Re: talking of tools...

Mr J.M. Ottevanger (J.Ottevanger@LIVERPOOL.AC.UK)
Thu, 9 Feb 1995 16:26:47 +0000

This is very interesting and I must look this paper up. It will be good to
see something of yours without the dread name of Dean Falk turning up! I
won't ask you of your views on Vygotsky, Luria et al as yet. However I would
take issue with you as regards the homology of language and tool-making.
It seems to me that language provides the basis for various operations upon
which other aspects of intelligence depend, rather than sharing a process. My
thoughts on the matter have been tested by Stephen Pinker's recent book, which
contains persuasive arguments against a one-to-one mapping of cognitive
processes onto the grammatical structures of language. It does not seem to me,
however, to damage the idea thatcertain types of concept formation etc. are
linked to the presence of a structured communication system.
I'm with you on the significance of chimp tool-making, though. Their degree of
abstraction and complex formation may be paralleled in the development of their
communication system, but this is ot well enough understood to really say.
It would be great to know whether Kanzi would have been so adept if he had not
learnt some sort of a language. Damned cause and effect.
regards all, Jeremy

In the last mail Ralph L Holloway said:>
> I tried this back in 1969, in Current Anthropology, in an article called:
> "Culture: A human Domain". It grew out of a research paper I wrote for
> Desmond Clark when I was a grad student in the early '60's. What i wanted
> to do was use Shannon/Weaver communication theory to quantitfy stone
> tools (and thus making) in terms of information theory. I failed. But it
> did lead me to examine all the models of language available at the time
> and see if there were possibly homologous processes in tool-making. I
> thought that starting with Hockett's old design features would be a good
> start. In essense, I concluded that language and tool-maing (not using)
> were possibly homologous cognitive processes, and I concluded that
> tool-making did depend on language , at least to some degree. I'll never
> forget working in an aircraft factory and having the problem of getting
> sheet metal workers to describe how they got complex shapes so that it
> could go in some SOP manual. The response was that it wasn't possible to
> describe the procedures in words...
> I still think that what humans do with stone tools, i.e., the making
> of implements having a standardised form from a precursor in which
> that
> form is not apparent is a hallmark of cultural behavior, and that it is
> NOT the same as a chimp stripping leaves off a twig to make a stick for
> the termite nest. That is an iconic transformation, whereas the former is
> an arbitrary one.
> Ralph L. Holloway.
> >
> >
> >