[percy-l] Play As A Precursor To Language?

James Piat piat1 at bellsouth.net
Thu Dec 12 21:24:58 EST 2002

Dear Joe,

Personally I think play is an excellent example of the "as-if", ironic or representational stance which for me constitutes the crux of human language.  I don't have a problem with the idea that non humans have language although I doubt they have as fully developed sense of context or existence as we do.  

I sometimes get the impression that Percy and others viewed language as something beyond "scientific" explanation and therefore in some way constituted a sort of informal proof of God's existence.  For me animals themselves -- with or without language serve just as well.  

Jim Piat

  Many animals play. Especially chimps. They play a lot, and they're arguably the most intelligent non-human animals. And when they do play, it looks a lot like fighting, but its not. In the example of play, "fighting" is not fighting, but the opposite. The chimps understand that their actions, while seemingly violent, are actually affectionate. Isn't that enough symbolism to constitute consciousness - a "knowing" of a "world" in which they created through they're symbolic play-fight? 

  And if these chimps are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, and we have language, and the they do not, then might play be a precursor to language? Or, perhaps even an example of language?

  Joe C. 

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