Louise Antony

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780199262618
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy



Human language is not the only naturally occurring symbol system. There are many animals other than human beings that communicate by means of signs or signals; vervet monkeys, for example, have specialized warning cries for different kinds of predators. And some animal-communication systems even have a rudimentary syntax: the dances performed by certain honey bees have structural elements that tell other bees the direction and distance from the hive of a nectar source. But what's distinctive of human language — and the feature that Descartes was highlighting — is that the syntax of human language permits us to take parts of signs and recombine them with parts of other signs.

Keywords: symbol system; human language; animal-communication systems; reflex behaviour; human syntax

Article.  12345 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Mind

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