This is an odd question. I was thinking about octopuses and wondering about the nature of language. To my knowledge (and this isn't my field) all human language has a phonetic components. Are there any visual based writing systems or "languages" that you could teach that do not contain any sound based communication or start with a foundation of such. Deaf people are able to read and write so maybe I am thinking to much into this but the thought experiment of teaching an octopus a language has me interested. Are there special tools or processes that are used for deaf individuals to help them that could theoretically be applied.

Ultimately just curious. Would be interested to hear any thoughts or. Answers. Thank you.

  • interestingly (but tangential to your question), even languages with no audible component (e.g. sign or contact-sign languages) are generally understood as having phonetics in a general sense, although obviously rather than studying the formation of sounds, in these languages it studies the formation of signs (e.g. handshapes and movements), as well as phonology (studying which distinctions in e.g. handshapes and movements are considered meaningful), making the names of the fields a bit of a misnomer these days
    – Tristan
    Sep 15 at 9:44
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    What exactly are the octopuses doing in this question? They seem completely irrelevant… Sep 15 at 12:26
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I was confused at first as well, but it appears the asker was asking about teaching octopuses a language, but since octopuses can't make the sounds humans can, it would have to be a language without phonetics. Maybe the question should be edited for clarity. Sep 15 at 16:49

Signed languages, such as ASL, generally rely entirely on vision and not at all on sound. There are quite a few of them by this point and they're widely used among deaf people.

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    There are also tactile sign languages, used by those who are both blind and deaf. Are you wondering about teaching a sign language to octopuses? There was an attempt to teach American Sign Language to a chimpanzee called Nim Chimpsky, which seems not to have been successful. Sep 15 at 6:20
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    @GastonÜmlaut IIRC reports of Nim's acquisition of ASL are vastly overstated. He (and Coco the Gorilla) seems to have acquired individual signs well, but doesn't seem to have acquired any of the grammar, so cannot meaningfully be said to have learnt the language. There are similar objections to the recent trend of giving dogs soundboards with various buttons they can press that play a word or phrase, the dogs are able to grasp the meaning of individual buttons (or at least the responses they trigger), but show no indication of understanding the grammar of the utterances. It's all Clever Hans
    – Tristan
    Sep 15 at 9:38

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