In discussing the (rare) non-human races of Westeros - the White Walkers (and Wights), Children of the Forest, and Giants - we need to decide on our standards for using the terms "Sentient" vs "Sapient".
"Sentient" means "experiencing sensation or feeling" and "having a basic awareness of itself and its surroundings".
"Sapient" means "able to act with appropriate judgment, higher mental faculties and/or rational thought which is a component of intelligence".
Virtually every Animal on Earth is "Sentient". Dogs are sentient. They experience pain, are aware of themselves, can even make basic decisions. The only "Animals" that aren't "Sentient" are things like Insects, which work on rote instinct. Take the Digger Wasp, which provides a clear example that insects are more like a collection of behavior algorithms and programs, than true thought. Digger Wasps have the programmed behavior that when they drag food (a paralyzed caterpillar) to their tunnel-nest, they first need to inspect their tunnel, then bring in the food. If the food is moved, this gets reset. The program is: Step 1 - leave inspected food near front of tunnel, Step 2 - inspect tunnel, Step 3 - bring food into tunnel. It simply cannot recognize the food if it has been moved just a few inches, which makes the whole cycle restart. It will drag the food back to the tunnel entrance, and inspect the tunnel again. Move the food away yet again, it will start all over. Eventually, the digger wasp will starve to death instead of comprehending the situation and taking a new action. "Sentient" refers to this difference between a digger wasp and a dog.
"Sapient" means "human-level rational thought and intellect". A creature capable of complex speech is a good marker of if it is "sapient" or not.
-->The problem is that, stretching back for decades, Science Fiction as a genre has preferred to use "Sentient" as a synonym for "human-level self-awareness and rational thought", and ignored the term "Sapient" entirely. Star Trek, Star Wars, heck stretching back into the Golden Age of Scifi in the 1950's. This is simply in error.
The question is, as we need to refer to non-human species more, do we A - refer to them correctly as "Sapient", or B - continue the Science Fiction charade and just describe them as "Sentient", perpetuating the error?
Our opinions are meaningless before George R.R. Martin. If there is any public instance in which George R.R. Martin referred to the non-human races as either "Sentient" or "Sapient", this should without question or further comment become our new and irrefutable standard.--The Dragon Demands 03:13, June 9, 2012 (UTC)