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date: 19 April 2018

Abstract and Keywords

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.

Keywords: symbol system, human language, animal-communication systems, reflex behaviour, human syntax

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