the language; it is the native language of a group of people
3) You can communicate anything using the language


Are sign languages natural languages?

Yes as they match the set criteria


Roughly how many languages are there?

Between 6,000 and 7,000


How many languages do we expect to make it through the next century?

300 - 500


How many indo-european languages are there?

roughly 200


Name a language not in any other language family (a language isolate)



What are continuity based theories of the origin of human language?

Human language evolved naturally from a more primitive form of animal/human communication.


What are discontinuous based theories of the origin of human language?

Human language occurred by some random event or mutation and is its own unique entity that is different from animal communication.


Mandarin, Hakka and Cantonese are dialects of Chinese but are as distant as...

Italian, Romanian and French


Difference between a language and a dialect according to Max Weinreich

"A language is a dialect with an army and a navy"


How many language families are there?

About 250.


Why can some animals mimic sounds they hear (elephants, parrots, whales) while others can not (dogs, cows, cats etc)

A region of the forebrain that makes direct connections with the voice muscles. These brain circuits help them learn new sounds, and then control their vocal tract muscles to produce the learned sounds.