virus: On communication

Billy Pilgrim (
Sat, 16 Mar 1996 12:23:25 -0500

Ronald Ferruci wrote:
> > They probably don't start engaging in conversation with us because
> > they don't understand our words. It's like coming accross a group of
> > people whose languarge you don't understand, unless someone you know
> > understands what they are saying you're going to have a hard time
> > even figuiring out what they are trying to say.
> >>Yet most human beings manage to figure it out.
> Unfortunetly, when it comes to other animals, their vocal chords are
> different than ours. When you're discussing other groups of humans,
> the vocal chords are the same and so (over time) we could figure out
> what they are saying. And when we figure out what other launguages
> words mean, it's usually by association (unless there is somebody
> that speaks both languages, then the task becomes a little bit
> easier). Thats how it is possible to teach gorillas sign language,
> the reason they can't learn as much sign language as humans is
> because a lot of the words are abstract. When you teach a gorilla
> how to say banana, you show him a banana and then the sign, but how
> are you going to teach him imagination, or feelings , there is
> nothing concrete that you could show him so that he understands. And
> with humans you could show them the sign and then have them read the
> word. Even deaf people can read, but i don't think that gorillas can
> read english.

I think an important part of understanding other organisms is by
interpreting their behavior. Infants develop language through observation,
mimicry, _and_ interaction. This interacion over a long time teaches young
children what the behavior of their peers, parents, and others means. This
is why people can usually interepret other people's intentions, even if
they speak different languages. I would posit that if a human spent enough
time observing another organism, in time they would be able to understand
what the other organism wants (This may or may not work the other way
around, and my guess would be that if it did not it would be due to a lack
of intention, not necessarily intelligence). Take for example a human and
their dog. In my home, at least, there is some level of understanding
between our dog and us humans. When he wants to go out, or eat, we can
usually tell what he wants.
So, I would conclude that the reason humans canot understand other
organisms is through a lack of interaction and not a basic inability to
communicate. And, the reason that humans can communicate with each other
on at least a basic level is through a familiarity with universal
That's it.


Would you like some cake? No thank you,
My ears are too sweet now
A strange choice of words, but forensically its true
	-Little Feat
	from "Representing the Mambo"