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C O U R S E 
Miracles of Human Language
Marc van Oostendorp, Universiteit Leiden
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
The Nature of Human Language
Notes taken on September 15, 2015 by Edward Tanguay
language is one of the most important distinguishing characteristics of human beings
we used language to
show who we are
which group of human beings we belong to or want to belong to
hard to imagine any part of human society where language is not used
languages which we may call languages but are not languages in the linguistic sense
programming languages
the language of music
important for human language
native speakers
learn the language as infants
one can speak about everything in the language
recognized by a group of human beings who recognize it as theirs
sign language
considered languages by linguistics
not every gesture is meaningful
basically the same as spoken languages with the difference that they don't use voice
there are many sign languages
hundreds of them
have the same functionality as spoken language
have native speakers
groups consider them to be their language
few people do not speak languages
wolf children
children growing up without parents
where parents didn't want to speak to them
e.g. deaf children with hearing parents where the hearing parents were ashamed of having deaf children
physical and psychological abuse
born 1957 in Arcadia, Los Angeles
father was mentally unstable, barked at her like a dog
mother was not allowed to say anything to her
she never learned a human language
at age 13 she was discovered
her brain was not able to learn a language normally
fortunately these are very rare cases
people who lose their language
e.g. after a stroke
may just be the ability to pronounce
or to understand
or to make grammatical sentences
19th century research
after aphasic patient would die, brain would be studied
evolutionary origin of language
all human beings have language
there must be something exceptionally wrong for a human to not develop language
no fossil evidence
it is abstract
spoken language has no record in the past
continuity based theories
human language is based on animal communication, just a more complex form
Tomasello, Pinker
discontinuity based theories
human language is different in kind