Developmental Delay as the Primary Cause of the Unusual Material Culture Among Humans

What makes human beings unique among all the creatures of the earth? It sounds like almost a biblical question. But did you know that many in the scientific community are still asking that question? This query has built into it a very big assumption: that we are somehow more "special" than any other animal. Are we? What are they basing that on?

We are not the only animal that builds things. We are not the only animal that uses tools, or even that uses other tools to make tools. We are not the only animal with a communication system. We are not the only animal to compose music. We are not the only animal that thinks.

When it comes right down to it, there is nothing that anybody can point to to suggest that we are all that different from other animals, besides the all-prevasive material culture that humans are known for.

So why is it that, even though we are not the only animal on the planet to build and make things, we do seem to be the only one to build and make things that are not easily biodegradable and that therefore outlast not just the individuals who built them, but the entire civilizations from which they arose? This, I think, is a question worth addressing.


Neoteny in non-humans and in humans: A Permanent Developmental Delay

What is developmental delay and why do I think it is responsible for our unusual fixation on the permanence of material objects that we have made? Isn't the term "developmental delay" just a new phrase to replace the politically incorrect "mental retardation"? Isn't someone who is developmentally delayed essentially a moron?

Well, no! But thanks for asking. The word "moron" is a technical term to describe a person with an unusually low IQ. "Mental retardation", when the term was first introduced, was meant to refer not to a person's absolute intelligence, but to the relative degree to which their mental abilities are behind the average developmental level for their age group. So a "mentally retarded" person at three years of age may just be behind others in that age group, and may later catch up with and even surpass others.

Unlike mental retardation, "developmental delay" refers to all kinds of abilities and skills, not merely what we narrowly term intelligence. It can include motor skills, balance, the ability to stand on our own two feet, to survey the scene and draw conclusions about a situation and to respond non-verbally to social cues and any number of other skills not measured in an IQ test.

The fact of the matter is that all human beings, even the most "normal", are developmentally delayed at birth compared to most other mammals of the same age. Not only that, but if you really look closely, most of us never catch up. We are never as graceful as a gazelle, and we are never as self-sufficient as a wolf, and even the most wily politician among us does not have the innate social skills of the average chimpanzee for forming coalitions in a peer group. We are slow to learn and slow to automate the skills that we have learned.

Humans suffer from extreme neoteny. This means that even when we are adults, we look and behave much like juveniles. We never really grow up, and as a result we continue to learn throughout life, and we continue to play with toys long after that stage of development is outgrown in other species.

Black Bear Mother Keeps Playing Cubs Safe

Mammalian Developmental Delay: The Invention of Childhood

In order not to single humans out unduly, let's keep in mind that mammals and birds are already somewhat developmentally delayed compared to most fish, reptiles and amphibians. While reptiles and fish and the other life forms that resemble them are not usually involved in caring for young, birds and mammals dedicate a portion of their life to provisioning helpless, underdeveloped and developmentally delayed offspring.

The downside of this arrangement is that adults are burdened with the care of parasitic young. The upside is that since the young are not prewired to know everything they need to know at birth, there is room for learning from experience, and birds and mammals have the opportunity to develop their intelligence throughout their childhood.

The prototypical mamalian child has a big head and a small body, engages in activities that serve no useful purpose (otherwise known as play), and is full of curiosity about the world and how it works.

By the time a typical mammal arrives at adulthood, there is much less play, and a serious interest in staying alive, getting food, procreating and caring for young pushes aside the pastimes of infancy and childhood.

In order to survive, an adult has to live in the moment and to consider those things that threaten survival. Anything beyond is a luxury reserved to growing children.

Comparison between Chimpanzees and Humans

Humans and chimpanzees are very closely related. The retarded maturation in both species is quite pronounced compared to that of many other mammals. Chimpanzee young, like the children of hunter-gatherer humans, are carried about by their mothers and suckled for the first three years of life, and are often still being carried until they are five years of age. They do not enter puberty until sometime between eight and ten years of age, and even then they are not fully mature and do not become adults until their late teens. In the wild, a chimpanzee lives to be about forty, which is similar to the human survival under natural conditions without modern comforts. In captivitiy chimpanzees can live to be seventy-five or older.

However, despite these similarities, development in humans is even more delayed than in chimpanzees. A chimpanzee can support its full weight at birth. Carried by the mother, it clings with its strong arms to her hair. Social awareness and sense of balance develop months sooner in a chimpanzee than in a human.

Compared to a chimpanzee, a human child, even the most normally developing one, appears a little bit autistic. Physical coordination as well as social development are considerably delayed in humans, behind the normal timetable for chimpanzee maturation.

When Sword Met Bow

Sword and Bow play with blocks (2007)

Constructive versus destructive play

If you have raised both a chimpanzee and a human child, as I have, then you notice also that while both like to play, the human child becomes interested in putting things together and building things, and saving things for later, while the chimpanzee child enjoys taking things apart, playing with them roughly until they are entirely consumed and no longer exist, and using found objects as projectiles and weapons.

Of course, that might also be the difference between a girl and a boy. I have such a small sampling, it's hard to draw definitive conclusions.

In any event, from what we have seen chimpanzees do in the wild, while they can and do use objects as tools, create new tools, and do any number of very inventive things, what they do not seem to do is to keep the same material objects in good condition over a considerable period of time. They build nests and they abandon them. They adorn themselves momentarily, but they throw the object away. They make tools and they do not keep them.

Ownership is not a big thing. Material goods, besides comestibles, are not valued or prized. Interest in any object is of short duration, for its usefulness, but not as a keepsake. Why?

Some people say chimpanzees don't have material culture because they don't have language. I don't believe that for two reasons: there is no evidence that they don't have a language of their own. When we teach them one of our languages, they learn it. They can spell. They can speak grammatically. But they still destroy material objects and cannot be bribed with money or toys.

Even if you don't believe the claims that chimpanzees and bonobos can use language, let's look at it from the opposite direction. We know that all human population groups have a language. But do all humans have a rich material culture? Do all humans engage in commerce? Do all humans even know how to count?

It's hard to get a chimp not to break a chopstick, even though it means he'll have one chopstick less

Bow and his chopsticks
Bow and his chopsticks | Source

The Requirement for Direct and Immediate Evidence

The Pirahã people

The Pirahã people are indigenous to Brazil. They are a hunter-gatherer people, and in their language there are no numbers. There are no ordinal numbers, and there are no cardinal numbers. And when researchers asked adult members of the Pirahã people to participate in a study on numerosity (the ability to estimate numbers) they were not able, even by writing lines on a piece of paper, to tell the researchers how many objects were placed before them.

Some researchers have claimed that the Pirahã people are incapable of counting. I tend to agree with Professor Daniel L. Everett when he says that they are cognitively capable of counting, but have no interest in doing so.

In a New Yorker article by John Colapinto, an eleven year old Pirahã boy is described making a model airplane out of balsa in response to the arrival of an airplane, but the model is soon broken and discarded. It's not that the Pirahã can't make things or that they are not intelligent, it's just that they do not value the things they make, and so they don't accumulate material goods and they do not build a material culture.

The Pirahã adults are fully adult in the same sense that a black she-bear caring for her cubs is an adult. They know what matters is the present and the immediate future, and they can't be bothered expending much energy on flights of fancy.

Yes, there are many animals in the jungle, many fish in the river, many stars in the sky. Possibly there is some way to quantify that, but why bother?

Developmental Delay as a Cultural Artefact

Some forms of developmental delay are induced by environment. For instance, the middle class child is intentionally delayed in maturation by being kept in school and not allowed to learn a trade. The lower class child, in societies that still permit a lower class to exist, on the other hand, is allowed to mature sooner, and begins to earn his keep earlier. Neoteny takes makes many forms, and not every one of them is genetic.

Tell a child that reading is more important than going fishing, and the child will delay his maturation as a fisherman. Teach an infant that letters are more important than social contact, and he may grow to be hyperlexic. Compliment someone on his intellectual skills and ignore his social growth and it will eventually have some sort of effect. Between the natural selection in favor of certain traits that our culture promotes in the mating game, and the fostering of behaviors within the family and society, it is all heading in one direction.

In industrialized societies today, many more children are experiencing developmental delay of an extreme form that has been labeled autism. We don't know the cause, but one thing is obvious: it's a continuation of the same trajectory that separates mammals from reptiles, human beings from the other great apes, and industrialized humans from their hunter-gatherer contemporaries.

So, the next time someone asks: why do we have a material culture, whereas they don't, you might answer: maybe it's because they don't want one. Maybe they just don't think it serves any useful purpose..


Copyright 2010 Aya Katz

Comments 19 comments

hot dorkage profile image

hot dorkage 5 years ago from Oregon, USA

When I was in Australia, I heard the same said of the Aboriginal people. I saw crazy numbers of wrecked cars. Our driver said that those were Aborigines' cars. They would get cars and have them a little while then they would get into the passion of a kangaroo hunt and would run down 'roos with their cars, eventually wrecking both the roo and the car. This cultural difference drives the white people crazy!


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Hot Dorkage, I've heard about going walkabout, but I have never heard of wrecking cars on a kangaroo hunt before!

It is a strange cultural divide, and it's not easy to resolve in either direction. I often find myself straddling the fence. On the one hand, I keep trying to teach Bow not to destroy things. I try to teach him about money and being responsible. On the other hand, it drives me crazy when people say they are in debt because they need a house in the city and a car, and I ask them why they need these things, and it's so they can get to their job. If your job requires you to go into debt, wouldn't you be better off living in the bush?


hot dorkage profile image

hot dorkage 5 years ago from Oregon, USA

No, people with arrested development like you describe (and that includes most of us) would die within 72 hours in the bush because we don't have the skills to survive there. So they (we) are pretty much trapped in the "gotta have a job" trap.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

Hi Aya - I think this might have been at least in part a response to my last hub in which I posed the question, what makes humankind unique? Our material culture may indeed be attributable to developmental delay. Desmond Morris similarly linked developmental delay with greater final development. But materialism is only one (albeit highly tangible) distinction. Materialism is only one of the many manifestations of human creativity which I still do not see paralleled anywhere else in nature. I'm not using 'unique' in an elitist way, but simply as an observation. It might prove a 'uniqueness' that leads to our eventual extinction, in fact that seems quite likely. Sadly we may end up taking a lot of blameless species with us. But while we're here, our differences from other animals are as valid a line of study as our similarities, no?


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden

Changes in developmental timing--'heterochrony'--account for a good many evolutionary changes in form and behavior. Clearly humans are neotenic compared to the other great apes. And sustaining a degree of immaturity is key to evolvability, which I view as itself a higher-level developmental process (i.e., evolutionary development).

So, I agree with you that this developmental delay is key to understanding what sets us apart from other apes--it is a necessary pre-condition. But I wonder if it is sufficient. I disagree that language is not also key. I may be wrong, but I don't know of any evidence that any other animals have language that is as complex as ours. Of course, that may simply be my ignorance.

It seems to me that valuation of material objects requires a sense of time that gives foresight, which allows us to imagine that it would be useful to maintain/preserve an object for future use. I am of the opinion that this comes from the metaphorical use of language, which allows 'spatialization' of time--imagining it as a linear sequence. This comes from Julian Jaynes's theory that human consciousness emerged by virtue of the invention of metaphor very recently in our evolution. Pre-conscious (non-metaphorical) humans lived in the here and now. Although they achieved material civilization, it was qualitatively (and technologically) very different than ours, and built around a very different language-based mentality.

None of this is to say that we are somehow any more 'special' than other animals. But we clearly have a greater impact on our environment than any other.

Finally, the developmental delay that sets us apart may help explain why humanity, as a whole, seems to be having a hard time growing up!

Very interesting hub.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Hot Dorkage, while all of us are developmentally delayed and unprepared for life in the bush, if we come from the industrialized world, I doubt that all of us would die if placed in that situation. Instead, there would be a culling effect, and some small percentage of such individuals would survive.

Yeah, that seems like a bleak choice, but there are other choices that are not as extreme, such as returning to a life in the countryside and an agrarian lifestyle. There are lots of other choices. If doing the "job-in-the-city" routine doesn't pay for itself, then one really can't afford that lifestyle.

To the extent that technological advances rob people of the opportunity to be self-sufficient, that is what motivates "progressive" political parties and their agendas. As a freedom lover, I side with the bushmen every time. There is always another choice!


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Paraglider, yes, you are right, this hub is in part a response to your own hub about the uniqueness of mankind. But it's also something that I've wanted to address for some time now, because so many people are confused about it.

The argument "If chimps are so smart, how come they haven't built any skyscrapers?" is at the back of many a skeptic's mind. They usually don't say it, but it seems to me that is often what they are thinking to themselves, while very politely patting ape language researchers on the head.

It's tremendously important to realize that not building a skyscraper is not evidence for lack of intelligence, lack of language, or lack of creativity. The Pirahã people are not stupid, or lazy or uncreative. They just have different values from industrialized humans. Their values are more similar to those of chimpanzees who are also not stupid, lazy, or lacking in creativity.

It is a valid line of inquiry to ask how humans and chimpanzees differ. I ask myself that all the time, and I look at the evidence. What I have seen with my own eyes is this: chimpanzees do have the ability to use human language. They can read and write. None of these concepts are beyond them. Nevertheless, they don't build things. They prefer to tear down and consume.

I am trying to share what I have seen with other humans. So far, their misconceptions concerning what makes humans and chimpanzees different have prevented the other humans from examining the evidence and seeing for themselves. I thought that if people gave more attention to the Pirahã, they might have more of an open mind concerning Bow, too.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Joyus Crynoid, thanks for your comment. I'm glad we agree that developmental delay contributes to our differences from others, including other great apes. I'm sorry that you still think that language has something to do with those differences, too.

After all, the Pirahã have a language, but having a language in and of itself doesn't make them more like industrialized man. In fact, their "more conservative" culture is built into their language: there is no recursivity in their syntax. There are no numbers. There are very few abstractions. The language reflects the way the people think.

You write: "I don't know of any evidence that any other animals have language that is as complex as ours." But that is not the same as saying that no other animals have a language as complex as ours. I think the emphasis here should be on our base assumptions. Not having a study proving X to be true does not mean that we should assume that X is not true until that study materializes.

Since we know humans can be remarkably unproductive in the area of material culture without being incapable of language, we should now rule out the argument that because other animals have not created a similar material culture, this proves they have no language as complex as ours.

I have a chimpanzee who can read and write in two languages. He was brought up in my home with my own daughter. On the other hand, he won't build things, no matter how many opportunities we give him. Based on this evidence, I have reevaluated some of the assumptions that most people have on the connection between language and material culture.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

"Not having a study proving X to be true does not mean that we should assume that X is not true until that study materializes."

Correct. We should not assume truth or falsehood where there is no testable theory. We should recognise the limits of objective knowledge and, instead of saying "here be dragons" like the ancient cartographers, we should simply say "I don't know".

After which, we can appeal to probability, based on apparent corroboration, while recognising that corroboration does not imply causality.

And an ape can do that too, if he has developed the mental/linguistic sophistication to carry it off. But I don't know of any who have.

I don't know if any other species has ever argued the geo/helio-centric question. But I strongly suspect none has. I still more strongly suspect that no other species has a language commensurate with discussing the perihelion of Mercury.

I don't doubt that Bow has learned to communicate in very basic English, but I suspect that he'd be hard pressed to write or dictate a meaningful response to this comment of mine, here on HubPages. Coherent argument and 'material culture' are poles apart. Humans are different more for their mental faculties than for the hardware they leave behind them.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Paraglider, the beginning of your comment is something I wholeheartedly support. If we have no evidence for or against a proposition, then we can just say: "For the time being, we don't know." And we can leave it at that.

But you don't leave it at that! You attribute mathematical and scientific achievements made by a few very unusual individuals to all mankind, and then you say: "I bet Bow can't do that." Bow is an eight and a half year old boy. What's more, most grown men could not do those things, either. Bow does know numbers. He can tell you how many there are of something, within a reasonable limit. And if you don't believe that Bow can, there are any number of studies that show that apes and parrots and other specific individual animals can. But the Pirahã individuals studied could not.

The place where your objectivity breaks down is where you attribute individual achievements to an abstract collective group.


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden

Aya, do you know of any evidence for chimps (or the Pirahã) using or understanding metaphors? If you say to Bow "I see", meaning you comprehend his gist (as opposed to literally seeing an object) does he understand what you mean? This is what I was suggesting distinguishes human consciousness from the sentience of all other animals. And this is what gives us the ability of extended "foresight" (and "hindsight"; note that here again "sight" is used metaphorically).

In short, I submit that the metaphorical use of language is a uniquely human development, and is what set us on the path of materialism.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

Hi Aya - "The place where your objectivity breaks down is where you attribute individual achievements to an abstract collective group."

Fair point. I admit to careless communication! You are correct that a few humans achieve intellectual pre-eminence, while the vast majority would struggle to divide 47 by 9.

So without personalising the point, I still think it is reasonable to observe that thus far, there is no evidence of any species except humanity developing the linguistic (and mathematical) sophistication necessary to allow some of its members to create even semi-permanent mental frameworks that would allow discussion of the sort of complex matters I mentioned in my last post.

While I haven't specifically arrived at metaphor as the golden key (to use a metaphor!) I certainly believe that human language has been the source of our species' separation from all others, to date.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Joyus Crynoid, I appreciate your bringing up metaphor, but I would like to submit that _all_ language use is ultimately metaphorical. Does Bow understand that "I see" means understand? Yes, he does. But do _you_ understand that the English word "understand" is made up of two subparts, "under" and "stand"? So metaphorically, English speakers stand under an idea when they "get it." All of language is like this, with the most opaque words at present having derived from more concrete terms that got lexicalized or grammaticalized.

Do the Pirahã do this, too? Sure, they do. For instance, the article that I cited made much of the fact that they have no opaque, monomorphemic words for color terms. They made it sound as if they had no color words at all. But I couldn't take that very seriously when I looked at the example they gave, where their word for "red" was basically an adjective meaning "blood-like". All I had to do was consult my native Hebrew, where the root for "red" also derives from the word "blood". Big deal! That's just normal.

Some languages are very opaque, like English, so native speakers aren't aware of this kind of derivation. But historically, it always happens that way. Hebrew numbers are also derived from recognizable words, and Bow used a pun once, pointing at the number seven, when he meant he was sated or full. Read more about it in my hub:

http://hubpages.com/education/What-Constitutes-Pro...

There is even an embedded video of the incident.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Paraglider, I accept your correction. ;->

There is no evidence of other species doing these things on their own, so we don't know.

Just to share some personal insight about my own speculation -- admittedly, only speculation -- on this point:

I believed like you when I set out to teach a chimp language. I believed other animals did not have language, and we were the only species that did. But I also believed that it could be taught, and that we ourselves would not have language, if someone else hadn't taught us by example. So my frame of reference was all about nurture versus nature.

After working with Bow, my eyes have been opened to the possibility that other animals may indeed have a language that we simply are not able to decipher yet. The thing that led to this speculation is the fact that chimpanzees process information so much faster than we do, and it took us ages to see what Bow was saying (on video) because he was going too fast for us. Bow also reports that he can understand captive Bonobos he sees on video, and they are speaking English. He can hear the contrasts and sees a one-to-one correspondence between the sounds they make and English phonemes, even though we cannot.

Also, another primatologist I am in contact with has some evidence that wild captured apes speak a different way among themselves than those who are born in captivity.

So, admittedly, I've no proof yet, but I have some very powerful reasons to speculate about this.


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden

Aya, I'm not convinced. You said:

"I would like to submit that _all_ language use is ultimately metaphorical."

All contemporary human language is, for sure. Yes, "understand" is metaphor, as is so many of our words. But I am suggesting that is a derived condition, not primitive.

I think it would take a well-designed experiment to ascertain whether other animals use metaphor, at least in their natural setting. It is quite possible that they can learn metaphorical usage from humans (for whom it is now second nature, and possibly the basis for our unique consciousness).

As for the Pirahã word for red being "blood-like", that appears to support my contention. That is if anything simile, not metaphor.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Joyus Crynoid, I think you may be taking the analysis of the word for "red" in Pirahã a little too literally. I know, "like blood" is a simile and "bloody" would be a metaphor in English, but all I really know is it was an adjective derived from the word for blood, and I don't know if a word like "like" was involved. (BTW, "like" in English is derived from a word meaning body: "leich".) It's important to understand that you can't go by the English word for word translation in a situation like this.

You don't actually believe that the Pirahã is "primitive" language, do you? It has a lot of grammar, just not syntactic recursivity.

How many languages do you speak? How many of them are non-Indo-European? I've found that it's easier to discuss these linguistic questions with someone who has experience with more than one language and more than one language family. English speakers in particular confuse opacity of derivation with abstraction, but it doesn't have to be that way at all.

Did you read the hub where I describe the pun Bow used about the number seven? Did you watch the video? Did you look at the transcripts of what was said? It's stunning evidence that he understands the connection between concrete and abstract usages of the same word.


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden

Aya, I am not a linguist, and the only other language I know is German (and am not fluent at that). So I will defer to your expertise in these matters, and am happy to admit I may be wrong. I am mostly basing my conjectures on Jaynes's theory of consciousness, which I find to be quite compelling (and I realize that I am probably in a small minority in that regard).

I did read your hub describing Bow's usage of the number 7. It is indeed remarkable. But I am not convinced that that is equivalent in complexity to the metaphorical constructions of most contemporary humans. Note that I don't see this issue as black and white--more (like most things) as a gradation.

Note also that my use of the word "primitive" to refer to language characteristics is not meant to be derogatory or in any way a value judgement--I only meant to refer to a more ancient conditon (i.e., the evolutionary sense of "primitive"--as opposed to "derived").

I have no way of knowing whether the Pirahã language is evolutionarily more primitive (in its use of metaphor), so I can only speculate. Jaynes does make a compelling case that recorded human language was essentially non-metaphorical until ~3,000 years ago (with the Illiad being one example of the more primitive, pre-metaphorical usage).

Anyway, I am clearly in over my head in so far as the linguistics are concerned, so I can't really argue with you. You make some good points, and provide much excellent food for thought.


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden

Aya, one more thing, just to be clear as to where I am coming from. You said to Paraglider:

"other animals may indeed have a language that we simply are not able to decipher yet."

Indeed, I would expect that to be the case. In fact, I would expect all animals to have some sort of language, as I view life itself to be essentially a semiotic phenomenon. My dog (a german shepard) understands a remarkable number of English words, can distinguish people by name, etc. There is no doubting her intelligence--in fact, I think she is smarter than a lot of people.

You went on to say:

"The thing that led to this speculation is the fact that chimpanzees process information so much faster than we do..."

This fits with my view that our unique form of conscious experience interferes with information processing. I think we experience the world much less directly than do other animals--and in the process we may well have lost the ability to communicate as effectively as they do about many things. So in some ways animals are a lot smarter than we are. And this gets back to your thesis about our develpmental delay....


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Joyus Crynoid, thanks for the clarifications. I think we may be closer in our thinking than I realized.

The point for me with regard to the languages of aboriginal hunter-gatherer peoples is that while their material culture can correctly be termed "primitive" in comparison to ours, their languages are fully formed and often quite morphologically complex. I can't say anything in particular about Pirahã, as I haven't studied it myself, but typically languages of people living as hunter-gatherers have a great deal more grammar (in the sense of morphology) than English, just as earlier forms of English had compared to the modern versions. Case-marking and derivational morphology is extremely abstract, and it derives from earlier forms that were more concrete. But if you analyze how those earlier forms came into being, there was always some kind of abstraction involved. It's all very circular.

Languages go through cycles. They go from more synthetic to more analytical to more synthetic forms over and over again in their history. We have yet to discover a "primitive" language.

I disagree with the statement that the Iliad was "pre-metaphorical" or the Old Testament, for that matter. Consider the grammar of ancient Greek and Hebrew and ask yourself where all those abstractions came from, if not metaphor. Case-marking, conjugation, derivation all come from more concrete words that got glommed together in a synthetic structure. Read the Ugaritic texts and tell me no metaphors are involved!

I agree with you, though, that our current form of conscious experience interferes with information processing.

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