The name

Pan, the name of a Roman god and generic name of the chimpanzee, and loquens, “talking”, is my attempt to convey the notion that we are a talking ape.

Do not read this as a serious suggestion for a replacement to the name homo sapiens. The descriptor sapiens, “thinking/reasoning” has, in my view, serious issues, not least that it refers to a property that is notoriously ill-defined and hard to measure empirically; the degree to which it is indeed a defining characteristic of our species among extant primates is thus pretty much up to anyone’s guess, and highly dependent on the specific, often implicit, definition of the term, an issue that is not anywhere near as pressing with loquens. The descriptor is problematic in its own right, though, for postulating that ourcentral distinguishing property is our capacity for language, similarly implying a priority of cognitive traits over differences in ecology and social structure, the same idealistic conception that has lead us to adopt the name h. sapiens, and that has lead earlier generations to accept the Piltdown skull as valid since a large-brained but otherwise primitive species was exactly what they expected to find.

I’m only using this name because, coming from linguistics, this is broadly what I want to write about in this blog. As I hope to explain in more detail in a future post: If I were to propose a name change in serious, I’d go for homo (or: pan) faber, the “producer” or “creator”.

The author

The author is a resident of Vienna, a linguist (mostly: syntactician) by primary training, and increasingly a cognitive scientist / biologist by current interests.

Copyright note

Creative Commons License
All content of mine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The cover image, representing a speaking trumpet, i.e. a primitive megaphone – a tool for speaking – is the work of Joe Mabel, via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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