chapter  1
20 Pages

Introduction

In the first phase of the research dealt with here I sought to operationally analyze language, to decompose it into atomic constituents and to provide training procedures for each constituent.' The tedium of interminably designing and applying training programs was relieved by two factors: first, by the operational analysis itself, and second, by the challenge of designing nonverbal procedures for assessing the conceptual structure that underlies language. When a subject leams the words "same" and "different," it is, Iassume, because it is capable of carrying out judgments conceming whether items are same or different. Similarly if it leams the quantifiers "all" and "none," it is because it can distinguish between nonverbal conditions that exemplify all and none. Further , a subject that leams the use of "if-then" or a functionally equivalent conditional partic1e does so, Iassume, because it is capable of making a causal analysis of experience. To test the assumption that language maps existing concepts, it was necessary to devise tests that were themselves free of language, that could be applied in advance of language training, and that would serve to determine whether or not the presumptive cognitive element was present. This is the direct way of testing the assumption that the interesting part of language lies offstage, in the concepts and perceptual judgments that antedate language. (Once a subject has acquired some degree of language, it can be taught further language metalinguistically, inc1uding labels for distinctions that were generated by language. However, even the language-generated distinctions can be reduced to combinations of predicates that antedated language.)

The success of the first phase made it possible to turn to the second phase and to a question more directly related to intelligence. Why were the training programs effective? What is the intellectual equipment of a spec:ies such that the training program could be used to te ach it language? If the program that taught language to an ape were applied to a rat or pigeon, there is ample reason to believe that the program would fail. These nonprimates are not destined to acquire language in the non trivial degree that the ape can. Why? Even though the second phase of the research is at a tender stage, it is nonetheless possible to suggest some answers.