Animal languages

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What is meant by the terms:
1. Linguistic competence
2. Linguistic performance
What is grammar?
What is grammar for?
Is language possible without grammar?
What is meant by the term: Prescriptivism?
What is Descriptivism?
Animal Languages(?)
A linguistic analysis
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Alertness
Anger
Depression/sadness
Excitement
Fear
Friendliness
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Happiness
Hunger/thirst
Immediate need
Interest
Playfulness
Warning/threat
Frustration
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Birdsong can, just like human language, be
culturally transmitted, and geographical
“dialects” are common (Wiener, 1986)
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have a set of three distinct alarm calls, used
for three different predators (snakes,
leopards, and eagles)
Not iconic: don’t represent imitation of the
predator sound.
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Karl von Frisch (1920)
Reporting of food sources through dancing
Quality, distance, direction
“round dance” for 50m radius
“tail wagging” for more than 50m
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Can animals be taught how to communicate
with human-like language?
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Able to memorize words and learn phrases
Able to comprehend (limited) and respond to
commands
Able to communicate using
elements of human language
Can parrots really “talk”?
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Early studies with chimpanzees –mixed
results
Bonobos more adept at language learning
than common chimps
Parallels to language learning of human
infants:
◦ early exposure to language vital
◦ formal teaching is not necessary
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Similarities to Humans
Language device: Noam Chomsky
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Design feature 1:
Semanticity: In human language the elements
of the message have specific and fixed
relation to real-world situations.
A message must be understood in the same
way by different receivers.
Design feature 2:
Arbitrariness: there is no logical connection
between the form of the signal and its
meaning.
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Design feature 3:
Discreteness: Human language uses a small
set of discrete contrastive elements.
Design feature 4:
Displacement/freedom from stimulus: In
human language it is possible to talk about
events remote in time and place.
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Design feature 5:
Productivity: In human language, new
messages can be produced from the elements
of familiar messages; there is no fixed set of
possible messages
Design feature 6:
Cultural transmission: the conventions of a
language are learned by interacting with more
experienced users.
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Design feature 7:
Dual articulation/duality of patterning: In
human language, sounds can go together to
make up words, words can go together to
make up sentences. (In sign language, there
is something similar.
Design feature 8:
Prevarication: linguistic messages can be
false, deceptive, or meaningless.
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Design feature 9:
Reflexiveness: In a language, one can
communicate about communication.
Design feature 10:
Learnability: A speaker of a language can
learn another language.
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In groups of 4, talk about the individual
animals, fill out the form and discuss whether
you think any of them is capable of
learning/using language in the human sense.
Which of Hockett’s design features are only
found in human language?
Feature
Semanticity
Displacement/freedom from
stimulus
Productivity
Dual articulation/duality of
patterning
Discreteness
Arbitrariness
Tradition
Learn ability
Reflectiveness
Prevarication
Bird-song
Vervet
Monkeys
Honey
bee
‘Talking’ Signing
Parrots
Apes
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There is a difference between communicating
and the ability to use language.
Animals may be able to use/learn certain
aspects of human language but only in a very
limited way.
While some animals show trait marks of
Hockett’s design features, none of them
satisfies all criteria.
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