McTodd
This is a wug
Join date: Nov 2008
800 IQ
#1
If you're in the UK, this is on BBC iPlayer. Elsewhere, I highly recommend you seek out this film:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01p0gtf/Project_Nim/

Documentary about Nim Chimpsky, the chimpanzee who in the 1970s became the focus of a landmark experiment which aimed to show that an ape could learn to communicate with language if raised and nurtured like a human child. Following Nim's extraordinary journey through human society, and the enduring impact he makes on the people he meets along the way, the film is an unflinching and unsentimental biography of an animal we tried to make human.


I've taken a few courses on language acquisition, and the aim of this experiment - teaching human language to a non-human - is generally considered impossible. Most commentators today consider the experiment a spectacular failure, not least because of the blatant lack of scientific rigour (not to mention everyone sleeping with each other). That said, it's fascinating how attached everyone involved became to this chimpanzee. It's a really touching film.

So, anyone else know anything about language acquisition and have something to share? Any opinions on the experiment, or the science behind it? Any opinions on/experiences with living with a chimpanzee? I find all this stuff fascinating, and I can't stress enough how moving this film is.
Hahahahahahahahahah hahahaha har har har
Butt Rayge
UG Resident
Join date: Jan 2009
2,788 IQ
#3
Quote by MadClownDisease
IS his name a pun on Noam Chomsky?

Nope, definitely no relation whatsoever.


What an absurd thought.

They're not alike at all.
MadClownDisease
Just a Turing Machine.
Join date: Apr 2006
982 IQ
#4
Quote by Butt Rayge
Nope, definitely no relation whatsoever.


What an absurd thought.

They're not alike at all.

Thank god. I was about to bloody kick off if it was.
WildthingJR
UGs Sociolinguist
Join date: Jan 2007
451 IQ
#5
Quote by McTodd

So, anyone else know anything about language acquisition and have something to share?


Just reading The Myth of Linguistic Universals, an article that deals with Chomskyan theories about absolute linguistic features, that are apparent in every language (and thus very relevant to language acquisition). In short, the theory's bullshit - they're burning Chomsky(ans) pretty hard although the authors take no stance on the supposed existence of a language acquisition device in the human brain.
Quote by Xplozive
You sir are a dick!
Quote by Toppscore
And then again, Wildthang, "You're probably NOT one of them clean Socialists, either"

Wat.
Last edited by WildthingJR at Mar 25, 2013,
beefcake122
no fun.
Join date: Jan 2010
350 IQ
#6
is his name a reference to Noam Chomsky having the intelligence of the average primate
sunbather is shit
McTodd
This is a wug
Join date: Nov 2008
800 IQ
#7
Quote by WildthingJR
Just reading The Myth of Linguistic Universals, an article that deals with Chomskyan theories about absolute linguistic features, that are apparent in every language (and thus very relevant to language acquisition). In short, the theory's bullshit - they're burning Chomsky(ans) pretty hard although the authors take no stance on the supposed existence of a language acquisition device in the human brain.

My opinion on anyone that tries to dismiss the overwhelming evidence for the existence of Universal Grammar:
Hahahahahahahahahah hahahaha har har har
WildthingJR
UGs Sociolinguist
Join date: Jan 2007
451 IQ
#8
Quote by McTodd
My opinion on anyone that tries to dismiss the overwhelming evidence for the existence of Universal Grammar:


That's the point - it's not overwhelming most claims have either been refuted, or they are unfalsifiable and thus unscientific. Only 10% of all languages have been documented properly, so there are enough cases that can still dismiss UG.
Also, Chomskyans can be dickheads. Search for some info on Everett and the language Piraha. The Chomskyans side didn't like the fact that Everett found a language that lacks recursion (one of the main points of UG) and now they got the Brazilian government to deny him any further access to the tribe that speaks the language.
Quote by Xplozive
You sir are a dick!
Quote by Toppscore
And then again, Wildthang, "You're probably NOT one of them clean Socialists, either"

Wat.
Last edited by WildthingJR at Mar 25, 2013,
McTodd
This is a wug
Join date: Nov 2008
800 IQ
#9
Quote by WildthingJR
That's the point - it's not overwhelming most claims have either been refuted, or they are unfalsifiable and thus unscientific.
Also, Chomskyans can be dickheads. Search for some info on Everett and the language Piraha. The Chomskyans side didn't like the fact that Everett found a language that lacks recursion (one of the main points of UG) and now they got the Brazilian government to deny him any further access to the tribe that speaks the language.

Daniel Everett is largely regarded as a joke in the linguistics community. You say "the fact" as if it's a fact, but remember that this is a language that has only ever been studied by him. He really needs to get his data verified before he goes round making bold claims about recursion.
Hahahahahahahahahah hahahaha har har har
WildthingJR
UGs Sociolinguist
Join date: Jan 2007
451 IQ
#10
Quote by McTodd
Daniel Everett is largely regarded as a joke in the linguistics community. You say "the fact" as if it's a fact, but remember that this is a language that has only ever been studied by him. He really needs to get his data verified before he goes round making bold claims about recursion.


He is regarded as a joke by generativists, yes. They do not constitute the whole community, although they do have the dominant positions. If you venture outside of the generativist camp, there are quite some other linguists that are taking him and his research seriously. Also, there have been more linguists who studied Piraha, but I'm not sure who they were. Anyway, just have a look at The Myth..., it makes some very valid points and it refutes several claims of UG with a sufficient number of examples. The authors also deal with recursion a bit.

Also, if there's anyone making bold claims, it's the generativists. Universal Grammar has not been proven yet, period.

EDIT: if his research is a joke, then why deny him any further access apparently, he did something that got the Chomskyans really upset. Merely providing a counterexample is hardly worth this effort, especially when this example is not yet verified, don't you agree?
Quote by Xplozive
You sir are a dick!
Quote by Toppscore
And then again, Wildthang, "You're probably NOT one of them clean Socialists, either"

Wat.
Last edited by WildthingJR at Mar 25, 2013,
SlackerBabbath
Est. 1966.
Join date: Apr 2007
264 IQ
#11
Watched it last night. I was familiar with the fact that Nim was the first chimp to be taught sign language but I was unfamiliar with the way that the poor guy was mistreated.
McTodd
This is a wug
Join date: Nov 2008
800 IQ
#12
Quote by WildthingJR
He is regarded as a joke by generativists, yes. They do not constitute the whole community, although they do have the dominant positions. If you venture outside of the generativist camp, there are quite some other linguists that are taking him and his research seriously. Also, there have been more linguists who studied Piraha, but I'm not sure who they were. Anyway, just have a look at The Myth..., it makes some very valid points and it refutes several claims of UG with a sufficient number of examples. The authors also deal with recursion a bit.

Also, if there's anyone making bold claims, it's the generativists. Universal Grammar has not been proven yet, period.

EDIT: if his research is a joke, then why deny him any further access apparently, he did something that got the Chomskyans really upset. Providing a counterexample is hardly worth this effort.

I think we might have been exposed to different evidence for different things. To my mind, there is overwhelming evidence for Universal Grammar - it's unproven in the sense that Evolution is unproven. I'm also unfamiliar with this denial of access story, fun as it sounds, but I really doubt that academics have any say in decisions made by the Brazilian government
Hahahahahahahahahah hahahaha har har har
WildthingJR
UGs Sociolinguist
Join date: Jan 2007
451 IQ
#13
Quote by McTodd
I think we might have been exposed to different evidence for different things. To my mind, there is overwhelming evidence for Universal Grammar - it's unproven in the sense that Evolution is unproven. I'm also unfamiliar with this denial of access story, fun as it sounds, but I really doubt that academics have any say in decisions made by the Brazilian government


I'm not really sure whether UG and evolution can be compared. Then again, of course, many languages share the same features, so you could call that UG. However, as I've already pointed out, there are quite some counterexamples that prove that these features are not linguistic universals.

As for his denial of access: http://chronicle.com/article/Researchers-Findings-in-the/131260/

In 2007, Everett heard reports of a letter signed by Cilene Rodrigues, who is Brazilian, and who co-wrote the paper with Pesetsky and Nevins, that accuses him of racism. According to Everett, he got a call from a source informing him that Rodrigues, an honorary research fellow at University College London, had sent a letter to the organization in Brazil that grants permission for researchers to visit indigenous groups like the Pirahã. He then discovered that the organization, called FUNAI, the National Indian Foundation, would no longer grant him permission to visit the Pirahã, whom he had known for most of his adult life and who remain the focus of his research.

He still hasn't been able to return. Rodrigues would not respond directly to questions about whether she had signed such a letter, nor would Nevins. Rodrigues forwarded an e-mail from another linguist who has worked in Brazil, which speculates that Everett was denied access to the Pirahã because he did not obtain the proper permits and flouted the law, accusations Everett calls "completely false" and "amazingly nasty lies."
Quote by Xplozive
You sir are a dick!
Quote by Toppscore
And then again, Wildthang, "You're probably NOT one of them clean Socialists, either"

Wat.
Last edited by WildthingJR at Mar 25, 2013,
McTodd
This is a wug
Join date: Nov 2008
800 IQ
#15
Quote by WildthingJR
I'm not really sure whether UG and evolution can be compared. Then again, of course, many languages share the same features, so you could call that UG. However, as I've already pointed out, there are quite some counterexamples that prove that these features are not linguistic universals.

As for his denial of access: http://chronicle.com/article/Researchers-Findings-in-the/131260/

I actually know Rodrigues and Nevins - I know they take quite a dislike to Everett's research, but I'm highly skeptical of the claims that that article makes. As I said before, I doubt the Brazilian government are likely to be swayed by some relatively unknown academic on questions of research access.

EDIT - at the bottom of that article, in the comments section, there's something very sensible written by David Pesetsky that I heartily endorse
Hahahahahahahahahah hahahaha har har har
Last edited by McTodd at Mar 25, 2013,
WildthingJR
UGs Sociolinguist
Join date: Jan 2007
451 IQ
#16
Quote by McTodd
I actually know Rodrigues and Nevins - I know they take quite a dislike to Everett's research, but I'm highly skeptical of the claims that that article makes. As I said before, I doubt the Brazilian government are likely to be swayed by some relatively unknown academic on questions of research access.


I agree that it's a dubious story, but it happened nonetheless
Quote by Xplozive
You sir are a dick!
Quote by Toppscore
And then again, Wildthang, "You're probably NOT one of them clean Socialists, either"

Wat.
McTodd
This is a wug
Join date: Nov 2008
800 IQ
#17
Quote by WildthingJR
I agree that it's a dubious story, but it happened nonetheless

When you say "it happened", do you mean he was denied access, or do you mean that the Brazilian government cared what Cilene Rodrigues had to say? Because the first one is true, but there's no way of knowing about the second one. They could have all kinds of reasons for disallowing an American researcher into their country to do experiments on their endangered tribes. Remember they only let him in the first time because he was a missionary back then.
Hahahahahahahahahah hahahaha har har har
WildthingJR
UGs Sociolinguist
Join date: Jan 2007
451 IQ
#18
Quote by McTodd
When you say "it happened", do you mean he was denied access, or do you mean that the Brazilian government cared what Cilene Rodrigues had to say? Because the first one is true, but there's no way of knowing about the second one. They could have all kinds of reasons for disallowing an American researcher into their country to do experiments on their endangered tribes. Remember they only let him in the first time because he was a missionary back then.


Yeah I meant the mere fact that he was denied access. Still, it's all rather coincidental, so I have my doubts I don't really see how his work over there was "racist" by any means.
Quote by Xplozive
You sir are a dick!
Quote by Toppscore
And then again, Wildthang, "You're probably NOT one of them clean Socialists, either"

Wat.
McTodd
This is a wug
Join date: Nov 2008
800 IQ
#19
Quote by WildthingJR
Yeah I meant the mere fact that he was denied access. Still, it's all rather coincidental, so I have my doubts I don't really see how his work over there was "racist" by any means.

No, I agree with you there, he's anything but racist. I'm not convinced anybody made that claim though. From what I've read he seems like a pleasant enough guy, but he and that article seem determined to turn this into a Hollywood "fight the power" style argument, when none of that is really necessary. There were hints in the article about making a film of it ffs.
Hahahahahahahahahah hahahaha har har har
WildthingJR
UGs Sociolinguist
Join date: Jan 2007
451 IQ
#20
Quote by McTodd
No, I agree with you there, he's anything but racist. I'm not convinced anybody made that claim though. From what I've read he seems like a pleasant enough guy, but he and that article seem determined to turn this into a Hollywood "fight the power" style argument, when none of that is really necessary. There were hints in the article about making a film of it ffs.


Meh, I think the generativists are partly to blame for that as well. Instead of taking his research into serious consideration, they ignored/went passive aggressive about it. As much as I respect Chomsky, I can only conclude that the game in the linguistics community is being played rather foul at times (not only in this case, I've heard about aggressive rants in journals as well)
Quote by Xplozive
You sir are a dick!
Quote by Toppscore
And then again, Wildthang, "You're probably NOT one of them clean Socialists, either"

Wat.
Last edited by WildthingJR at Mar 25, 2013,