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The Domestication of LanguageCultural Evolution and the Uniqueness of the Human Animal$
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Daniel Cloud

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231167925

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231167925.001.0001

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Recapitulation and Moral

Recapitulation and Moral

(p.241) 10 Recapitulation and Moral
The Domestication of Language

Daniel Cloud

Columbia University Press

This chapter reiterates the hypothesis that the conventions of our languages are a form of domesticated culture that is worth entertaining. It argues that we have more agency in deciding what our language will be like than we might suppose and that we all are working on a shared project that benefits everyone all of the time, even when our actions might seem futile or frivolous. It then traces the overall trajectory of the argument discussed in the preceding chapters and concludes by reflecting on what must be the single most implausible suggestion in Plato's Cratylus, i.e. Socrates' claim that a word is supposed to be a kind of sonic portrait of the things it represents, with sounds like lambda representing slick, slimy, liquid kinds of things, and other sounds, like rho, representative of motion, rippling, or rolling, and so on. To be a real, proper, name, he argued, it somehow must be iconic.

Keywords:   human language, conventions, domesticated culture, Cratylus, Socrates, word, sonic portrait

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