Doctor Dolittle's Delusion: Animals and the Uniqueness of Human Language

Doctor Dolittle's Delusion: Animals and the Uniqueness of Human Language

Stephen R. Anderson

Language: English

Pages: 366


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Can animals be taught a human language and use it to communicate? Or is human language unique to human beings, just as many complex behaviors of other species are uniquely theirs? This engrossing book explores communication and cognition in animals and humans from a linguistic point of view and asserts that animals are not capable of acquiring or using human language.Stephen R. Anderson explains what is meant by communication, the difference between communication and language, and the essential characteristics of language. Next he examines a variety of animal communication systems, including bee dances, frog vocalizations, bird songs, and alarm calls and other vocal, gestural, and olfactory communication among primates. Anderson then compares these to human language, including signed languages used by the deaf. Arguing that attempts to teach human languages or their equivalents to the great apes have not succeeded in demonstrating linguistic abilities in nonhuman species, he concludes that animal communication systems—intriguing and varied though they may be—do not include all the essential properties of human language. Animals can communicate, but they can’t talk.

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They are made up of a small number of possible signals (on the order of five to fifty) that are not semantically recombinable. If they are continuous, different messages correspond to different values on some dimension. The notion of ‘‘continuous’’ here comes from the mathematical sense of the word. It refers to a physical scale (such as direction or distance) with the property that for any two values, there is always (at least in principle) another possible value intermediate between them. The bee.

For the overall interpretation. In experiments where the sound and the wagging do not correspond to the W 73 X 7067 Anderson / DOCTOR DOLITTLE’S DELUSION / sheet 86 of 367 The Dance ‘‘Language’’ of Honeybees Figure 4.4 Three examples of the indication of direction on a vertical comb surface: St, beehive; I, II, III, feeding stations in three different directions; I', II', III', the corresponding tail-wagging dances on the vertical comb. Tseng 2004.5.10 08:38 same distance, the bees are.

Addition to the more general process of auditory perception. The neurophysiological bases of this unusual adaptation for speech communication are not as evident as in the case of the frog, but then again, the systems are vastly different in terms of the complexity of the messages being transmitted. In both cases the communication system and the manner of its implementation are tightly linked in a way that seems particular to the species. We can of course argue about whether the perceptual system.

Can regard the ear as a kind of spectrograph that provides a spectral analysis of incoming acoustic information to the brain via the cochlea and the fibers of the auditory nerve. Our questions about perception do not concern the structure of the peripheral auditory system itself, but rather what the animal’s brain does with the information that system provides. In humans, we have reason to believe that the processing mechanism is specific to language, and located (usually) primarily in the left.

Role in the animals’ awareness not only of the world around them but also of their social environment than it does for humans. I have already mentioned (in Chapter 5) that mice have a specialized sensory organ and a distinct neural processing mechanism dedicated specifically to the ecologically important pheromonal signals of their species. In addition, research has shown that hamsters are crucially dependent on such signals for the regulation of their interactions with one another. They are, in.

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