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Review from last class • 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
What can a dog communicate to you? • Alertness • Anger • Depression/sadness • Excitement • Fear • Friendliness • Happiness • Hunger/thirst • Immediate need • Interest • Playfulness • Warning/threat • Frustration
Birdsongs • Birdsong can, just like human language, be culturally transmitted, and geographical “dialects” are common (Wiener, 1986)
Vervet Monkeys • 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.
Honey Bees • Karl von Frisch (1920) • Reporting of food sources through dancing • Quality, distance, direction • “round dance” for 50m radius • “tail wagging” for more than 50m
Teaching animals language • Can animals be taught how to communicate with human-like language?
Talking parrots • 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”?
Kanzi the Bonobo • 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
Kanzi & Humans • Similarities to Humans • Language device: Noam Chomsky
Design features of human language • 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.
Design features of human language • 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.
Design features of human language • 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.
Design features of human language • 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.
Design features of human language • 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.
Exercise • 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?
Conclusion • 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.