Language as a password


Professor Karen McColb of the University of Sussex, published in the Journal ‘Frontiers in Zoology’ has indicated that in elephants, what she calls “ social understanding”,  was impaired by the loss of adults (by culling).  The article goes on to say that this demonstrates “systemic evidence that fundamental social skills may be significantly impaired” (by manmade disruption).


It is reported that “young orphaned male elephants often become hyper-aggressive and attacked and killed rhinoceroses”.


It is recorded that when (Ambroseli) elephants heard a call of an unfamiliar elephant, they reacted in a defensive way, bunching together and moving towards the sound.   Equally appropriately, these elephants “remained relaxed when faced with the calls of more familiar animals”.  In contrast, those elephants that had their adult hierarchy disrupted began to react “completely randomly”. Professor McColb said “there was no pattern at all to their responses” suggesting that these elephants could not tell the difference between friend and foe.  “This really suggests that the breakdown in their social fabric, even though it occurred decades ago, had had a real effect on their decision making processes.  Their social understanding has been impaired”.  They go on to say that this is the “first direct evidence that important social abilities in elephants were severely compromised in animals that had been separated from family members decades before”.


These findings are highly significant in relation to human social structure by analogue.


It can be argued that the purpose of language is to identify a group.  In effect a language is a highly sophisticated password.  There are of course subsidiary grades, which include dialects and often very local speech patterns.  The role of these is to distinguish between “clan” and stranger.  In practical terms it allows assumptions that there will be an inherent understanding both of phrase and implication. It allows valid assumptions as to expected behaviour and reaction to stimulus.


This reassurance that a person is dealing with a “kindred” is likely exceedingly important for human social contentment and direction of their behaviour. To pervert this intuition based behaviour would likely cause hazardous social stress.


Following from that it is probable that there is also a significant, but more subtle, danger where immigrants, with very different inherent cultural backgrounds, are introduced into a population at an early enough age. This will allow this generation to learn fully the language and local dialect.  The situation then arises where the possessors of the password, are not homogenous within the population that they now reside.  They can be likened to the Trojan horse as fully disguised intruders.


About jp

Orthopaedic Surgeon
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