2
$\begingroup$

Assumption: Animals can't talk 'human' because of their small(er) brain.

Perhaps a strange thought, but I was really wondering: If we could place a human brain inside that of an animal: Would we be able to speak 'human', instead of 'animal'?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Obviously attaining the assumption how animals can imitate human beings simplest algorithm to be achieved.We used the property of vocal motor control to identify how animals behaving to reproducing physical capability to produce speech.Yakubu M Wise); $\endgroup$ – Yakubu M Wise Dec 17 '17 at 21:44
2
$\begingroup$

Can dumb human beings speak? No. But can they communicate using human language? Of course!

Maybe this question can be answered if we stop thinking about "talking" as speaking our own native tongue.

If a human level intelligence existed in a non-human body, it would certainly develop a language to communicate with other members of its species.

The fact that this language would very probably be unlike any human language we know is irrelevant. Morse code or just simple writing is totally unlike any spoken language we know, yet it is still language, only encoded in a different register.

But if we actually transplanted a human brain into a dolphin or bird or money, whould it speak? Sure. Many birds can mimic the sounds of human languages. And if the specific animal lacked the organs to voice human words, it would either develop a system of speech that fit its larynx or press the keys on a keyboard with its beak like Stephen Hawkings (who, while he cannot speak, is certainly capable of language and communication).

In short, it is not the body that enables a being to speak, but the linguistic faculty of its mind. A language that fits the body is easily created.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As a side note, deaf people are generally able to speak, notably so in case of acquired deafness and those fitted with an auditory prosthesis. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Jun 18 '15 at 0:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AliceD You are right, of course. Thanks for pointing out my mistake. Corrected. $\endgroup$ – user3116 Jun 18 '15 at 3:53
5
$\begingroup$

Part of what makes speech possible is a complex set of interactions between a number of different muscles that control aspects of producing speech sounds like airflow and mouth shape. Humans are unique in the complexity of the sounds that we can produce. Even if we granted the science-fiction that would be necessary to put a human brain into a chimpanzee and somehow managed to reconnect the analogous neural pathways to sensory organs and effectors, human speech wouldn't be possible because it requires a human body.

This Wikipedia page gives an overview of the biological developments that support speech.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ This seems to be the best answer to me. I like what's answer but I think one would have to totally relearn the muscle moments to speak in another animal's body (assuming that were even remotely possible) and I think that's a near non-starter. $\endgroup$ – Josh Jun 18 '15 at 3:38
2
$\begingroup$

This is a complicated question if you stop for a moment to think about it.

Evolution is a complicated process. Brains and other part of the bodies actually do not evolve distinctly from each other. We can say they co-evolved if you will... So how did humans get language? How did humans get speech? Did they acquire it together if not which first. There are theories, but as far as I am concerned there is not a widely accepted certain truth.

But brains are fairly plastic right? I mean if we don't go to too extreme and try to put a human brain in a cockroach like body put it in a reasonably similar body like a chimpanzee perhaps the plasticity may provide the required sensory motor functions for living. But can this chimp talk?

It fairly depends on what we understand by "talking". If we consider speech (as humans do) the answer may be NO. Because it took a lot of work for evolution to make us able to produce that many different sounds. (They even say even with the risk of chocking themselves, most of the other primates don't have the same problems) So failing to produce phonemes what body may not be able to use human languages vocally.At least common human languages... There are pople that use language by wistling you may want to check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgEmSb0cKBg

But we have fairly good evidence that language is not about speech. It isn't even about just communicating. If given enough time and environment even with the limited vocal ability I suspect that ability may be turned into a different kind of language (possibly with lesser number of phonemes and longer words) And also to look the things from another angle: Are we talking to each other when we communicate via instant messaging or texting. If it's a yes then yes the chimp could talk. If no, then, possibly no.

As I said earlier we can use language in fairly different ways. Even people lacking complete auditory input or vocal motor control can use language. For example chimp would not have any problems with using a sign language.

To sum up if we talk about language it is a more general concept then just speech and can be performed in various ways. And it is fairly independent from the properties of sensory or motor organs. A brain that has functioning language areas would find a way.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

I'd expect that if you put a human brain into some other animal, and it was able to learn how to operate that body well enough to live, then it would eventually start to try to speak. It would have to re-learn how to produce the sounds like an infant would. However, it probably would never be able to speak as well as a human due to physical limitations of the vocal system. They might be able to squeak out some words, but they'd probably mostly rely on other means of communication, just like people with speech difficulties do.

Of course the subject wouldn't suddenly lose their ability to use and understand whatever human languages they knew before. They'd just have physical difficulty producing actual speech.

So to answer based on the assumption: the reason animals can't speak human languages is a combination of both lacking the mental capability to understand spoken language and the physical capability to produce speech.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.