This week, we will be celebrating the human tongue. Language is one of the key features that makes us human, along with praxis (tool use). In both cases, the evolutionary breakthrough required both cognitive and motor structures. In the case of praxis, we needed both the ability to visualize tools, and the hand to make and use them. Moreover, the hand’s fine sense of touch, along with it’s intricate propioceptive ability, completes the loop. The hand, then, is a key motor and sensory structure in the tool-use domain, and praxis wouldn’t be possible without it.
Likewise, language required an effector organ; and the tongue was it for many thousands of years before the hand got in on the action.
There is a correlation between intelligence, consciousness, and language. Intelligence refers to the ability to form concepts. Consciousness refers to our efforts to form a valid concept of self. I would submit that language allows us to a better job with concept formation. Language allows a great deal of precision and granularity concept-wise, yet any given word can have multiple meanings, on many different symbolic levels. So words can be arranged to form metaphors and jokes and puns to render ever-subtle shades of meaning. We also lend prosody to words. Prosody is so important, you don’t even need a real word to go with it. Proto-words like “ew” or “wow” might be enough.
And then there’s taste, and smell (same thing basically). We laugh at dogs, who communicate with smell. We are much to advanced for that, aren’t we? Or are we? I can’t prove it, but I get the feeling that smell is an important part of bonding; it shoots straight down to the spooky part of the brain. That’s the way I look at it anyway.
So, like the hand, there is a sensory and propioceptive role that the tongue plays. And to be sure, certain words feel so good when spoken. Pretty much everything in Italian feels that way; speaking Italian is like eating chocolate covered strawberries; it’s that good.
You know, it seems like the eyes get all the credit. We feel like we can really see each other when we look into each other’s eyes. But we can hear each other too, and that counts. And we can taste each other too. I think that counts for something.
Tongue appreciation week. Or, for you left-hemisphere types, we can call it “explicit language appreciation week.” Either way is cool. #respectthetongue
Oh, I’ll find clip art. Count on it.