Re: Is language necessary for preservation of culture?

EJ Ford (
Fri, 24 Jan 1997 09:49:51 -0800

Herb Huston wrote:
> The Japanese macaques on Koshima Island have preserved their cultural prac-
> tices of washing sweet potatoes and placer mining wheat for more than 40
> years despite the lack (as far as anyone knows) of any language whatsoever.

Yes, but can they build a suspension bridge? Or perform stage plays
(yes, even mime and Noh theater)? And how do you know that the macaques
don't have a method of communicating? Most primates have a set of
grunts, hoots, etc., that communicate meaning. Perhaps your example was
not a good one.

A better support for the lack of language hypothesis would probably be
something along the lines of ants or termites, who build, seemingly
without language. Mind you, these animals also communicate, they just
do not make verbal utterances that we identify as language.

Personally, I am a materialist when it comes to definitions of culture,
but even I have to acknowledge that language plays a pretty important
role in the thing that we call culture.