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Commercial Education Society of Australia

Dr Clifford Wilson

Dr. Clifford Wilson's mother Mrs. Bell Wilson was a founding member of CESA, and had her own college for trainee typists and stenographers. Thus, as a teenager, Cliff became an expert in typing and Pitman's shorthand. This proved very useful when he served during WW2 as an Action Recorder in the Admiral's Office on HMAS Australia, as a Writer on other naval vessels, and then as a Hansard Reporter in the New Zealand Parliament. Then began his academic career. Cliff pursued degrees in arts and education at Sydney University and in the USA. Having completed a doctoral program, he was appointed to the Staff of the University of South Carolina and was later honoured as "An Outstanding Educator Of America". Back in Australia, Cliff engaged in research and teaching at Monash University for several years and also served as Director of the Australian Institute of Archaeology. With additional accredited degrees in Divinity and Religious Education, in more recent years he devoted his time to field work, lecturing, writing, theological education, and making programs for radio broadcast. During this time he resided in Melbourne, and communicated with CESA by 'snail mail' and email.

We were deeply saddened by the loss of Dr Wilson. Condolences were sent to the Wilson family from the Commercial Education Society of Australia Board and its members. Dr Wilson was a member of the CESA Board from 2011 to 2012. He was the longest serving member of the Society. He had an innate belief in commercial education and training and during his lifetime he had been an advocate and supporter of the opportunities that it could offer to learners at all levels. I knew Dr Wilson as did all the McKenzie family involved with the Society, and was fortunate to meet his mother, Belle Wilson, on many occasions at the Society's meetings and conferences.

‘And death is nothing
But stopping breathing’

Douglas Stewart, The Fire on the Snow (1941)

Read Dr Bryant Wood's reflections on Dr Clifford Wilson's life and ministry at biblearchaeology.org.

Highlighting the Uniqueness of Human Speech
Clifford Wilson

We humans have special equipment for making the units of sound that comprise words and other forms of language. We are able to make consonants and vowels, voiced and unvoiced consonants, we are able to combine sound units, and even to make what are called blends. We get dramatically beyond the stage of just casual or chance production of particular sounds, and we incorporate sounds into meaningful systems. The sounds themselves are phonemes, a phoneme being usually regarded as the smallest significant sound in any particular language.

Actually the phoneme is not the smallest unit. An allophone is. One phoneme is "t"; but "t" is a different sound at the beginning of a word from what it is at the end of a word. These different sounds of "t" are allophones.

A child's tongue learns to make swift movements, touching the teeth, the alveolar ridge, the lips and the soft palate, and she is controlling nasal passages and the air flow past the larynx to the lungs𔄤all without special training. He cannot look inside the mouths of his parents and understand what they are doing, and yet in a remarkably short time the child is making all sorts of combinations of sounds. Soon he is even rejecting sounds if they are not reinforced in the particular linguistic culture by which he is surrounded. The Japanese child is able to say "l" in her early months, but drops this before very long, because it is not in the language culture of her particular people.

Three chimpanzees—at least—have been involved in experimental programs that have investigated the extent to which these animals could communicate: Washoe used a simplified form of the American Sign Language, Sarah could inform of some of her needs by holding up plastic signs, and Lana would be rewarded by tapping symbols on a machine—in an order determined by the experimenters.

True speech, however, is still uniquely available only to humans. The physiology of a human is dramatically different from that of a chimpanzee as to the shape of the tongue and the vocal chords, as well as the placement of teeth, lips, etc. A chimpanzee has approximately 35 established sounds by which it can communicate naturally, but the human infant is capable of many more sounds, and of course he also combines sounds. Not only can he say the separate consonants "s", "k", and "r", but before long he is able to combine them into a triple blend of "skr", as in the word "scratch". This is quite beyond the capacity of the chimpanzees.

It is beyond the purpose of these comments to elaborate the various mechanics and classifications of human sound production. Whenever we engage in conversation, however, and reflect on the complexities of all that is happening, we realise that we are listening to yet another miracle. Over and over again in the psycholinguistic textbooks we find writers expressing their belief that a child's acquisition of speech/language is amazing. Many complexities are to be found in the separate areas of syntax, semantics, morphology, and phonology. The more we study these subjects the more we recognise the uniqueness of human communication through language(s).

(Brief comments extracted from Monkeys Will Never Talk—Or Will They? by Clifford Wilson, M.A., B.D., Ph.D., published when the author was Senior Lecturer in Education (Psycholinguistics) at Monash University, Victoria.~Ron Suter.)

Clifford Wilson, M.A., B.D., M.R.Ed., Ph.D.,
1923–2012


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