Sunday, April 22, 2012

One-way mirrors and having kids

Did this make anyone feel really self-conscious about their sentences/word-choice for the rest of the weekend after reading this?  I never thought about it before, but it guess the most terrifying part of having kids is teaching them to speak.  I don't know how to explain numbers and things with multiple names and colors and non-physical words to someone who doesn't share a language with me.
Aside from all of the however, the part that stood out to me was 25 on page 156:
"It is sometimes said that animals do not talk because they lack the mental capacity. And this means: 'they do not think, and that is why they do not talk.'  But --they simply do not talk.   Or to put it better: they do not use language --if we except the most primitive forms of language .  --Commanding, questioning, recounting, chatting, are as much a part of our natural history as walking, eating, drinking, playing."
As he corrects the others, I must correct him on the idea that they do not use language.  True, they do not use our language but that does not make them incapable of communication, just relies more on tone and octave of noises and body language more than word sound.
Other than that, I just spent most of this reading realizing I didn't have any good way to teach someone anything more that the object nouns.


  1. I thought the same thing when reading that quote. I believe that all animals have a means of communication or they would not make a sound at all. Just because we cannot decode what they are saying does not mean that they do not have the mental capacity to speak, they just don't speak English. For me, this reading did not only make me question how I will someday teach my child to speak, but how I even learned to speak as a child--he makes it seem like it is such a complicated process when before I say it as a common part of development and life.

  2. Alexa, I think the fact that one's first language isn't really "teachable" is actually the point. This is why Wittgenstein says that learning a language is more a matter of "training" than of "teaching"-- that is, you learn language holistically, in the act of using it and in the process of navigating your world. Adults assist children in learning to speak, but rarely consciously. Rather, children play, experiment, babble and mimic, all the while observing the way the world responds to these noises, and eventually they discover that certain words "work" to create certain effects. That is, according to Wittgenstein, what those words "mean." (In this way, it's really a pragmatic understanding of language).