Abstract: Human language is not the only naturally occurring symbol system. There are many animals other than human beings that communicate by means of signs or signals; vervet monkeys, for example, have specialized warning cries for different kinds of predators. And some animal-communication systems even have a rudimentary syntax: the dances performed by certain honey bees have structural elements that tell other bees the direction and distance from the hive of a nectar source. But what’s distinctive of human language – and the feature that Descartes was highlighting – is that the syntax of human language permits us to take parts of signs and recombine them with parts of other signs.
Antony, Louise. Thinking
2009, In Brian McLaughlin, Ansgar Beckermann & Sven Walter (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind. Oxford University Press.
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