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Growing Up Swimming

An experiment in bi-lingualism
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One of the interesting facts about the human body is that is adapted for relatively prolonged immersion in water. We are the only members of the ape family that can float (the others have too little body fat). It is believed that this adaptation occurred while many generations lived at a lakeshore or seashore, and often had to run into the water to escape land predators. Of course, fishing (and shellfishing) was probably good reason to spend time in the water, too.

Anyway, suppose we arranged an experiment in which one or more families raise their kids at a shore where the main creatures around are dolphins. The kids, even when only a year old or so, are encouraged to spend as much time in the water as possible, playing with the dolphins. The dolphins are kept well fed; they will be no danger, and in fact are likely to rescue any child who starts to founder (lots of historical evidence).

In a human-only environment, it is known that children can easily acquire bilingaul ability if they constantly associate with two groups speaking different languages. In this case we cannot expect the kids to be able to speak a dolphin language (should there be one), due to fundamental physical differences, but we could expect them to be able to understand it, and probably find a way to make themselves understood to the dolphins. Naturally, they will also learn their parent's language. Then they can grow up to be translators and ambassadors....

Vernon, Dec 15 2004

Interesting http://answers.goog...rs/threadview?id=39
//the only members of the ape family that can float //? [skinflaps, Dec 15 2004]

(???) you can get the odd rogue dolphin you know. http://www.waterexplorer.com/il_dol03.htm
[po, Dec 15 2004]

(?) aggressive dolphins. http://www.freethed...acts_aggression.htm
quite right, Vernon. that will teach me to read what I link. [po, Dec 15 2004]

Dolphin daycare? dolphin_20language
[2 fries shy of a happy meal, Dec 16 2004]

Growing up with a monkey can work http://iclimblikeag...-climbing-hero.html
This girl had enough human interaction to be normal in most ways. [Vernon, Feb 25 2009]

Dolphin language http://www.speakdol...archItems.cfm?ID=20
There is accumulating evidence that dolphins do have language. But see my annotation of the same date as this link. [Vernon, Jul 16 2015]

Dolphin hearing http://seaworld.org...se-dolphins/senses/
More data associated with the annotation mentioned just above. [Vernon, Jul 16 2015]

Frequency shifting is possible https://faculty.was...cramer/BBSound.html
Here a very low frequency is upshifted to become human-hearable. [Vernon, Jul 16 2015]


       Ah, ‘language immersion’. - I get it.   

       //We are the only members of the ape family that can float (the others have too little body fat).//   

       That can’t be correct.
Shz, Dec 15 2004

       That's what I thought [Shz] I have found a loose link.
skinflaps, Dec 15 2004

       It might be good to use African Bushmen (San) who already use a number of clicks in their languages.
FarmerJohn, Dec 15 2004

       Very interesting link, [skinflaps], I enjoyed that.
harderthanjesus, Dec 15 2004

       Heh, [po], it appears from your link that "rogue" does not mean "unfriendly"...
Vernon, Dec 15 2004

       Is it just me, or is the first paragraph regarding human vs. ape swimming adaptation completely irrelevant? Even if apes can swim, it wouldn't do any good to raise apes with dolphins because we can't talk to the apes either. :)   

       When reading this idea, after the first paragraph I thought this idea was going to be mainly about studying how the children growing up in the water turn out. I had competely forgotten the subtitle by the time I got to the end of this. When I read the second paragraph, I wondered what the point of the dolphins was. Surely human lifeguards are even better. The third paragraph clearly states the idea, which IS rather interesting, but is rather unexpected at that point.   

       I wonder if you had ditched the first paragraph and switched the order of the next two, if the discussion might not be about the idea rather than whether or not apes can swim...
scad mientist, Dec 15 2004

       I did once read a book that suggested that the way our hair lies on our skin suggests that we were formerly much more aquatic than one would think and I don't mean when we were fish crawling out of the sea.
po, Dec 15 2004

       Are young dolphins safe for children to play with? It seems the best chance of a inter-species 'language' appearing would be if both the humans and dolphins are young. (Assuming that dolphins learn to comunicate in roughly the same way as us, rather than it being somehow instinctive.)
RobertKidney, Dec 15 2004

       This is a pretty dangerous experiment. A philologist in the sixties carried out a similar experiment with his child and a damn dirty ape. The child started to behave like the chimpanzee, and the experiment was stopped. You may just end up condeming the children, instead of helping them. Of course, you might just turn them into circus freaks and media frenzy.   

       The reason we don't know for certain what the outcomes of the experiment would be is because this is a "forbidden experiment", not meant to be carried out for ethical reasons.
[ sctld ], Dec 15 2004

       I'm guessing [sctld] didn't have a puppy as a child.
Worldgineer, Dec 15 2004

       I'm guessing Worldgineer ate puppies as a child.
[ sctld ], Dec 15 2004

       It just seems strange to forbid an experiment that has been repeated millions of times. Ok, maybe dolphins are a bit differnt from puppies, but I haven't heard of anyone sending their kitten back to the shop because their child started purring.   

       Now if you argued it as cruel to make your child grow up in the water, I'd likely agree.
Worldgineer, Dec 15 2004

       Worldgineer had eight puppies as a child.
normzone, Dec 15 2004

       World: I was originally going to say that this experiment would yield no usefull results, but the story of the monkey was more entertaining. So i wrote that instead.   

       Edit: Now i remember my point: Feral children. Subjecting children to such treatment as described above could result in the loss or retardation of language skills, as was the fear with the child and monkey, and as is the case with feral children.
[ sctld ], Dec 15 2004

       I don't think this would work, Vernon. Even if (and I think it's still quite a big if) dolphins have an actual language, it's unlikely that humans would learn it naturally. The reason(according to Noam Chomsky) that humans learn human language so easily is that our brains are hard-wired with certain rules which all human languages conform to. It seems very unlikely that dolphin language would conform to the same rules. Plus, a lot of what dolphins say to each other is inaudible to human ears, so your kids are going to be missing half the coversation to begin with.
spacemoggy, Dec 16 2004

       And we need to communicate with dolphins... why?
tchaikovsky, Dec 16 2004

       I assume just to see if we can. Plus, they might know where much of our lost treasure is.
Worldgineer, Dec 16 2004

       I wonder if the floating thing has anything to do with our insufficiency of body hair.
RayfordSteele, Dec 16 2004

       ok, ok, you can take one of my twins, but the older one he stays here on dry land.
benfrost, Dec 16 2004

       [normzone], "Worldgineer had eight puppies as a child." -- That reminds me...."When Mary had a little lamb, the doctor was surprised, but when Old MacDonald had a farm, the doctor nearly died!"   

       For those of you who didn't notice, while I wrote, "The kids, ..., are encouraged to spend as much time as possible ...", that does not exclude interaction with humans, especially their parents. The kids still need to eat and sleep, after all, and the latter is not too good an idea for humans in the water. AND the goal was bilingualism, which obviously means the kids are to have sufficient interaction with other humans, as will prevent ferality.   

       [scad mientist], the first paragraph of the main text was written to indicate that the idea was POSSIBLE TO DO. The second paragraph is a description of the experimental procedure. And the third describes the goal. ok?   

       [po] I do take your point, and obviously we want to work with dolphins who are not stressed out, for this experiment. I note that your second link hints that much of that stress is caused by human demands for them to perform. But "play" is the operative word in this experiment, so I do think it can work.
Vernon, Dec 16 2004

       And the first thing you can ask them is do they know Douglas Adams?
Ling, Dec 16 2004

       //One of the interesting facts about the human body is that is adapted for relatively prolonged immersion in water// yeah, relative to toilet paper. More than a few hours immersion brings noticeable damage to the human body, particularly in saline water.   

       //the others have too little body fat// They do have similar fat storage capacity however - put a gorilla on a diet/lifestyle regime the same as a fat human and you'll soon have a fat gorilla.   

       //they can grow up to be translators and ambassadors// "Mr Bush, kKkkkXXCCRRTTTlpppppTTTTfsss the Sleek, Chief the Most Gracious and Wise of the Trtrtrtrtrdkiiiiiyunpingggg Tribe was wondering if that is a squid in your pocket, or are you just happy to see him..and if it is a squid, might he be allowed to eat it?
ConsulFlaminicus, Dec 16 2004

       Thanks for the info, [ConsulFlaminicus]. I did suspect we might have to coat the kids with something (greasy kids' stuff?) to reduce that waterlogging you hinted at.
Vernon, Dec 16 2004

       [— ConsulFlaminicus- More than a few hours immersion brings noticeable damage to the human body, particularly in saline water]   

       I'm having difficulty with that one. I know that surfers are a different lot, and I guess you'd have to be crazy to be a freediver, but I've never noticed this "noticeable damage" phenom even when spending the majority of several days in a row in the ocean.
normzone, Feb 27 2009

       Folks, this Idea appears to have a problem with respect to the fact that we don't know how much of dolphin language is ultrasonic, such that human ears simply cannot hear it. Obviously we cannot expect a child to learn a language that is mostly not heard!   

       On the other hand, I'm wondering about the possibility of creating a frequency-down-shift device, to convert dolphin sounds into human-hearable sounds. What they SAY to each other isn't necessarily using the entire range of frequencies that they can hear. So, if such can be done, then the child simply needs to wear that gadget whenever interacting with dolphins, and THEN learning their language could be possible.
Vernon, Jul 16 2015

       ... next child: raised by fax machines ...
pertinax, Jul 17 2015

       As a smaller person, I learned that it is possible to keep a fax machine on the phone indefinitely by whistling at it. Sadly, this is a recreation no longer available to today's children.   

       However, if you can hum and whistle at the same time, it is possible to dial without pressing the buttons.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jul 18 2015


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