HG801 The Language Puzzle Animal Communication Objectives In this unit, we will ask the following questions: Is language unique to human beings? How do animals communicate? In what ways is animal communication similar to or different from human communication? Video show Animal Minds ? part 1 Produced by Nature What makes us human? Ability to use tools? Ability to make tools? Language? ?The ability to talk is arguably the single most important feature that makes us human. Language allows us to employ symbols and symbolic thinking in a way that we take for granted.? (http://www.channel4.com/science/microsites/W/what_makes_us_human/topten.html, ?What makes us human??, accessed 09/01/2007) ?the last bastion of human uniqueness? (video: Chimp Talk) Language vs animal communication Communication The exchange of information for the purpose of influencing others? cognition and/or behaviour All animals and humans can communicate Animal communication Relatively simple and inflexible Language Highly sophisticated and flexible Form and meaning All communication systems have two essential elements Form Meaning Meaning is abstract Form is tangible Meaning is encoded in form Media of communication Forms must have a material existence They must be made perceivable via some media Four main media Olfactory (smell) Tactile (touch) Visual (sight) Auditory-vocal (sound) (Source: David Crystal, How Language Works, Penguin books, 2005) Ants Can communicate up to 50 different messages using pheromones Messages such as: alarm, trail-marking, identity, etc. In addition, they also use body postures and ultra-sound emissions Honey Bees Famous bee dance: visual and ?auditory? But bees also rely on odour to identify members of the same hive Bee Dance Karl Von Frisch, Nobel Prize winner Discovered the dance ?language? of honey bees Bees able to indicate location of food source To some extent visual, but also auditory and tactile Peacocks and Wolves Peacocks display their feathers for courtship Wolves manipulate their tails to show aggression or submission Birds Songbirds are famous for the variety of songs that they sing Different songs sung in different contexts Element of learning They even have dialects! Seals and Dolphins Famous for their vocalizations To convey messages and express emotions Vervet Monkeys Vervet monkeys have as many as 30 different calls each representing a different content Different alarm calls signalling different kinds of danger (from above, from below?) Chimps and Bonobos Family tree of apes African Apes ? gorilla human pan: chimpanzees and bonobos How do chimps communicate? Jane Goodall: a legendary primatologist studying and living with chimpanzees in the wild since 1960 Has set up the Jane Goodall Institute for the benefit of the chimps: http://www.janegoodall.org Video Among the Wild Chimpanzees, a film about Jane Goodall?s research in Tanzania Chimp ?language? Facial expressions play face, compressed-lips face, grin, etc. Gestures extended arm, ?directed scratch? (in grooming) Vocalizations Laughing, pant-hoots, grunts, barking, whimpering, etc. Body postures Some differences Animal communication Human language A few ?words? Lots of words Little or no grammar Lots of grammar (syntax) Can convey only a relatively small and limited number of messages Can convey an unlimited number of messages Mostly instinctive Mostly learned Design Features of Language In an attempt to find out what makes human language different from animal communication, linguist Charles Hockett proposed 13 ?design features? of language in 1960 Of these we will consider 5 that seem the most important: displacement, arbitrariness, traditional transmission, productivity and duality of patterning (1) Displacement Here and now? Human language can be used to talk about things far removed from the here and now. We can even talk about mythical or hypothetical things. Animal languages tend to be lacking or limited in displacement. (2) Arbitrariness ?What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.? (Who wrote these famous lines?) whale vs micro-organism (Hockett) Animal signs tend to be more natural or transparent the peacock?s display the wolf?s tail movements (3) Traditional Transmission Vast majority of animal communication genetically given (i.e. instincts) E.g. ants, bees, wolves, elephants, whales Occasionally some element of learning, but rather exceptional E.g. bird songs Human language acquired essentially through learning, as part of culture (4) Productivity In terms of flexibility, human language much more flexible than animal communication Language opens up endless possibilities; in this sense ?productive? (creative) New words: bookmark, webcam New meanings: chips, cool, top (5) Duality of Patterning Dual = two, i.e. a two-level design Level 1: meaningless sounds (a few) Level 2: meaningful words (many) Example: English has some 44 sounds. These combine to make thousands of words j + a + m = JAM An ingenious design Summary Some forms of animal communication are surprisingly sophisticated They point to the possible beginnings of human language Nevertheless the gap between the most sophisticated form of animal communication and human language (in its modern form) is huge Design principles like duality of patterning help make language a much more flexible and effective means of communication than animal communication
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