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UNIVERSITY OF BABEŞ-BOLYAI

FACULTY OF LETTERS
ACTUAL TRENDS IN LANGUAGE THEORY
COURSE OF FORMAL SEMANTICS

‘NONFICTIVE’ FICTION. A SEMANTIC APPROACH

PAŞCALĂU CRISTIAN

0
-2008-
INTRODUCTION
This paper studies the logical balances of the mental spaces in some “cross/border”
worlds created in texts with empirical / pragmatic purposes. We talk about nonfictional texts
(or, at least, about texts that do not have the intentional dimension of fictionality) and,
therefore, about worlds with a rather strange ontological status. The aim of the analysis is to
determine, in a qualitative way, how the possible worlds semantics theory is undermined in
the interface of these texts and just how exactly is distorted in according to the message
emphasized by the dynamics of these new scenario approaches. We have to notice that the
authors do not make any references to the formal semantics theories, but their constant debate
relies undoubtely on the scenarios elaborated by semanticists and generativist researchers.
Therefore, we take into account the whole context in the approaches used, underlying at every
step the importance of the logical and semantic theoretical basis, which is very often used as a
starting point for pragmatic reasons.
A SUMMARY OF THE BOOK
The book chosen for our inquiries fits into the “conspiracy theory” workpapers, as it
deals with some classified physical and extrasenzorial experiments: The Montauk Project:
Experiments in Time, written by Preston B. Nichols and Peter Moon. 1 As Moon emphasizes at
the beginning of the study, the subsidiary goal of their presentation is to enlarge our
knowledge about time (“time” is here understood not like an abstraction, but like a mere
important factor in the human evolution, so we deal with a both scientific / physical and
metaphysical approach on time issue):
(1) « Aceastǎ carte este un exerciţiu pentru conştiinţǎ. Este o invitaţie de a
privi timpul într-o nouǎ manierǎ şi de a vǎ redimensiona orizontul cunoaşterii
universului. Timpul ne dirijeazǎ soarta şi ne conduce spre moarte. Deşi ne ghidǎm
dupǎ legile sale, sunt multe goluri în cunoştinţele noastre despre timp şi despre modul
sǎu de relaţionare cu conştiinţa noastrǎ. (…)
Unele informaţii pe care le veţi citi aici pot fi considerate „date probabile”.
Aceasta nu înseamnǎ cǎ ele nu sunt adevǎrate, dar nu sunt însǎ susţinute de dovezi
irefutabile. „Datele concludente” sunt reprezentate de documentaţii sau de dovezile
fizice care pot autentifica un fapt. (…)

1
The original edition – 1992. We used the Romanian version, 2006, Preston B. Nichols & Peter Moon, Proiectul
Montauk: experimente în timp; trad. Sorin Hurmuz, Bucureşti, Daksha.

1
Datoritǎ naturii subiectului în discuţie şi a condiţiilor de securitate, datele
concludente despre Proiectul Montauk au fost greu de obţinut. Existǎ o zonǎ de hotar
între aceste douǎ tipuri de informaţii, care poate fi numitǎ zona „datelor cenuşii”.
Acestea sunt foarte plauzibile, însǎ nu sunt la fel de uşor de dovedit ca în cazul celor
concludente.
Orice investigaţie asiduǎ va demonstra cǎ Proiectul Montauk a avut loc cu
adevǎrat. Probabil cǎ cei care vor încerca aceasta vor putea gǎsi persoane care au
luat parte la aceste experimente într-un fel sau altul. Cartea de faţǎ nu este o
încercare de a dovedi ceva anume. Scopul sǎu este de a relata evenimentele petrecute,
care sunt de un interes esenţial pentru cercetǎtorii ştiinţifici, metafizicieni, dar şi
pentru toţi locuitorii planetei Pǎmânt, în general. Este povestea unui anumit individ şi
a cercului sǎu de contacte cu fiinţe şi situaţii excepţionale. Sperǎm astfel ca din ce în
ce mai multe persoane care au fost implicate în acele experimente sǎ iasǎ din
anonimat şi cǎ cercetǎtorii vor realiza investigaţii, furnizând astfel mai multe
informaţii.
Fenomenele şi evenimentele descrise în aceastǎ carte nu sunt fictive şi nu
conţin informaţii false, dupǎ buna cunoaştere a autorilor. »2
A short summary would be welcome in order to understand the facts. Preston Nichols
worked as technic manager at the Montauk Project, therefore this book contains mostly his
accounts regarding the secret experiments made at Montauk Point, State of New York. In fact,
the book presents a series of descriptions concerning technical applications designed for a
direct manipulation of time. The personal story of Nichols is combined with some scientific
and technical notions, presented for the first time to the public. The starting point of these
researches was The Philadelphia Experiment, which had as a result the invisibility of a battle-
ship called USS ELDRIDGE. But the invisibility was not only a matter of radar surveylance.
The ship actually disappeared from our daily time-space continuum! This experiment had
disastrous effects on the crew. Still, 40 years of intense researches have followed this tragic
event. At Montauk Point, the researchers have managed to access huge forces and energies,
and also to manipulate time.
What are the explanatory inquiries of the strange phenomena? Basically, it is about
time travels. The way in which they managed to create a time vortex / portal relies very much
on a better understanding of time nature as well as of complex electrecity & magnetism
phenomena. There are notorious scientific figures that have participated to the experiments.
2
Pp. 14-15.

2
We recall, among others, Wilhelm Reich, John von Newman, Nikola Tesla. There is also
another name involved in the psychic side of the researches: Duncan Cameron, whose brain
was used as a some kind of imaginative projector / generator, due to its unusual working
capacity. His mind was projecting images, signals, portions of alternative worlds, which were
connected to a computer scanner and to a waves generator. The researcher could materialize
those projections, and doing so, they could create a breaking through in the space/time
continuum. However, many complicated and complex devices / installations were utilised in
order to provide a successful operation. The actual emergence into other world (or “universe”,
as the author recalls it) would give the notion possible worlds an ontological, or better said, a
referential consistency. This is in fact Nichols’s idea: studying the cuantic levels of existence
and formulating an own theory about temporal flux in different dimensions / worlds, he
reached an interesting conclusion:
(2) «A înţelege existenţa realitǎţilor multiple înseamnǎ, de fapt, a înţelege
timpul. (…) Voi expune în continuare propria mea teorie bazatǎ pe experimentele
mele, unele dintre ele prezentate în aceastǎ carte. Întocmai ca orice teorie ştiinţificǎ
completǎ, aceastǎ teorie este prezentatǎ pentru cǎ s-a dovedit aplicabilǎ în laborator.
(…)Ce este, de fapt, o realitate paralelǎ? Este o lume sau un univers în care se
gǎseşte cam tot ce avem noi aici. Dacǎ ne comutǎm pe acea realitate, vom vedea un
alt corp care ne va reprezenta pe noi într-o altǎ existenţǎ. Universul paralel nu se va
comporta în mod necesar precum cel pe care noi îl cunoaştem, ci va deţine
caracteristici şi proprietǎţi unice.
Eu înţeleg că noi existăm într-un număr de realităţi paralele. Suntem în
principal conştienţi de „realitatea noastră”, pentru că suntem focalizaţi asupra ei.
Universurile paralele pot ajunge în conştiinţa noastră prin intermediul viselor, ESP
(percepţii extrasenzoriale), prin intermediul meditaţiei sau al stărilor mentale
artificial induse.»3
The model proposed by Nichols expands the Einsteinian concept of “temporal loop”,
by which the scientist meant a bidimensional perspective upon Universe. Nichols talks about
a tridimensional sphere, with a basically same function.
(3) «Realitatea noastră poate fi considerată o gigantică buclă. E posibil să fi
început printr-un big bang sau cu începutul universului şi se va încheia în cele din
urmă tot acolo, dar, de fapt, va continua la nesfârşit. Când cineva sau ceva intervine
în acea buclă în care noi ne aflăm şi creează o nouă deformare temporală, modificând
3
Pp. 137-138.

3
realitatea, va crea o nouă buclă care este, de fapt, o realitate alternativă. Bucla
originală nu poate fi ştearsă sau negată. Ea va continua să existe. Noua buclă va
putea fi modificată în orice mod alege cel ce operează modificările respective. Ar
putea fi o deschidere în anul 1963 care merge până în 1983. Tot ce se petrece în
această perioadă va reprezenta o buclă alternativă. Nu va fi o buclă întreagă de sine
stătătoare, ci va fi adăugată buclei originale a realităţii noastre normale. Astfel, vor fi
adăugate bucle parţiale liniei noastre de timp originale şi putem numi această
conglomerare un complex de bucle (un complex se referă la ceva care are mai multe
ramificaţii).
Indiferent câte realităţi alternative vor fi create din bucla originală, sferei i se
vor adăuga realităţi suplimentare, „înfoind-o”. Pe lângă realităţile alternative create
prin schimbarea unei anumite linii temporale, mai pot exista realităţi paralele create
la începutul timpului care îşi au, de asemenea, propriile lor bucle „originale”. Poate
exista, astfel, un infinit număr de bucle şi de complexuri de bucle.»4
Even more, the author sustains the possibility of travelling from one loop to another,
due to the primar fact that the parallel realities function according to electromagnetic
principles. The waves, the particles, the electric and magnetic interactions make possible the
time travel. Using the whole cuantic models tradition (Einstein and other scientist’ work), the
participants to the Montauk Project managed to travel in past by creating a tunnel between at
least two “loops”, reaching a forbidden realm. The devices used as technological elements of
the experiments were rather complicated for a person who is not familiarised with such
installations: radio transmitters, electric generators, computers, transistors, turbines, huge
coils, a chair that could send researchers in time (the author remarks its resemblance with the
kind of chair used in Total Recall), a tiratron (impulse generator), amplitron (final amplifier of
the general transmitter). What allowed those projections was the point zero, the primar
moment of the Universe. This is, according to Nichols’s theory, a central time point situated at
a level where all times from the all loops intersect. It is the point arround which the Universe
turn itself. In fact, its location is somewhere outside our tridimensional outer space, being at
the same time our basic connection with the Universe. The scientists identified the so-called
“white noise”, the frequence modulated by the point zero. Acomplishing that, it was then
possible to connect the main computer to those modulations and by using the complex
electromagnetic installations, capturing all sorts of amounts of energy, corroborated with the
Duncan’s extrasenzorial capacities, they opened a link between the temporal loop 1983 to the
4
Pp. 139-140.

4
temporal loop in 1943, putting together the two major experiments, Philadelphia and Montauk
Point. We may say the experiments had in view a local area, and that is why the presumed
effects did not affect the rest of the terestrial timeings. Any temporal sequence had to be
related to the coherent transmission from the world to point zero. This transmission was
taking place under a great deal of energetic fields’ disturbances, as the waves were modulating
the temporal vortex, acting like omnidirectional operators activated by a huge computer
system. The result was in fact developing a new world, with some features steadily changed.
The portal represented an opening in space and in time, an input of a new dimension created
and developed on its own through Duncan’s mental projections. At the other side of the
tunnel, there was nothing to help the researchers anchore the path. In other words, there was
nothing to stop / end the discontinuous temporal flux. Only in 1983 they managed to create
the whole path and to make it rightfully functional. It was then when they connected the two
experiments and made a technological transfer.
In order to make the naïve readers come to a better understanding of the
multidimensional theory, Nichols offers an intuitive analogy. He compares our reality with a
huge abstract chess-board. There are many possible games, and the pieces are we, the
people… Any change produced at a certain point in the game has as a result a whole new
latter general configuration on the chess-board:
(4) «Mai întâi de toate, trebuie să ştiţi că trecutul şi viitorul pot fi schimbate.
Pentru a înţelege corect acest aspect, ne este de ajutor analogia cu o tablă de
şah. Într-o partidă de şah se fac, în medie, cam 30 de mutări. Fiecare mutare va crea
un plan general diferit al tablei de şah. Dacă cineva „s-ar duce înapoi în timp”
pentru a schimba o mutare care fusese iniţial făcută, ar schimba în consecinţă toate
planurile generale ale tablei de şah, care sunt ulterioare acelei schimbări.
Dintr-o anumită perspectivă, timpul ar putea fi considerat un impuls hipnotic
la care toţi ne supunem în mod subconştient. Când cineva este capabil să manipuleze
o schimbare în timp, el manipulează, de asemenea, opiniile şi experienţele noastre
subconştiente. Prin urmare, dacă timpul este schimbat, acest lucru nu va putea fi
observat în mod necesar de cineva.
Acest scenariu sugerează că suntem precum nişte piese pe o uriaşă tablă de
şah. Într-o anumită măsură, acest aspect este adevărat. (…)
Există, de asemenea, exemplul Iliadei scrise de Homer, care prezintă povestea
războiului troian. Conform acestei legende, zeii au manipulat personajele de pe
Pământ ca pe o tablă de şah. Povestirea este marcată de intriga dintre oameni şi zei.

5
Subiectul devine atât de dens şi de complex, încât uneori pare că Homer încearcă să
ne ofere o imagine microcosmică a întregului univers. (…)
La Montauk, oamenii de ştiinţă au văzut viitorul. Modalităţile tehnice pe care
le deţineau le-au oferit chiar posibilitatea de a vedea viitoruri multiple. După ce au
ales un anume scenariu şi l-au activat trimiţând pe cineva sau ceva acolo, acel viitor
devenea stabil în raport cu timpul de unde se realiza conexarea. Astfel era creată o
buclă temporală concretă.
De exemplu, să spunem că erau vizionate multiple viitoruri în care diferite
persoane deveneau preşedinţi. Să presupunem că viitorul în care preşedintele este
„Sam Jones” era ales de cercetători dintr-un motiv oarecare. Conexând o persoană
sau un lucru din prezent cu acel viitor, ei concretizau scenariul cu preşedintele Sam
Jones. Nu înseamnă totuşi că un scenariu fix nu mai putea suferi modificări din partea
oamenilor de ştiinţă.
În perioada curentă, noi ne aflăm într-o buclă temporală. Această buclă se
întinde de la cel mai îndepărtat moment accesat din trecut, până la cel mai îndepărtat
moment accesat din viitor. Este stabil şi pare inalterabil. Totuşi aceasta nu înseamnă
că suntem cu toţii surghiuniţi la a fi sclavii manipulatorilor de timp. Subconştientul
are propriile lui nivele hipnotice sau automatice dar conţine, de asemenea, seminţele
libertăţii, care sunt visele şi imaginaţia noastră. Dacă o persoană poate „visa” sau îşi
poate imagina ceva, acel ceva poate fi transpus în realitate.(…)
Mai există însă o întrebare importantă. Cine a fost cu adevărat în spatele
Proiectului Montauk? Există nenumărate intrigi şi scenarii pe care oamenii le pot
concepe. Habotnicii i-ar aduce în ecuaţie pe Dumnezeu şi pe Diavol. Cei pasionaţi de
fenomenul OZN ar putea imagina un scenariu prin care extratereştrii luptă pentru
cucerirea sistemului nostru solar. Cei de aripă stângă vor oferi explicaţii privind
implicarea CIA şi a Guvernului Mondial Secret.
Cred că toate posibilităţile de mai sus pot arunca o lumină asupra celor
petrecute, de fapt, la Montauk. Speranţa mea este că această carte îi va convinge pe
mulţi oameni să iasă din umbră. Astfel, vom putea avea mai multe răspunsuri şi mai
puţin mister.»5
THE POSSIBLE WORLDS SEMANTICS APPROACH
We may notice that the issue presented by Moon [fragment (1)] is highly assessed by
its convergence and its anchorage in the logical area. Nichols highlights the fact that the idea
5
Pp. 99-101.

6
of investigating time-variation in the marginal predictive power of human brain holographic
functions would lead eventually to a wide opening of general cognitive evolution. Its inquiries
on dynamics of transition world convergence in a multi/dimension model relies on “real
facts”, as he took part at the experiment itself. Moon introduces in fact Nichols’s testimonies,
so to speak, and in doing so, he takes good care not to damage in any way the general
discourse of his witness. He also warns the readers about the nonverifiable aspect of some
data and pieces of information shared with them. If we speak in semantic terms, we must say
that the readers have to focus on the concept of Trust, rather than upon the concept of Truth 6.
Especially since modelling the impact of the external factors on the pragmatic area of time
nature, the author lays out the open field of the problem. But the main point is that he
underlines the fact that this book is nonfictional. Moon says it loud and clear: all the events,
phenomena (implicitly, the persons as well) are real, are nonfictive. The pieces of information
are true. Yet, they are pretty unverifiable7. The situation is strange: the book is meant only to
present the facts, as they really happened, but not necessarily to prove them. The readers have
to take them for granted, beyound any reasonable doubt. But at the same time, the discourse
almoust always leads the readers to uncovered parts at distant horizons of possible. The past
tense itself opens a dimension of the actual world, which is in fact nonactual. We have also
modal expressions: may be considered, probable data, plausible, “we hope that (…)
researchers would make further investigations”, “on the authors’ good knowledge”. They
appeal to the readers’ common sense in order to induce the idea of verisimilitude / authenticity
of the referential counterpart of their discourse. Using scenarios means in fact taking as a
porthole the analytical perspective on the sea of referential ambiguity. Scenarios tend to
modulate a basic method for analytical purposes, giving a high degree of credibility and also
of imaginative power. Nichols recognizes the great impact scenarios have on every human
being. Hence he uses one particularly interesting scenario, which suggests intuitively the
universal configuration in Nichols’s determinist terms: the chess-board theory. He also
6
For a thorough analysis of the above mentioned dichotomy, we point to Eco (1996, pp. 115-123). He describes
all the states of affairs of our global enciclopedy in terms of trust, a concept often used instead of the truth. In a
common sense, we almost always rely on intermediaries when we form our system of beliefs / convictions about
reality (or “history” in more general terms). This is a consequence of our inevitable lack of control on all the
happenings that form the history flux. We cannot have the global experiences, we cannot see with our own eyes
everything that is going on at a certain point in time. We have to trust that our informers are of good faith and to
decide wether some fact is true or not implies many difficult choices that we have to make. As Hillary Putnam
said, our direct knowledge is only 10% from the global background knowledge that we use to inform ourselves
about reality matters. The rest of it belongs to other informers, science sectors etc.
7
The book tends to be regarded, against the authors will, as a “blatantly impossible” story about time travel. On
Currie’s account, in the process of interpretation we “should attribute to the narrator a belief in contradictory
things, for instance, in the possibility of squaring the circle or incoherent time travel.” – Currie, 1990: 87, apud
Oltean, 1997, 184. Hence belief (or trust) is the concept that should modulate the ontological status of Nichols’s
discourse. In fact, there are many nonfactive, declarative verbs that sustain this account.

7
remarks the infinite possibility of using all sorts of scenarios regarding the secret projects:
“Există nenumărate intrigi şi scenarii pe care oamenii le pot concepe. (…) Cred că toate
posibilităţile de mai sus pot arunca o anumită lumină asupra celor petrecute, de fapt, la
Montauk.” All the three scenarios (= possible worlds, or, maybe, fictional worlds, as we know
the verb conceive is world generator!) proposed would hence be compatible with the world of
the experiments. In fact, we assign value 1 in de dicto interpretation to the second statement,
as the verb believe, used at present tense, is declarative. The ultimate reasons for the scenarios
to which the author makes appeal is to empasize the logical intrinsic value of his statements.
To put it in other terms, the scenarios are meant to account the nonfictional character of what
is said. It is a very clever way to direct thoughts and to prepare one’s conscioussness in order
to create a rather emotional response. In this way, the readers become more open-minded,
more willing to take the facts presented as real things8.
We have to identify / check up whether Nichols’s allegations could be captured within
a larger frame9. This frame would be Moon’s statements regarding those allegations. We
notice Moon uses negation operators in order to enlight the value of what Nichols declares:
“Fenomenele şi evenimentele descrise în această carte nu sunt fictive şi nu conţin informaţii
false, după buna cunoaştere a autorilor.” Of course, the negation does not change the
declarative function, but the last part of the utterance restore the modal perspective. In this
way, the two authors create an entire labyrint of possible worlds, constructing a strange
concentric world structure10.
There is a constant degree of uncertainty regarding the nature of time 11. This common
fact is reassessed and it receives a whole new scientific approach. But the lack of evidence
makes us wonder about the legitimacy of their work. However, we can follow a certain
pattern of demonstration up to a certain level, due to the scientific terms, sketches, graphics
8
"Ontologia ficţiunii are nevoie de obiecte care sunt mai aproape de cele din universul de fiecare zi decât de
entităţile matematice şi care totuşi, nu pot fi într-o bună zi admise în lumea reală, cum pot fi proiectele nereali-
zate şi utopiile. Tocmai apropierea ficţiunii de lumea empirică nelinişteşte filozofii şi contribuie la ceea ce
Richard Routley a numit cândva „ţicneala realităţii" din filozofia analitică (1979, p. 4)" – Pavel, 1992, 49.
9
"Potrivit ideilor lui Parsons, de exemplu, noi înţelegem textele ficţionale prin extrapolarea sensului
propoziţiilor citate şi prin constituirea unei imagini integrale care în cursul lecturii este treptat modificată şi
lărgită, conducând la un rezultat final, imaginea maximală. Deducem imaginea maximală din citirea textelor
datorită „unui principiu de evidenţă totală... bazat pe ceea ce spun textele împreună cu ceea ce ştim noi despre
situaţia lor şi despre lume" (Parsons, 1980, pp. 179-l80)" - Pavel, 1992, 47-48.
10
"Succesiunea temporală este un caz simplu de accesibilitate asimetrică : cu puţină răbdare si un dram de noroc
noi putem aiunge lumea lui ianuarie 1999, avînd ca punct de plecare lumea lui ianuarie 1991. dar inversul este
imposibil. Accesibilitatea si alternativi tatea reprezintă formal intuiţia că este posibil ca unele stări de lucruri să
fie relative la cele reale, în timp ce altele tiu sunt. Noi avem acces la alternative posibile, dar suntem izolaţi de
lumile imposibile." – Pavel, 1992, 71.
11
As David Lewis emphasized, the actual world (and, implicitly, the possibles close to it) depends very much on
physics development. In order to cover all possibilities in matter, it is obvious that our "modal opinions do
change, and physicists do a lot to change them" - Lewis, 1979, 189.

8
and figures attached to the main content. The facts shown could be verified, theoretically, by
scientists and researchers, although there are, of course, other problems to concern, such as
politics, military activity and so on. The point is that the authors imply the authenticity of the
events presented, not only in this book, but also in other similar works concerning the same
main topic. All these books represent the attemptings of finding rather a personal truth, of
putting the pieces resulted from recollected memories together, so that a certain individual
overcome years of mistery12. The brain-washing affected Nichols’s life, as he confesses
between the lines. But there are actually many angles from which the issue can be analysed.
What if, for some unknown reason, somebody made a trick with his mind and implanted all
the experiences he remembers as real facts? This scenario is quite possible, especially if we
maintain in the area of conspiracy theories. Then we would have to assign the value 1 to its
confesses’ world, knowing that the facts are fictional as far as the actual world concerns, with
the necessary specification that Nichols never intended to misslead us, being of good faith,
but not realising its true situation, which is the state of mind artificially induced. In de dicto
interpretation, all the statements would get value 1, all of them being true in all the possible
worlds. In de re interpretation, the set of propositions would get value 0, since we found out
about the confusion. It is rather difficult to assign a truth value to the set of propositions that
form the textual world in de re interpretation. We are not enablied to assign a truth value to
this set of propositions (the text) because we cannot verify all the facts presented. Though we
tend to believe the statements, as we are warned about the nonfictional character of the text
and we presume to believe the persons, the events and the phenomena are real (= have a one-
to-one correspondence in the actual world), the factual background does not allow us to
interpret them correctly in terms of truth conditions.
The notion of “parallel realities / universes” is charged with a whole different semantic
value than the logic concept of “possible worlds”. There are some similarities between the
two concepts, detected in other allegations excerpted from the book, but a major different

12
The maximal image of time, as it arises from the events presented, is very contradictory, and this the most
wide reason for our concern regarding the meaning of the text, because " obiecte contradictorii apar adesea în
ficţiune, câteodată numai marginal, dar câteodată central, ca în povestirile metafizice ale lui Borges sau în lite-
ratura ştiinţifico-fantastică contemporană. Prezenţa contradicţiilor ne împiedică în mod efectiv să considerăm
lumile ficţionale drept veritabile lumi posibile şi să reducem teoria ficţiunii la o teorie krip-keană a modalităţii.
Nu e mai puţin adevărat că obiectele contradictorii nu sunt o dovadă suficientă împotriva noţiunii de lume :
nimic nu împiedică teoria ficţiunii să vorbească, aşa cum fac filosofii, despre lumi imposibile sau eratice. Lumile
contradictorii nu sunt atât de îndepărtate de noi pe cât ne-am aşteptat. Nu numai fizica este încă împărţită în teo-
ria relativităţii şi mecanica cuantică; nu numai lumina este alcătuită simultan, din particule şi unde, dar şi lumile
noastre de fiecare zi găzduiesc asemenea entităţi imposibile ca structurile psihice individuale, dorinţele, visurile
şi simbolurile. Lumile coerente îşi au originea într-o idealizare şi ataşamentul nostru faţă de coerenţă este mai
puţin motivat decât se pare. La urma urmei, oamenii au trăit în universuri notoriu incongruente cu mult înainte ca
acestea să devină mai mult sau mai puţin capabile de coeziune." – Pavel, 1992, 79-80.

9
perspective brings each into light. Time is a basic factor through we could modulate and
access many parallel dimensions, but in doing so, we would certainly modify the entire shape
of our reality / actual world. Although the resemblance is striking for naïve readers, the two
expresions are semanticaly and technicaly different (they do not have the same meaning, nor
sense, to be more specific). If we could mentaly or physicaly access a past world – and change
one / several events that are meant to lead to a certain future configuration of the actual world
– the entire actual world would be then modified. It would be modified in its evenimential
shape, but not in its essence. The transformation would be only affecting the states of affairs
at a local rank, not the global structure or functioning of the reality. According to this theory,
what was possible in a past alternative world, would become then actual, and what we
experienced as actual in the actual world would become only a possible among other
possibles. But this would never change the actual world’s essence or nature. It would only
lead to a kind of paradoxical situation, to a reconversion of states of affairs. If the real world
consists in many puzzled alternative worlds, then each possible world close to the real world
will have the same basic pattern. There are however different levels at which our
interpretation could reach a gradual ontological approach 13. Here we could deal with a
combination of incompatibles world structures that modifies the idiosyncratic pattern of the
universe and of the discoursive reality. Another question arises: could this book be considered
a utopia? The intentionality tells us it could not. But in some possible worlds compatibles
with some readers’ beliefs, the book may in fact be regarded as a strange utopia, or, better yet,
a distopia, by ignoring the intentional remarks and the referential / factual background. Then,
we would talk about the difference between "being fiction" and "being regarded as fiction".14
A parallel between this book and some famous movies could be made. The
movie/makers have somehow distorted the idea that one cannot escape from his world. Such
TV series as Star Trek, or Sliders, the characters travel into other worlds, similar like theirs.
An energetic portal is used so that the amazing trip could be successfully achieved. The
strange thing is that the heroes encounter their “alter ego”-s and they manage to modify the
evenimential shape. This fact allows us to see time as a ultimate game played spontaneously,

13
"Dacă lumile posibile ar exista undeva într-un hiperspaţiu depărtat, atunci într-adevăr ar fi contraintuitiv să
consideram că Dickens a dobîndit, nu se ştie cum, acces la mulţimea de lumi pickwickiene şi le-a descris cu
fidelitate. E drept, cel puţin un filosof al logicii modale, David Lewis, a apărat ideea că toate lumile posibile, îm -
preună cu toate obiectele care le populează sunt tot atât de reale ca propria noastră lume 3. Dar această formă de
posibilism este o poziţie extremă, care contravine intuiţiilor noastre comune. De obicei, filosofii susţin că lumile
posibile nu sunt adevărate entităţi care ar putea fi cercetate dacă am avea teles-coape adecvate ; ele sunt modele
abstracte şi pot fi concepute fie ca entităţi abstracte reale, fie ca simple construcţii conceptuale" – Pavel, 1992,
77-78.
14
See for this matter Oltean, 2001, 70-71.

10
helping human beings create their own worlds. In fact, every person modulates the actual
world by using all sorts of heterogeneous pieces. The reality is designed as a huge, concrete-
abstract puzzle, and part of these pieces are recollected from different levels of consciousness.
But we should always keep in mind that movies are fictional. The events occur only in
the alternative world of the movie, regarded as a text, and they do not refer to real situations.
The idea of “holospace” is very interesting, as a matter of fact. Two concepts may be related
to this notion of empty space generating mockery worlds: the mental spaces (Fauconier) and
recentering (Marie-Laurie Ryan).
The distinction between “world” and “universe” has to be made. Nichols does not
operate with such a clear dichotomy. The terms mentioned are more or less synonymous in his
approach. The formal semantics solved this very delicate issue by postulating the subsequent
anchoring of the possible worlds to the modal base, which has the features of a “holospace”,
at an abstract degree of comprehension. This would be the frame within possible worlds
develop their semantic value. But Nichols’s proposal is to emerge from the actual world (or
from a possible world) to an impossible world, which is no longer connected to the modal
space. So if the book is fictional, we must understand the nature of its fiction as a powerful
absorbing one. This type of fiction is aggressive, as it tries to absorbe the actual world and to
make it look like fiction. While movies are explicitly fictional intended, the books of this kind
do not construct the meaning pointing on fictional roots. If we take into consideration the
macro-speech acts theory, we will begin to understand the subsidiary purpose of the book. The
whole story seems to be a development of Orwell’s statement: “Who controls the present,
controls the past. Who controls the past, controls the future.” Nichols’s attempt consist in
creating a wrecker scenario in order to submit the readers to a certain mood, at a subliminal
level, and to persuade them in respect to the verisimilitude of the facts he recalls. This
solution is, in our opinion, the most appropriate, giving the elements and the peculiarities of
the discourse. We are able to recognize, in fact, some interesting strategies by which the
reader is lead to a paradoxical level of interpretation. There is a strong ambiguity that enables
us to put the facts under a question mark.
The philosophical issues which are encountered in our investigations bring into some
majors questions about what wuold actually happen with the ontological and the
epistemological status of the Universe if the events recalled were true. But our limitations in
perceptive mechanism oblige us to cautious remarks in respect to this state of affairs. Our
attempt to reach a “final stage” of knowledge is always meant to fail. From this point of view,
The Montauk Project might represent a “beyound science-fiction” illustration of the

11
deconstructing movement. One deconstructs in order to reconstruct, to put something instead,
to fill in the blanks. The gaps within our background knowledge are speculated and tried to be
filled in. But the authors bring uncertain, unreliable pieces of information. One cannot
deconstruct the whole Universe status and then reinsert features that were not actually there in
the first place. Our common sense tells us people are not able to create living monsters from
imaginative projections, but Duncan “ignores” the common sense! He must have had powers
beyound our capacity of understanding, as he travelled with his mind through other
dimensions, unknown but than again so “real”. The Pygmalion myth is reinterpreted from a
posthistorical viewpoint. We could say Duncan’s mental spaces open within a channel of
communication with unknown energies, maybe. However, his projections are meant for a
restricted area – the subconsciousness, so that the special thoughts he designes would come to
existence, in the literal sense of the term, which is in fact an epistemic nonsense.
CONCLUDING REMARKS
The discourse of The Montauk Project reveals a great deal of modal constructions.
Modality is the core of Nichols’s approach, which shows the possibility, and makes us assign
a semantic value to the discourse on basis of de dicto interpretation. At this point, the
scenarios used, the non-factive verbs, the “frame story” technique and the labyrint of narrative
worlds tend to back up this interpretation. On the other hand, finding a way of manipulating
time and to travel in it is almost always regarded as fiction, but the authors trie in fact to
reconverse the nature of this fictive configuration by using a real background (the secret
military experiments in the electromagnetic field; such events as the Philadelphia Experiment,
or the strange phenomena going on the Bermuda Triangle are regarded as real, and they are all
connected to the electromagnetic researches), some reliable aspects of referential nature
(names of inventors that are said to have been participated to the experiments) and, ultimately,
the nonfictional intent.
However, if we study the discourse features, we can guess the book is designed to
influence public opinion, to persuade the readers to take the events for granted. The purpose
could be commercial, or deconstructive (even to create panic or anarchy, to destable the
political system, the credibility in the national forces and so on). We can extract two major
seminal concluding remarks from the investigations concerned upon this book, namely the
distinction between levels of actualiyation and levels of consciousness, and the fact that
knowledge is always modal, not only within systems of convictions (tradition, modern
viewpoints and so on), but also regarded as mental process, or mental chained acts. The modal
base functions as the holospace, integrating the entire Universe, interconnecting the whole

12
background knowledge regarding the actual world and the possible / alternative worlds. We
have to mention that impossible worlds do not fit into the limits of modal base, but they
expand / disipate into a extremely vague field of unknown nature, into something lax,
unindentifiable holospace. The fiction is disimulated, and its goal is to put at risk the status of
the real world. But the mere conclusion is a general truth: knowledge in itself is modal. There
are many gaps in the field of our knowledge and this fact entails many partial viewpoints, as
there is no human capacity to reach absolute cognitive powers. Anyhow, one may think that
Nichols took elements from possible world semantics, redesigned them and shifted them
according to his pragmatic needs. The reasons of this interpretation stand for the general
idyosincratic configuration of the Universe and of the discourse-reality, and for the balance of
the narrative base between two distinct “realities”, the actual world and the emerged fictional
“impossible” world. All the sets of propositions give the objects through a “genetic
recombining” process, so that the internal ontological pattern exists without existing.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Currie (1990) – Gregory Currie, The Nature of Fiction, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Eco (1997) – Umberto Eco, Şase plimbări prin pădurea narativă, Constanţa, Pontica,
1997.
Lewis (1973 / 1979) – David Lewis, Possible Worlds, Loux, M. J. Edition, 1979.
Oltean (1997) – Ştefan Oltean, Possible Worlds and Truth in Fiction. Journal of
Literary Semantics, XXVI / 3, pp. 173-190.
Oltean (2001) – Ştefan Oltean, Reflecţii asupra ficţionalităţii. Steaua 4 / 2001, pp. 67-
71.
Oltean (2006) – Ştefan Oltean, Introducere în semantica referenţială, Cluj-Napoca,
Presa Universitară Clujeană, 2006.
Pavel (1986 / 1992) – Toma Pavel, Lumi ficţionale, Bucharest, Minerva, 1992.

Is language species-specific?
Language, since the time it was invented (there is no existing record to date back the
origin of language), has always been considered a unique human trait that sets us apart from
the rest of the species. The majority of people have considered the word “language” as a mere
shorthand for human language, or more explicitly “adult human language. However, there has
been a popular, a rather radical disagreement about the specificity of language. Quite a

13
number of researchers and scholars have conducted experiments and studies to prove or
disapprove the much contested debate on language. I, on the other hand, would present
several arguments that would support the Orthodox belief that language is one of the main
hallmarks that distinguishes us humans from animals.
To set a grounding point for our arguments, let us first define language. In the many
disciplines of linguistics, its meaning has been narrowed down into “a system of arbitrary
vocal symbols used by an individual or a group to interact and communicate.” Just simply
analyzing the above-mentioned meaning, we can come up with several properties of language
that generally cannot be found in animal communication (note that I used the word
“communication” instead of language). First is arbitrariness, if language therefore is arbitrary,
as popularly explained by Saussure, there is no connection between the linguistic form and the
meaning. Almost all the words we used do not posses an obvious relationship between their
sound/sign and their meaning (except perhaps for onomatopoeic expressions). Let us take for
example the word phone. There is nothing “phony” about a phone. Several research
observations proved that non human communication system is quite different from human
language. The latter is undeniably infinite while the former is limited to a series of sounds or
movements that convey a target meaning. The sounds they make could mean that they sense
danger, hunger, or for the purpose of attracting the opposite sex as a possible mate. On the
contrary, human language has no limit to the number of expressions or words and even until
now in our modern era, humans are continually inventing and reinventing the way we
communicate.
As mentioned above, language is a series of vocal symbols. In the history of
humankind, we are probably the only specie that spends most of its time talking. Though we
cannot deny the existence of vocal communication among animals, it is but important to note
that there is no more complex and composite as the human vocal symbols. Compared to
animals, there exists a variation and inflection on the way we speak. Alterations are made
depending on the situation or feeling of the speaker. We can modulate, change the tone or
pitch, even the speed to suit our particular whim at a particular period or time. How about the
animals that were claimed to have successfully learned not only to randomly imitate the exact
sound of a human language but also to associate it with the corresponding meaning? Well,
these experiments had been done in a uniform method that is “iteration” which involves
repeating an action or object an arbitrary number of times. Classic example would be teaching
a parrot to say “magandang umaga” everytime you open the door. It’s just as good as a simple
conditioning (Pavlov: dogs salivating at the sound of the bell). The question is do they

14
understand what they’re doing? Those animals (usually chimpz) that were able to develop or
acquire such vocal skills are nonetheless special cases. However, comparing them to the
development of a human child, it is quite apparent that human has the more innate ability to
naturally acquire the faculty of language in or out of a controlled environment.
Language for us is a means to effectively communicate and interact in our individual
speech community. This is one trait that is analogous to most animal communities. Animals
have displayed certain behaviors that are for the sole purpose of conveying messages or
symbols to the other members of their pack, thus enabling them to survive. But this doesn’t
prove that they have the ability to expand upon the grammatical rule in general sense or fully
understand the changes in the meaning of the words. Humans are gifted with a unique
imagination, manifesting itself even in language wherein we continually create new
expressions (slang) and even hypothetical concepts (Santa Clause, Superman and the likes)
which is absent in animals. This further proves that humans have a more conscious control
over their faculty of language. It is conclusively more than a tool used for survival. Human
language has and is constantly flowing and evolving parallel to the evolution of man.
There are many other arguments that would further support my views on the
specificity of language to humans. However, I have just limited my points around the given
and acknowledged meaning of language which I think is the most fundamental basis at which
we can distinguish the big difference of human language and animal communication. It seems
very unlikely for another species to learn or interpret signals or symbols of another (I have not
yet heard of a chicken able to talk in “mutton”). I must say that the attention being given to
the analysis of animal communication to classify it as a “true language” is but a biased effort
of a number of researchers and an over interpretation of the similarities and shared pre-
linguistic ability between some animals and humans.
● The theory has several hypothetical constructs, such as movement, empty categories,
complex underlying structures, and strict binary branches, that cannot possibly be acquired
from any amount of input. Since the theory is, in essence, unlearnably complex, then it must
be innate. A different theory of language, however, may yield different conclusions. Examples
of alternative theories that do not utilize movement and empty categories are Head-driven
phrase structure grammar, Lexical functional grammar, and several varieties of Construction
Grammar.
● Debate within the nativist position now revolve around how language evolved.
Derek Bickerton suggests a single mutation, a big bang, linked together previously evolved

15
traits into full language15. Others like Steven Pinker argue for a slower evolution over longer
periods of time (Pinker, 1994). Many criticisms of the basic assumptions of generative theory
have been put forth, with little response from its champions. The concept of language
acquisition device is unsupported by evolutionary anthropology which shows a gradual
adaptation of the human body to the use of language, rather than a sudden appearance of a
complete set of binary parameters (which are common to digital computers but not to
neurological systems such as a human brain) delineating the whole spectrum of possible
grammars ever to have existed and ever to exist.

FERAL CHILDREN LANGUAGE ACQUISITION


In Generavists` point of view, language is an innate genetically determined skill, in
one word, an instinct16. This being the case, the complexity of language does not depend on
the cultural or technological sophistication of the community speaking it. A very intricate
issue consists in reaching a clear and truthfull solution regarding the origins of language, as
native languages cannot be born out of nothing. Of course, they have not been invented by
scholars or educators. As a matter of fact, natural languages 17 are the result of the genetical
design of the human brain, moulded syntactically and undermining the inner basic creativity
of the entire mankind.
This paper deals with the complex phenomenon of first language acquisition (the
process by which language develops in children) and, more precisely, with language
acquisition concerning the so-called 'feral children' ('wild' or undomesticated). A feral child is
a human child who, from a very young age, has lived in isolation from human contact and has
remined unaware of human social behavior, and, of course, unexposed to language. A feral
child is an extremely rare phenomenon, and there are only just over a hundred known cases.

15
Bickerton, Derek (1990). Language and Species. United States: University of Chicago Press.
16
The term 'instinct' is conveyed by Pinker (1995: 18 – 19). In order to create the necessary path in studying
languager, Pinker depicts some general features that are appliable to this instinct, at the same time explaining the
use of this apparent degrading term: "Language is not a cultural artifact that we learn the way we learn to tell
time or how federal government works. Instead, it is a distinct piece of the biological makeup of our brains.
Language is a complex, specialized skill, which develops in the child spontaneously, without conscious effort or
formal instruction, is deployed without awareness of its underlying logic, is qualitatively the same in every
individual, and is distinct from more general abilities to process information or behave intelligently".
Furthermore, Pinker emphasizes the immanence of language undermined as a brain capacity.
17
There is, however, a contradictory opinion regarding the evolution of language, which states the fact that
specific languages today are derived from earlier versions of languages which have been phonologically,
morphologically or syntactically modified in time by particular communities of speakers. But the generativists
scholars and researchers give strong arguments against this idea, emphasizing that language is not, however
strange or abnormous it may seem, a cultural artifact, but instead a natural instinct encoded in our genes. In other
terms, we are programmed to speak, and there is no community of Homo Sapiens on the planet that does not use
language as a means of communication.

16
An article in Scientific American suggested that humans have been around in their
present form for 120,000 years. However, we only discovered language and became
technologically creative as late as 40,000 years ago. So what were humans like before that?
And what would we be like if the influence of our current society was not present? Feral
children are children who have spent much of their formative years in the wild, without any
contact with other humans for a significant period of their lives. Cases of feral children are
thankfully rare, but are of immense interest from a scientific and educational point of view.
Feral children provide data which help to answer a number of questions: How close is human
nature to the nature of an animal? What aspects of human nature are genetic, and what aspects
are learned? What does consciousness mean? Could we learn how to speak to animals, or
could we teach animals to speak with humans? Studies of feral children in the past have lead
to breakthroughs in the education of people with learning disabilities, and indirectly has lead
to the development of sign-language and Braille.
Stories of feral children pop up every now and again in the media, but most stories are
uncorroborated, and many are pure fantasy. However, there are a few cases which did occur in
history which were the subject of intense scientific scrutiny.
In 1724, near the German town of Hamelin, a boy, described as a naked brownish
black-haired creature, was seen running up and down in the fields. The boy was enticed into
town, and once there immediately became a subject of great interest. He behaved like a
trapped wild animal, eating birds and vegetables raw, and when threatened, he sat on his
haunches or on all-fours looking for opportunities to escape. Peter was soon made the
possession of King George I of England, where he lived the rest of his life. During his life
Peter never learned to talk, showed a complete indiference to money or sex, and was never
seen laughing. However he loved music, could be taught a number of menial tasks, and when
he once got lost, he found his own way back home. Peter died in 1785.
Victor, a boy of about 11 or 12, was discovered foraging for roots and acorns in the
woods near Aveyron, France in 1799. Victor was taken to Paris, where he appeared to be
human only in appearance. Victor behaved like an animal, ate rotten food with pleasure, was
incapable of distinguishing hot from cold, and spent much of his time rocking back and forth
like a caged animal. Victor was taken into the care of the brilliant scientist Dr Jean-Marc-
Gaspard Itard, who dedicated himself to the education of the boy. Victor proved to be a very
difficult subject. Over the years, Victor only learned two terms, "lait" and "oh Dieu". His
sense of touch seemed to be far more important than his sense of sight, he did not demonstrate
an ability to distinguish right from wrong, and like Peter before him, he was indifferent to sex.

17
He did however learn some menial tasks, such as setting a table. Victor lived the rest of his
life in the care of his housekeeper, and died in 1828 at the age of 40.
Kaspar Hauser was discovered in 1828 in Nurenberg, Germany. He was unsteady on
his feet, and only spoke the phrase "I want to be a horseman like my father is". Kaspar was
about 16 years old, but he behaved like a small child. It appears that for most of his early
childhood, Kaspar was imprisoned in a cage, with hardly any contact with the outside world.
When a mirror was handed to him he used to look behind him to find the person in the mirror,
and could not understand how faraway objects appeared smaller than objects close by. Kaspar
had a keen sense of smell. He detested meat and alcohol, and was offended by the smell of
flowers. He loved wooden horses, and he thought the sky was full of candles. Unlike many
other of the cases described here, Kaspar did learn much, but in 1833 he was assassinated.
The mystery of his early life and violent death have never been satisfactorily answered.
Kaspar Hauser was visited by Feuerbach in July 1828, who reported on his linguistic abilities.
He said that conjunctions, participles and adverbs were virtually entirely lacking in his speech
and that his syntax was seriously deficient. He showed some similarities with very young
children who are learning language, in that he referred to himself as Kaspar (he generally
spoke of himself in the third person, the pronoun "I" occurred very rarely) and he generalised
concepts, so that all hills were mountains and a fat man was a "man with a mountain", or a
lady whose shawl dragged on the ground was called "the lady with the tail". These
constructions are samples of basic creativity that children are often rewarded: underbrella,
beach-lookers (binoculars), tree-knocker (woodpecker). However, when he moved with Herr
Daumer`s family he made considerable progress in reading and writing, but never achieved
much more than a page of scribbled notions.
In a modern version of the Romulus and Remus story, two young girls were
discovered under the care of a she-wolf in 1920, in Godamuri, India. The girls were taken to
an orphanage in Midnapore. The children, Kamala, aged eight and Amala, aged 18 months,
behaved exactly like small wild animals. They slept during the day and woke by night. They
remained on all-fours, enjoyed raw meat, and were given to biting and attacking other
children if provoked. They could smell raw meat from a distance, and they had an acute sense
of sight and hearing. The youngest child, Amala, died one year later, but Kamala lived for
nine years in the orphanage until she died of illness at the age of 17. Kamala did acquire a
small vocabulary, but she remained very different to other children until the time of her death.
Furher more, we have to say a few words about some key notions regarding our issue.
There are proofs which point out the fact that child language acquisition is creative, not

18
imitative. Children do not copy their parents` speech. The errors children make reflect in fact
a rule of grammar. For instance, in English they overgeneralize the regular plural (mouses,
foots, tooths) and regular tenses (he gived, goed, she be`s at work, I finded Renee), forms they
could hardly have heard from their care-takers. Irregular forms seem to be acquired at a later
stage as exception to the rule. Children often make errors that are correct in other languages
(for example, the double negation 18, which would be correct in Romanian). So children do not
parrot their parents. They are linguistic geniusses and seem to acquire language effortlessly.
A child is born with a Universal Grammar, a system of universal principles and
parameters. In response to the Primary Linguistic Data (the exposure to a specific language)
the child creates a core grammar. The principles of the syntactic computational system are not
learned, but applied. What is learned is lexical information. But this window of opportunity in
language acquisition begins to close by the age of seven or eight, when children have become
fully proficient in their mother tongue. Feral children (wild children, who grew up in the wild,
or children who, due to parental neglect or abuse, were isolated from a community of
speakers) who lacked exposure to language during this critical period of language acquisition
will never be able to catch up, and will remain often mute or with poor language abilities.
In order to challenge and criticize the behaviourist conception upon language
acquisition19, Noam Chomsky introduced the key notion of creativity. According to his theory,
people understand and produce sentences they never heard before, making use of a finite set
of means for an infinite production of sentences (the famous humboldtian statement: infinite
use of finite means). Solving Plato`s problem 20, Chomsky argues that the language is a faculty
of the brain, ability genetically determined, innate property of the mind.
Feral children have been of scientific interest to psychologists and sociologists as a
way of understanding how "humanness" is acquired and transmitted. What makes feral
children particularly interesting to scientists researching the critical period hypothesis is
wether or not they learn to speak after their return to human society. What is most fascinating
about these various cases is that language acquisition is essentially impossible for these
children. If language acquisition does not occur before a certain age, it seems that it cannot be

18
The Bristol experiment, 1985. The child, who is 24 months old, would not give up the double negation
(Nobody don`t likes me), fact showing that he possesses a knowledge beyound the inquiries of the English
language (as a particular instantiation of a basic universal language), independently of the nonexposure to double
negation in the language spoken in the child`s linguistic environment.
19
Behaviourism, which incorporated the structuralist tradition, described language acquisition in terms of
responding to stimuli, parroting the language of adults, correction and reinforcement provided by meticulous
care of the parents or care-takers.
20
Meno, a slave, discovers the principles of geometry without the benefit of direct instruction. Plato argues that
this kind of knowledge is grounded in the nature of reason rather than in one`s experience of the world.

19
learned. Instead, these children mimic the animals that they were raised by, such as howling
like wolves or whistling and flapping their arms as in the case of the "bird boy" discovered in
2007 in Russia. Socialization in the animal world is so powerful for some of these children
that they are unable to physically walk upright, they cannot stand the feel of clothing, they
cannot eat cooked food, and in some cases it is reported that their sight, hearing, and smell
exceed those of regular human beings21. Since language acquisition is so difficult for feral
children who have missed out on the critical period, some attempts have been made to teach
children sign language. The Kranenburg girl (found in 1717) was successfully taught some
sign language, and attempts were also made to teach Genie sign language, to avoid repeating
the mistakes of Victor22. On this day, it was noticed that Kamala copied the sound "Hoo Hoo
Hoo" which the Orphanage children used to utter on account of the severe cold which they
felt when not properly covered. Kamala took this sound up and began to utter this frequently
without meaning anything in particular. This went on for some time. Now Kamala used to nod
for "yes" and shake her head from side to side to mean "no", but she could not pronounce
these two words. After five years in the orphanage, Kamala was able to talk: she refused to go
outside without being dressed, having complained with the sound "Fok" (possibly meaning
"frock"), and her vocabulary was thought to consist of about 30 words. These words were not
common to English speech, but were sounds. When food was offered she used "Hoo" to
indicate "yes", although other children use this word to mean "cold". She was able to name
objects, but never used her words spontaneously. Two years later, she had learned more
words, but apart from that there was no other mental change. However, sign language is a
language in its own right and requires the same neurological development. What many feral
children do learn is to mimic animal sounds, and especially the sounds of their host families.
Those that have lived with wolves are often reported as barking or whining, and those that
have lived wild on their own are sometimes adept at recognizing and imitating the sounds of
many different birds. In the Optomen Television production Feral Children, Oxana Malaya
can be seen running around on all fours and barking like a dog. Memmie LeBlanc, the wild
girl of Champagne, possessed merely a word or two in some foreign or instinctive tongue.

21
In the case of John Sesebunya, the Ugandan boyadopted by monkeys, after returning to human society, when
left with a group of monkeys he avoided eye contact and approached them from the side with open palms, in
classic simian fashion. He had a strange lopsided gait and pulled his lips right back when he smilled. He tended
to greet people with a powerful hug, in the way that monkeys greet each other. He had, however, learned to
wink, something a monkey would never do.
22
It seems that Victor of Aveyron was eventually able to respond to some spoken commands, although to what
extent he was genuinely understanding the language we don`t know., as he never spoke. Wild Peter made a few
distinct noises himself, of which the two most recognisable were "ki scho" and "qui ca", for King George and
Queen Caroline.

20
The usual sound uttered by her was a wild scream, not articulated, but formed entirely in the
throat. If any one approached to touch her, she grew wild and shrieked violently.
It is interesting to see, despite of its obvious limitations, how the basic insights of the
psychoanalytic tradition of Freud23 offers solutions to a crucial question: exactly how are our
own bodies produced by socialization? The notion of the self is produced at certain stages of
development in relation to others. For instance, in Lacan`s fictionalized account of the "mirror
stage", the subject is constituted in relation to a perceived image of itself. The self is other to
itself and only gradually incorporates that self. In this instance, feral children acquire the
subjectivity of what which is around them in particular moments. This account of subject
formation as only occuring in relationship to others raises other interesting questions about
feral children.
When we attempt to strain this problem through the lens of the nature / nurture
dichotomy24, we are likely to come up short. Nature is often thought of everything which is
not nurture. If we can just strip away the nurture, we will be able to find nature. Instead, these
things are completely inseparable. One cannot be subtracted from the other because they are
mutually constituting. What it does challenge, however, is the idea that such things as taste,
body formation, language, rationality, etc., are somehow "naturally" human. Far from it.
One hotly debated issue is wether the biological contribution includes capacities
specific to language acquisition, often referred to as universal grammar. For fifty years,
linguists Noam Chomsky and the late Eric Lennenberg argued for the hypothesis that children
have innate, language-specific abilities that facilitate and constrain language learning 25. Other
researchers, including Elizabeth Bates, Catherine Snow, and Michael Tomasello, have
hypothesized that language learning results only from general cognitive abilities and the
interaction between learners and their surrounding communities. Recent work by William
O`Grady proposes that complex syntactic phenomena result from an efficiency-driven, linear
computational system. O`Grady describes his work as "nativism without Universal

23
As mediated by French psychoanalysis in the 60`s and 70`s.
24
Historically, theorists are often divided between emphasizing either nature or nurture as the most important
factor for language acquisition. The nature / nurture debate is one of the biggest areas of controversy in language
development. Are children genetically "hard-wired" to learn language, or is it something that they have to be
taught? And is such social and environmental input necessary at certain stages in their development, without
which, language will never be acquired? Looking at humans rised in non-human environments is an attempt to
analyse the nature – nurture debate from a new perspective. If feral children can learn how to talk then perhaps
this would be evidence to support the argument that social factors are important to language acquisition. If they
cannot learn to talk then those interested in showing the unmalleable effects of genetic structure would have
evidence supporting their view.
25
Chomsky (1975). Reflections on Language. New York: Pantheon Books.

21
Grammar". One of the most important advances in the study of language acquisition was the
creation of the CHILDES database by Brian MacWhinney and Catherine Snow.
Nativist theories hold that children are born with an innate propensity for language
acquisition, and that this ability makes the task of learning a first language easier than it
would otherwise be. These "hidden assumptions"26 allow children to quickly figure out what
is and isn`t possible in the grammar of their native language, and allow them to master that
grammar by the age of three27. Nativists view language as a fundamental part of human
genome, as the trait that makes humans human, and its acquisition as a natural part of
maturation, no different from dolphins learning to swim or songbirds learning to sing.
Chomsky originally theorized that children were born with a hard-wired language acquisition
device in their brains (Chomsky, 1975). He later expanded this idea into that of Universal
Grammar, a set of innate principles and adjustable parameters that are common to all human
languages. According to Chomsky, the presence of Universal Grammar in the brains of
children allow them to deduce the structure of their native languages from mere exposure.
Much of the nativist position is based on the early age at which children show
competency in their native grammars, as well as the ways in which they do and do not make
mistakes. Infants are often able to distinguish between phonemes in minimal pairs,
distinguishing between bah and pah, for example (Yang, 2006). Young children (under the
age of three) do not speak in fully formed sentences, instead saying things like 'want cookie'
or 'my coat'. That do not, however, say things like 'want my' or 'I cookie', statements that
would break the syntactic structure of the phrase, a component of universal grammar (Yang,
2006). Children also seem remarkably immune from error correction by adults, which
Nativists say would not be the case if children were learning from their parents (Pinker,
1994).
The possible existence of a Critical Period for language acquisition is another Nativist
argument. Critical periods are time frames during which environmental exposure is needed to
stimulate an innate trait. Young chaffinchers, for example, must hear the song of an adult
chaffinch before reaching maturity, or else would never be able to sing. Nativists argue that if
a Critical Period for language acquisition exists 28, then language acquisition must be spurred
26
Yang, Charles (2006). The Infinite Gift: How Children Learn and Unlearn All the Languages of the World.
New York: Scribner.
27
Pinker (1994). The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. New York: Harper Collins.
28
The critical period hypothesis in essence contends that the ability to learn a language is limited to the years
before puberty after which, as a result of neurological changes in the brain, the ability is lost. Although the
critical period hypothesis was hotly debated for some years, there is now compelling evidence (including the
evidence from feral, confined and isolated children) that, unless they are exposed to language in the early years
of life, humans lose much of their innate ability to learn a language, and especially its grammatical system.

22
on by the unfolding of the genome during maturation (Pinker, 1994). Linguist Eric
Lennenberg stated in 1964 that the crucial period of language acquisition ends around the age
of 12 years. He claimed that if no language is learned before then, it could never be learned in
a normal and fully functional sense. This was called the "Critical period hypothesis".
Detractors of this hypothesis say that in this example and others like it (feral children), the
child is hardly growing up in a nurturing environment, and that the lack of language
acquisition in later life may be due to the results of a generally abusive environment rather
than being specifically due to a lack of exposure to language. The Critical Period theory of
brain plasticity and learning capacity has been called into question. Other factors may account
for differences in adult and child language learning. Children`s apparently effortless and rapid
language acquisition may be explained by the fact that the environment is set up to engage
them in frequent and optimal learning opportunities. By contrast, adults seem to have initial
advantage in their learning of vocabulary and syntax, but may never achieve native-like
pronunciation29. A more up-to-date view of the Critical Period Hypothesis is represented by
the University of Maryland, College Park instructor Robert DeKeyser. He argues that
although it is true that there is a critical period, this does not mean that adults cannot learn a
second language perfectly, at least on the syntactic level. DeKeyser talks about the role of
language aptitude as opposed to the critical period.
The ability of feral children to learn language on their return to human society is very
varied. For most feral children from history, we don`t have enough information to judge
exactly how much language, if any, they might have been able to learn, were they taught
properly. For some children, the historical records don`t even mention whether or not they
could talk when they were found, presumably because the assumption is that they clearly
wouldn`t have been able to. Some children (Isabelle) acquire normal language ability, but
only if found before the onset of puberty. Her progress was dramatic: in two years she covered
the stages of learning that usually take six years. Others, such as Memmie LeBlanc, also
learnt to speak normally, but we suppose that they could speak before their period of isolation.
But the evidence from more recently-discovered children such as Genie is confuzing.
Although Genie is often quoted as evidence that there is a critical period, in fact, in Genie: A

However, even if the`ve missed out on the critical period for language acquisition, such as Genie, feral children
can be taught a few words, and very simple grammatical constructions. However, feral children don`t provide the
best evidence in support of the critical period hypothesis (which is, any case, now generally accepted), partly
because they may have been abandoned because of subnormality (Victor) or suffered emotional and physical
trauma (Genie) that would affect their learning capacity.
29
One Language or Two: Answers to Questions about Bilingualism in Language-Delayed Children
(http://www.hanen.org/web/Home/AboutHanen/NewsViews/OneLanguageorTwo/tabid/220/Default.aspx.

23
Psycholinguistic Study by Susan Curtiss, we read that Genie did start, and continue, to acquire
grammatical ability. Unfortunately, Genie`s language regressed after legal and financial
considerations put a stop to the nurturing scientific environment she enjoyed for the first
seven years after her release. But the original evidence is also thrown into further confusion
by later publications about Genie, which suggest she acquired little or no grammatical
capabilities30. In A Theory of Neurolinguistic Development, John L. Locke provides us with a
possible answer to the grammatical puzzle. He suggests the term sensitive period rather than
critical period: a period which is optimal for "tuning" that part of the brain best suited to the
acquisition of grammatical analysis. However, even after this period, the considerable
adaptability of the brain means all is not lost: other, less optimal, parts of the brain are pressed
into service, and some grammatical abilities can be acquired, albeit slowly.
The most striking recent caes, however, is rather more ambiguos in its results. Genie
was discovered at the age of 14. She had spent her life being tied to a chair since the age of 20
months. Nobody ever spoke to her. When she had been about 20 months old, her father, who
was suffering from a severe depression, decided that she was severely retarded and that she
needed protection from the world. This protection he provided by shutting her up in a small
bedroom, and leaving her there for the next eleven years. Genie was attached to a potty by a
special harness for most of the day, and then, at night, she would be fastened into a sleeping
bag, unable to move her arms, and put into a cot. There was very little sound in the house, for
the father forced the rest of the family to speak in whispers. If Genie herself attempted to
make any noise, her father would beat her with a stick. On those occasions upon which he felt
need to communicate with his daughter, he would bark or growl like a dog. Genie had very
little visual or physical stimulation. Hung up in the room were a couple of plastic raincoats,
and she was sometimes allowed to play with them. Her feeding was swift and silent. She had
eaten nothing but baby foods and cereals (she did not know how to chew).
According to Eric Lennenberg, in his book Biological Foundations of Language,
1967, the capacity to learn a language is indeed innate and, like many such inborn
mechanisms, it is circumscribed in time. If a child does not learn a language before the onset
of puberty, the child will never master language at all. If Lennenberg was right, then Genie, at
over 12 years old, wold never be able to speak properly. If, on the other hand, she did learn to
produce grammatically correct sentences, then Lennenberg was wrong.
At first, a number of the people working with her were convinced that she was going
to demonstrate the falsity of the critical period hypothesis. One year after her escape, her
30
Peter Jones, Contradictions and Unanswered Questions in the Genie Case.

24
language resembled that of a normal 18/20 month old child. She could distinguish between
plural and singular nouns and between positive and negative sentences. She was producing
two-word sentences and sometimes sentences of three words. It is at this point that the
language of the normal child begins to take off. There is a sudden qualitative change, and the
infant learns not only more and more vocabulary, but also more and more complex grammar.
But with Genie, this did not happen. Four years later, she still had not mastered negation, and
was stuck at the No + V + Object stage. And although she appeared to understand WH-
questions, she was incapable of producing them correctly. Instead, she would say things like:
"Where is may I have a penny?" or "I where is graham cracker on top shelf?"
In Chomsky`s terms, she appeared to be unable to use movement (the capacity to
reorganise the underlying declarative sentences). Genie also continued to confuse her
pronouns, using 'you' and 'me' interchangeably. She was unable to learn that she should say
'Hello' in response to 'Hello', and was unable to understand 'Thank You'. The words 'Stopit'
and 'Nomore', which she had already known, were adressed to herself, and never to anyone
else. Although she craved social contact, she was unable to achieve it through language.
So had Genie`s case proven that Chomsky and Lennenberg were right? No, she had
not. Lennenberg himself observed that Genie`s personal history was so disastrous, that it
would not be at all clear why she had been unable to make more progress. It could be that she
had been so emotionally damaged by her father`s treatment that all learning process would be
interfered with. Others suggested that perhaps her father had been right in judging that she
was mentally abnormal. Brain scans had shown some unusual features – in particular that
Genie`s brain was dominated by her right hemisphere. Language, as we have seen, is mainly
situated in the left hemisphere. Was it her brain that was interfering with her language, or was
it the lack of linguistic stimulation, and resulting under utilisation of the left hemisphere that
had resulted in right brain dominance?
Marcos Pantoja, wild child of the Sierra Morena. He was born on the 7 may 1946, and
remembers being taken away at the age of 7 by a man on a reddish horse. He believes he was
sold or hired to tend goats, a not unusual arrangement for children at that age. It also wasn`t
unusual for goatherds to live up on the mountains with their animals and only visit human
habitation every few years. Marcos worked with an old goatherd for possibly several months
before the man died, but in that time he`d learned to fend for himself in the mountains,
looking after the herd of goats and ensuring they bred successfully. He made friends with
wolves and lived variously in a cave, an old hut, and a hut that he built himself. Marcos
wasn`t totally isolated from human society, since people came (presumably at least once a

25
year) to collect the young goats. These people brought him food, but it was so bad he
continued to subsist on partridges, partridge eggs, fruits and plants. Marcos was "rescued" by
civil guardians at the age of 19, by which he had tanned, leathery skin and calloused feet
(from going about barefoot). He could speak, but of course had a very deficient vocabulary.
However, he soon learnt enough to say "I`d gladly go back".
Isabelle (born in 1932), who was six years old at the time she was found by the
authorities could not talk and was only able to produce croaking sounds. This was largely
caused by the way she was kept isolated from the rest of the world. Though not entirely
solitary, her only companion inside the unlit room was her deaf-mute, brain-damaged mother.
According to the records, since the day she was born until she was barely six years old, she
and her mom spent their time together in a dark room where the blinds are kept drawn. There
was a very minimal contact with other people and no one ever spoke to her. Isabelle was then
limited to a sort of “personal system of gesture” to communicate with her mother. It was said
that Isabelle was an illegitimate child, and for this reason was locked up by his grandfather.
After six years of isolation, the mother was able to escape bringing Isabelle with her. And
that’s when the authorities’ attention was drawn to Isabelle as another case of feral children.
“Feral” by definition means existing in the wild or untamed state. There are different
sequences of events that cause such cases like children abandoned or lost in the wild,
eventually adopted by animals as if they were their own or purposely confined and cut-off
from the civility of men. These children have spent their formative years in a rather
“untouched” manner, meaning there were no external influences that help them develop as
“humans” at least according to the conventional definition of what is to be considered human.
There was a common misconception that feral case is synonymous to autism or retardation.
However, as a result of the advancement of science, researchers and specialists have come to
realize and prove that these cases are practically different from each other.
Isabelle’s story is just one of the many recorded cases of feral children found in the
wild or rescued from a horrific confinement. Most of these children exhibited a rather uniform
behavior and characteristics such as the inability to develop language or to at least clearly
express themselves. They are usually limited to sounds that resemble those of a wild animal,
if not unintelligible gabble of sounds. But unlike most of the feral children cases, Isabelle’s
story is a rather successful one.
Isabelle was severely retarded due to her inhumane confinement. As a result of lack of
proper and healthy growing environment, she didn’t develop in should we say, a normal way.
Her growth was severely stunted both physically and intellectually. Also, she reacted in a

26
rather violent manner when approached by other people. When the experts measured her
intelligence at the age of six years old and a half, they found out that her intelligence is like
that of a nineteen month old and the words coming out of her mouth cannot be classified as a
normal kind of speech. Isabelle however underwent an intensive training with the doctors,
psychologists and other experts who put her in a stimulating environment, thus making her
language acquisition develop in such a rapid manner.
Isabelle went through the usual stages of learning characteristics of
the years from one to six not only in proper succession but far more rapidly
than normal. In a little over two months after her first vocalization she was
putting sentences together. Nine months after that she could identify words
and sentences on the printed page, could write well, could add to ten and
could retell a story after hearing it. Seven months beyond this point she had
a vocabulary of 1500-2000 words and was asking complicated questions.
www.feralchildren.com .
She was considered a normal child at the age of 8. She gradually learned to speak and
more remarkably, was able to be reintegrated again to society.
There are several reasons that affected the end result of the study and reintegration
program of Isabelle. Eric Lenneberg stated that “the crucial period of language acquisition
ends around the age of 12 years and that if no language is learned before then, it could never
be learned in a normal and fully functional sense (better known as the Critical Period
hypothesis).” To give a concrete example of this theory, let us then compare the cases of
Genie and Isabelle. Both girls were reportedly able to develop language with the help of a
team of professionals. However, there is quite a big difference on the level of their language
development or better yet, language acquisition. Genie never learned to produce more than
telegraphic speech while Isabelle mastered grammar within a year and even attended school
like most other children of her age. This was largely a result of the period or age they started
learning language. Genie was isolated until the age of thirteen and a half. Isabelle on the other
hand was found when she was six years old. This strengthens the theory that claims that the
acquisition of language by the age of seven has been proven to yield native command but if
the language was not introduced between the ages 8-15, it yields progressively less perfect
command (Lenneberg:1932).
Like most of the well-publicized cases of feral children, Isabelle had undergone a
series of tests and training. Unlike other normal kids, these feral children required special
attention for them to be able to develop or acquire language. This further questions the issue

27
on Nurture vs. Nature or Rousseau’s concept on humans being innately wise and generous.
Surely, Isabelle’s cases had disproved and prove some of the theories in the acquisition of
language. But one thing is for certain, that education is indeed very necessary for the
development of human language. Learning is a necessity for humans to survive and without it
we would then be no more than bipedal animal.
Feral children challenge our conception of what it means to be human. They are often
tragic figures, offering glimpses of what might have been, of fully human intelligence that
somehow does not enable them to live a social life. This is particularly true if they are already
through puberty when they are found. Of course, feral children force our way into the closed
world to examine the treshold of language, that point between speech and not quite speech.
They make us ask ourselves when the miracle that most people take for granted, speech,
starts, and where that power to transform perception and action into thought comes from.
They ask us also to think again about how a person says what he / she means, how a person
means what he / she says and were it all starts in the first place.

REFERENCES:
Chomsky, Noam (1975). Reflections on Language. New York: Pantheon Books.
Curtiss, Susan (1977). Genie: A Psycholinguistic Study of a Modern-Day "Wild
Child". New York: Academic Press.
Jones, Peter (1995). Contradictions and Unanswered Questions in the Genie Case: a
Fresh Look at the Linguistic Evidence. Language and Communication, 15261-80.
Lennenberg, Eric (1967). Biological Foundations of Language. New York: Wiley.
Locke, John L. (1997) A Theory of Linguistic Development. Brain and Language, vol.
58, page 265-326.

28
Pinker, Steven (1994). The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. New
York: Harper Collins.
Yang, Charles (2006). The Infinite Gift: How Children Learn and Unlearn All the
Languages of the World. New York: Scribner.
http://www.feralchildren.com
http://www.hanen.org/web/Home/AboutHanen/NewsViews/OneLanguageorTwo/tabid/
220/Default.aspx. One Language or Two: Answers to Questions about Bilingualism in
Language-DelayedChildren.

Comment from a pragmatic, syntactic and semantic point of view the following:

1. "We are having mother for dinner, darling."


"Roasted or barbecue?"

2. "Germany are a very difficult team to play… they had 11 internationals out there
today." Steve Lomas

3. "Our last fight was my fault. My wife asked me 'What`s on the TV?' I said 'Dust!'"

29