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It seems to me that self-awareness has similarities to the speech triangle. In self-awareness, the speaker is one's inner monologue. The listener is, to extend the monologue metaphor, one's inner audience. The topic is one's own thoughts. Before the advent of language, the inner monologue could have consisted as a stream of evoked feelings and memories. The key, though, is the mind drawing its own attention to those thoughts instead of being a passive observer. Perhaps the speech triangle developed as an extension of this. Other great apes have been shown to have a theory of mind, but does that necessarily mean they have self-awareness? Perhaps their lack of the proto-speech triangle of self-awareness is why they don't use speech in nature. They can be trained to emulate it, but could it be that this is just one step above training a parakeet to talk? --------------------------------- BLOGGER: Thanks for the comment. I have given this material some thought even though it gets beyond the scope of this blog. I do suspect (don't really know) that apes have some self awareness, in the sense that they know they are an individual among several other individuals, and they know what they are doing (at least some time) and that it is they who are doing it. If that makes any sense. Where the speech triangle probably comes in as a source of uniqueness is in its ability to turn the self into a topic. With language we can direct our attention to a topic and contemplate it. As for which came first, the point is debatable but I lean toward the notion that internal, verbal thinking is an internalized version of speech. In my own case I remember pretty clearly that as a boy I worked things out by speaking aloud. Eventually I internalized the process and after that my internalized blabbermouth never really shut up. Of course Chomskyans have it exactly the other way: speech is an externalized form of what was already going on internally.
Toggle Commented Jan 24, 2011 on The Axioms of Language Evolution at Babel's Dawn
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Jan 24, 2011