Animal communication and human languagePresentation Transcript
Animal communication andhuman language LCD 101: Intro to Language Fall 2011 Ryan
What are the properties of human language?
What is the difference between communication and language?
What is cultural transmission?
What is instinct and is it transmitted?
Can other species acquire language?
Can animals be taught to use human language or are they simply mimicking?
Communicative vs Informative Signals
Communicative signals are intentional and carry meaning
Informative signals are not intentional but still carry meaning
I am sitting at the desk in the front of the room (information: I must be the professor)
I say to you that I am here to teach the class (intentional: I am the professor)
Communicative vx. Informative Signals
Animals can be informative:
a bird may suddenly fly away at the approach of a predator (information: we deduce that the bird must be frightened) Animals can be communicative: A bird may make a loud squawk at the sight of a predator (communication: Hey everyone, lookout! Something is going to eat us!!)
Properties of Human Language Reflexivity Displacement Arbitrariness Productivity Cultural Transmission Duality
Properties of Human Language Reflexivity: Humans are able to reflect. They are able to talk about, or reflect on language itself. Without this ability, we could not even talk about the other properties of language. Dogs are able to bark at each other, but they are probably not barking about barking itself!
Properties of Human Language Displacement: Humans can talk about the past, present and future Yesterday, I saw a movie. Today, I’m staying home. Next week, I’m…. Humans can talk about things that don’t exist or we can’t see. Yesterday, Grandpa went to heaven... Tomorrow, the Tooth Fairy is coming…
Properties of Human Language Animal communication is about the here and now: “meow, meow!!” I am hungry NOW (not next week) “bark, bark!!” An intruder is at the door NOW! (not yesterday) Animals can’t displace in either time or space: “Bark, bark!” There is a problem! Help! NOT “Timmy fell into a well over on the old Cotter Farm 3 miles away!! Drive down Cook Lane and help him!”(Good girl, Lassie!)
Properties of Human Language Arbitrariness: There is no natural connection between a word’s form and its meaning (with the possible exception of our old friend, onomatopeia) A written word doesn’t look like its meaning: “star” “estrella” “stella” Even thought you can play games with it: BIG little Soft Hard
Properties of Human Lanugage Animal communicative sounds are closely correlated with their meanings: Think of a cat: grrrhissss meow screech! purrrr…. It doesn’t use a variety of sounds to express these conditions. These sounds always mean the one thing they mean. Vervet monkeys have 36 cries of warning for different predators, but… An animals “vocabulary” is finite. Limited.
Properties of Human Language Honey Bee Dance Language Bees use intricate combinations of dance movements and tail waggling to communicate the location of nectar (food) sources to other bees in the hive. The dance is a figure eight with movements of the tail to indicate location in relation to the azimuth of the sun. Speed of waggle indicates distance. Has been studied by Janda (1973) to have linguistic (syntactic) properties. HOWEVER the language is finite – can’t create new moves or waggles to indicate “up” for example.
Properties of Human Lanugage Productivity: Human vocabulary and sentences are infinite, open-ended: We can create new words in our LEXICON, like texting, googling, new slang…examples???? In unlimited combinations….. “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously” (Noam Chomsky) We have a morphology (word-forming rules) and a grammar (with sentence structure rules) which allow us to combine new words in new structures.. Infinite diversity in infinite combinations (Star Trek)
Properties of Human Language Cultural Transmission: We acquire our speech from the environment we are raised in, our culture, which includes our language, our accent, our expressions. While a meow is a meow is a meow, wherever; it is instinctual, inborn. Some birds both are born with some calls and songs instinctually and some are learned
Properties of Human Language 7 week window for birds: If birds are not exposed to bird song in the first 7 weeks, they will still produce songs, but abnormal ones. Song-singing is instinctual. 7 year window for children: If a child is not exposed to language within the first 7 years, it will develop no language at all . Language is not instinctual : it is learned in the cultural environment. More properly, it is acquired.
Properties of Human Language Duality: Human language is organized at two levels: The sounds (PHONETICS) which carry no individual meaning and The combinations of sounds (PHONOLOGY and MORPHOLOGY) which carry meaning. Economical: with a limited number of discrete sounds, we can produce an infinite number of meanings
Properties of Human Language Animal sounds can’t be broken down into levels woof = *w + oo = f *oofw *foow Human words can: Meow = m+ e + o + w me ow woe
Animal Communication Does your dog understand you when you say, “Sit” “Heel” “Roll Over” Answer: He doesn’t know the word roll means “turn” and over means “other side” His reaction (to roll over) is a conditioned response to a stimulus (your command sound of “roll over”). But can we talk to or with some animals?
Viki the chimp: Researchers tried to tach a young chimpanzee to articulate English words. Her vocal tract was not up to the challenge. Washoe the chimp and Koko the gorilla: Taught ASL in a home-like environment; learned over 100 signs; could create new signs; could create new sentences by combining signs. Evidence of language ability by primates?
Animal Communication NimChimpsky the chimp: named as a parody of the name of Noam Chomsky, the famed linguist, chimp was found by researchers to merely repeat ASL signs and not “converse” as claimed in the Washoe and Koko cases. However, he was kept in a cage and not exposed to a rich linguistic environment.
Animal Communication Alex the Parrot: The term “to parrot” means to repeat something without understanding it. What about Alex? Raised for 31 years by researcher Irene Pepperberg, Alex developed a vocabulary of several hundred words and could use them appropriately in combinations. Could use language to solve complex problems.
Animal Communication So, can we talk to animals, at least to primates and parrots?
Study Questions 1. why is reflexivity considered to be a special property of human language? 2. what kind of evidence is used to support the idea that language is culturally transmitted? What is the difference between a communication system with productivity and one with fixed reference? 4. How do we know that Washoe was not simply repeating signs made by interacting humans?
Study Questions 5. If a chimpanzee could use a grey plastic shape to convey the meaning of “red” what does that mean that her language has? 6. What might be the properties of body language? 7. Can primates invent new sign combinations? 8. Can they understand structures that contain complex word orders, such as conditionals?
9. Why does Pepperberg eliminate words such as a, an, the, is, this, etc when she speaks with Alex? What is the difference between Alex and Einstein’s verbal abilities?
Homework Read Chapter 3, The Sounds of Language. We will do the study questions in class.
References: The Study of Language. 2010. Yule, George. 4th Edition. An Introduction to Language. 2009.Fromkin, et. al. 9th Edition Alex and Me. Pepperberg. Various video clips. Retrieved 2011. YouTube.