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11 - Language - Language vs communication Do animals have...

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1 • Language vs. communication • Do animals have language? • What is language • Areas in the study of language • Speech perception • Understanding words, sentences, and discourse • Does language influence thought? The birds and animals are all friendly to each other and there are no disputes about anything. They all talk, and they all talk to me, but it must be a foreign language, for I cannot make out a word they say. Mark Twain It is a very remarkable fact that there are none so depraved and stupid, without even excepting idiots, that they cannot arrange different words together, forming of them a statement by which they make known their thoughts; while, on the other hand, there is no other animal, however perfect and fortunately circumstanced it may be, which can do the same. Rene Descartes, 1637 Species specific – No other creatures have language • Unique Species uniform – All humans do Universals in development Similarity across cultures But animals do communicate First and foremost: a communication system – Used to convey thoughts, ideas, emotions… Many different specific languages – about 5,000 different languages are spoken worldwide But no language or dialect is “better” or “worse”
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2 • Features that ALL communication systems have • Features only SOME have • Features that define a TRUE language • Mode Means by which the message is transmitted • Sounds • Gestures • chemicals • Semanticity Signals have meaning Pragmatic function Serve some useful purpose “Honey, I am here” • Interchangeability – Can both send and receive messages Cultural transmission – Some aspects learned through interactions • Arbitrariness – Form of signal not logically related to meaning • Displacement – Can communicate about things not present in time or space • Productivity – Can produce and understand messages never expressed before and can express novel ideas • Bee communication – Elaborate dance indicates direction and distance of nectar source from hive – Iconic, not arbitrary – Limited topics • Arbitrary? – sort of… – but not in the same way human language is arbitrary • Productive? – No • Displacement? – Yes (spatial)
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3 • System of whistles and clicks • Use clicks for echolocation • Can use to identify one another Is it language? Complex songs Vary across species and groups • Jackdaws Alex the gray parrot Why do we have language and apes do not? … or do they? • Extremely controversial debate Tool use – Chimps use stick to get termites and rocks to crack nuts Cultural transmission – Chimps teach each other how to use stones to crack nuts • Altruism – Chimps protect child from predators – Chimps share food more with relatives • Language – ?????????
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