March 31, 2019

Language deprivation — "The Forbidden Experiment."

From Wikipedia:
According to Herodotus, the Egyptian pharaoh Psamtik I carried out such an experiment, and concluded the Phrygian race must antedate the Egyptians since the child had first spoken something similar to the Phrygian word bekos, meaning "bread"....

An experiment allegedly carried out by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in the 13th century... encouraged "foster-mothers and nurses to suckle and bathe and wash the children, but in no ways to prattle or speak with them; for he would have learnt whether they would speak the Hebrew language (which he took to have been the first), or Greek, or Latin, or Arabic, or perchance the tongue of their parents of whom they had been born. But he laboured in vain, for the children could not live without clappings of the hands, and gestures, and gladness of countenance, and blandishments."

Several centuries after Frederick II's experiment, James IV of Scotland was said to have sent two children to be raised by a mute woman isolated on the island of Inchkeith, to determine if language was learned or innate. The children were reported to have spoken good Hebrew....
That was doubted by Sir Walter Scott: "It is more likely they would scream like their dumb nurse, or bleat like the goats and sheep on the island."

ADDED: I got interested in this topic because it came up in Joe Rogan's conversation with Nicholas Christakis:



There's lots of interesting stuff in that long video. Christakis was the Yale professor who resigned from his position as a housing master after he and his wife were yelled at by students protesting for the right to be protected from Halloween costumes (blogged by me here). The discussion with Rogan is mainly about Christakis's new book "Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society."

37 comments:

Michael K said...

There is another important, probably more important, book titled "Blueprint: How DNA Makes us who we are,. by Robert Plomin.

His thesis is the DNA causes 50% of behavior by adulthood.

tcrosse said...

Well, there's the old wheeze about a couple who adopted a Chinese baby, then learned Chinese so they could understand her when she started to talk.

Spiros Pappas said...

Animal communication is innate. Even animals reared alone and in isolation from other animals of their kind are still able to communicate with animals of their own species.

Limited Perspective said...

And Holy Secular Emperors in the U.S. think infants should learn to speak from their government daycare workers rather than from their parents. We need to know if Leftism is the first language or if it needs to be taught.

Unknown said...

A cousin adopted a 6 month old Chinese infant, she’s 8 now and speaks broken English with a Chinese accent.

stevew said...

Steven Pinker has a lot to say about The Language Instinct.

Bill Harshaw said...

Christakis is still a professor at Yale, according to wikpiedia.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_A._Christakis

mezzrow said...

That was an excellent wide ranging session with Rogan. He takes lots of shots, but Joe's a gifted interviewer. Christakis is a very interesting guy. Imagine the fact that's he's too out of line for Yale. Chilling.

mockturtle said...

Language is innate. Not a particular language but the need to use one, as we have [it is supposed] an area of the brain devoted to articulation of speech.

Fernandinande said...

An experiment allegedly carried out by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in the 13th century.

He did a few experiments:

Again, he compelled "Nicholas the Fish," whom his mother's curse had condemned to an amphibious life, to dive and fetch his golden cup a second time from the very bottom of Charybdis:

Sixthly, he fed two men most excellently at dinner, one of whom he sent forthwith to sleep, and the other to hunt; and that same evening he caused them to be disembowelled in his presence, wishing to know which had digested the better: and it was judged by the physicians in favour of him who had slept. '

tim maguire said...

I'd listen to Joe Rogan's podcast if it weren't so long. Who has that kind of time?

Limited Perspective said...

Bullshit. Christakis wants a free and open debate. What is his analogy? --If a Catholic Priest has molested you, are you free to mock the Church even if some practicing Catholic is offended? Nice safe ground for a wimp.

If he really wants a free and open debate, let him challenge some of the sacred ideas of the Left. The Catholic boys were molested by men with a specific sexual attraction. What do we make of that sexual attraction?

The poor sap tried telling students at Yale University they are adults and should be free to dress as they want. The scoundrel learned his lesson: Don't think for yourself.

Unknown said...

My niece adopted a 6 month old Chinese infant who was abandoned at birth, she is now 7 and she speaks broken English with a bad Chinese accent.

Phil 314 said...

1/2 way through the video. A couple of comments:
1) the initial discussion of the libertarian friend and libertarianism had a decidedly smug, “we know better” attitude. I would suggest there are a lot of poor libertarians (“Get off my land!” Said with a shotgun in hand.)
2). I notice Rogan says “fuck” a lot early on and not until about minute 35 does the professor use it. I wonder if this is a startle/ disarm technique by Rogan to get the guest to be more open/vulnerable.
3) Religion is man trying to stretch to the heavens to touch God. Faith is God breaking into mans consciousness.

Achilles said...

It is always an eye opener to "liberal" professors when the spawn of their efforts turn on them and eat them.

You have to completely ignore history to trust the government and the people who seek power in government to do the right thing.

Really smart people have a tendency to think they are smarter than history or reality.

Phil 314 said...

More:
Surprising in discussing the “Benevolent Dictator” they focus on Trump. They’re speaking of a populace’s blind desire for a strong leader to set things right, Yet I’ve heard no one call Donald Trump a “benevolent dictator”.

Sorry but my first thought was Barack Obama.

Narayanan said...

Edgar Rice Burroughs has shown that if parents are English orphan baby raised in jungle will speak English.

paulmichiel said...

Sorry to pick a nit: Christakis is not a “law professor.” He’s a physician and professor of “social and natural science.”

gilbar said...

two children to be raised by a mute woman isolated on the island of Inchkeith, to determine if language was learned or innate. The children were reported to have spoken good Hebrew....
That is SO inane! Why would the children speak Hebrew? Clearly they would speak Aramaic DUH!

Crimso said...

I vaguely recall from ca. 1980 or thereabouts (few years either way) reading a news story about a pair of twins. IIRC, they were both girls, and were maybe 8-10 years old. Linguists were in an uproar because they had developed their own language. Don't recall the exact circumstances, but I want to say that it was a language that they had made up de novo.

The Vault Dweller said...

It would be interesting if someone did a study on baby babble across many different cultures and language group. Is all baby babble the same? Or is it different? Do the different sounds that babies make cover all languages equally or does it tend to coincided with one language group over another?

traditionalguy said...

Sorry, morons! Speech regulates human behavior. Humans cannot learn how to do anything without using an inner speech taught them from hearing and observing other's speech.

Michael Fitzgerald said...

Headline from World Weekly News: Baby Born Speaking Latin! Pope proclaims miracle.

rhhardin said...

Watson showed that by striking an iron bar while showing an infant rabbit fur he could make the infant fear not only rabbit fur but anything soft.

rhhardin said...

Radio Japan just adopted a new theme song for their English language news service. It's music deprivation.

todd galle said...

I think I'm going with Sir Walter, rather than that old Egyptian wog, who probably couldn't order tea properly no matter what mumbo-jumbo he heard growing up. Probably stories about how his innards are going to end up in jars I should think.

Kevin said...

Language deprivation — "The Forbidden Experiment."

The speech that dare not speak its name.

Ann Althouse said...

Sorry I wrote “law professor.” I knew he wasn’t a law professor. Some instinct took over.

effinayright said...

Rt1 Rebel said...
A cousin adopted a 6 month old Chinese infant, she’s 8 now and speaks broken English with a Chinese accent.

*********************

Such BULLSHIT. Infants learn the language spoken around them, otherwise they would starve. Evolution has taken care of that.

At six months of age they speak NOTHING. If your example were true, the baby would have extraordinary talents, to listen to and preserve Chinese and its sounds, and still NOT be able to learn English it had stopped hearing months later.

Anyone can see young kids born elsewhere and now here in the USA who utterly falsify your bullshit.

Or maybe the kid has a learning disorder?

In any case, you've offered an anecdote, not a statistic.

effinayright said...

traditionalguy said...
Sorry, morons! Speech regulates human behavior. Humans cannot learn how to do anything without using an inner speech taught them from hearing and observing other's speech.

**************

Obviously wrong. Feral children, who obviously did not listen to humans while living amongst wolves and the like, still learned how to survive.

>>>Where did you get the idea that speech came first, and survival afterwards?

Chanie said...

Who were the Yale students who attacked him? We need names, so we know who to hold accountable in thirty years if there nominated to the Supreme Court.

Danno said...

Blogger Ann Althouse said...Sorry I wrote “law professor.” I knew he wasn’t a law professor. Some instinct took over.

Since you have rarely resorted to the use of profanity, I am sure the commenter community will forgive you.

Mary Beth said...

There is another important, probably more important, book titled "Blueprint: How DNA Makes us who we are,. by Robert Plomin.

His thesis is the DNA causes 50% of behavior by adulthood.

3/31/19, 4:58 PM


Listening to lectures on Human Behavior by Robert Sapolsky does make me doubt whether we have free will.

Craig Howard said...

"A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History" by Nicholas Wade.

Mr. Wade's fascinating theory of how and why man evolved different traits in different parts of the world. Available through the Althouse Amazon portal, of course.

Kirk Parker said...

wholelotta,

"In any case, you've offered an anecdote, not a statistic."

And here I thought he was offering us humor!

Jupiter said...

Sorry, no way I can take two hours of that crap. One minute in, he's explaining how the "students" at Yale were "struggling" with the need "to make an environment at schools where everyone felt welcome". Oh, yeah. He looked like a guy who felt weclome. Give it a fucking rest. Give it the whole day off! The only thing those mouthy whores were struggling with was the certain knowledge that they had been allowed into a school where they had no chance of succeeding. Their first clue was when they discovered that Cosmology 101 was not about eyeliner.

Rick said...

One minute in, he's explaining how the "students" at Yale were "struggling" with the need "to make an environment at schools where everyone felt welcome".

His assessment is not accurate at all.

They've been told their entire lives how special they are but no one made them feel that way. Then someone found it useful to teach them a way to force others to pay attention to them.

Instead of teaching children to become adults we reinforced their instinct to cry for attention.