Re: Origin of Language

Jacques Guy (
4 Aug 1995 09:21:11 +1000

I disagree with the notion that art or technology require language and are
therefore evidence of language. An anecdote if you allow.

Many years ago, when I was a student, I spent the summer holidays working
for my brother, a mechanic. On one occasion he was watching an engine
idling, rocker cover off. After a few minutes of just staring at the
tappets, he said: "the compression on cylinder <such> is shot".

Me: How do you know?
Him: I just can see it. Can't you see?
Me: What should I look for?

There he shrugged his shoulders and blew his top:

Me: No-one ever taught me! Just look! I learnt all by myself.

He could not put into words what it was that betrayed a defective
cylinder. He had learnt what I suppose was the telling pattern
of the movements of the tappets from watching and observing,
but had never translated this knowledge into language.

And the compression on that cylinder did turn out to be shot,
of course.