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C O U R S E 
Miracles of Human Language: An Introduction to Linguistics
Marc van Oostendorp, Universiteit Leiden
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Discrete Infinity, Displacement, and Joint Attention
Notes taken on March 31, 2015 by Edward Tanguay
human language is about diversity
but many things are similar
basic questions of human languages and linguistics
what is language?
do animals have language?
how many languages are there?
how do we count languages?
how are they related to each other?
what do linguists do?
how do they get their data?
what are informants?
do animals have a language as well
they do communicate
differences between animal and human communication
lack of conversation-level communication
humans clearly have more signs than apes or cats
three dimensions in which human and animal communication are different
1. discrete infinity
discrete means in this sense limited
English alphabet has 26 letters
with these letters you can make an infinite number of sentences
this is provable since you can always add to the longest sentence
apes also have a discrete set of calls
but they cannot combine them to make more and more complicated systems
they only have a limited number of combinations
2. displacement
we can talk about our here and now, but also about the past, future, places far away, and abstract notions which we could never see
animals don't have this
although bees can communicate about space through a kind of dance, but it is very limited
they can only talk about honey they have actually experienced, not abstract honey
3. joint attention
shared intentionality
humans work together as a team
we have to read each others minds in order to know our goals, so that we can help that person achieve that goal
animals do not do this very well
apes can look at the same thing and even be aware that they are looking at the same thing
but they don't work together in a complicated way in which humans can