Re: Paleoling, animal communication, etc.

Ralph L Holloway (rlh2@COLUMBIA.EDU)
Thu, 15 Feb 1996 13:28:02 -0500

On Thu, 15 Feb 1996, Matthew Hill wrote:

> Ralph (and others in the tools/language thread)
> I haven't seen any reference to Wynn's studies suggesting that it
> is not until well along in the Acheulean that tools demonstrate any
> capacities beyond those possessed by chimpanzees. How, or does, this
> fit in your arguments.

I don't buy Wynne's arugments, because he never really addressed the
issues I tried to deal with back in CA of 1969. Tool-making by
chimpanzees simply does not what I believe exists in the manufacturing
of a stone tool. The famous termite fishing is to me particularly
indicative of the limits to chimpanzee cognitve power. I find it a far
cry from taking an amorphously shaped stone cobble and imposing a
standardised form upon it.
I think what chimps do is what I call "iconic transformation", i.e.,
the shape of the fishing twig is already completely inherent in the
initial stimuls of the branch before the leaves are stripped off. I used
to call what hominids did as "symbolic" transformation, because I thought
the grammatical rules they were using to manufacture stone tools required
some extrinsic symbolization (ala Hallowell's papers on the subject),
that they were capable of both because of their nervous systems and the
social matrix in which they developed. Now I simply call it "noniconic"
transformation. However, I think chimpas are so very close to what we did
as early hominids that I have trouble regarding our cognitive powers as
any sort of quantum or qualititative leap.

Ralph Hollowasy