Technically Speaking: On Equipping and Evaluating ‘Unnatural’ Language Learners

Reno, Joshua. 2012. Technically Speaking: On Equipping and Evaluating ‘Unnatural’ Language Learners. American Anthropologist, 114(3), in-press. [Article]

No full text available

Abstract or Description

This paper compares different communicative trials for apes in captivity and children with autism in order to investigate how ideological assumptions about linguistic agency and impairment are constructed and challenged in practice. To the extent that Euro-American techniques of “unnatural” language instruction developed during the Cold War era have been successful, it is because communicative interactions are
broken down into basic components and would-be language learners are equipped with materials, devices and habits that make up for their distinct bio/social deficits. Such linguistic equipment can present a challenge to the ideological presumption of a subject inherently gifted with the rudiments of talk, that is, the human as naturally speaking. However, this ideology can reassert itself if the active contribution of
unnatural language learners to their techno-scientific trials is downplayed. In order to counter this tendency, I propose that speech acts be reimagined as part of a more encompassing semiotic ensemble.

Item Type:


Departments, Centres and Research Units:



September 2012["eprint_fieldopt_dates_date_type_inproduction" not defined]

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

11 Dec 2011 17:48

Last Modified:

07 Dec 2012 12:57

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


Edit Record Edit Record (login required)