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Lecture Notes (weeks 2-3)

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LING 100
Yourie Pankrats

Lecture Notes (weeks 2-3) Semiotics. Animal Communication vs. Human Language. 1.0. Semiotics. The study of signs. 1.1. Sign and its Features - it should be material; - it should stand for something else; - it serves as a means of communication 1.2. Sign and its parts Signified A plant, having a [tri:] Signifier trunk with leaves and/or needles. CONTENT FORM A signifier is that part of a sign that stimulates at least one sense organ of the receiver of a message. The signified component of the sign refers to both the real world object it represents and its conceptual content. 1.3. Types of signs Signs can be divided into three basic types, depending on: (1) whether the signifier naturally resembles its referent, (2) whether the signifier is directly linked with the referent being a partial or representative sample of it, or (3) whether the signifier and referent are arbitrarily associated. - iconic signs; - indexical signs; - symbolic signs 2 1.4. Types of sign structure - graded sign structure; - discrete sign structure 1.5. The definition of Semiotics 2.0. Animal Communication 2.1. Introduction 2.2. Vocal and non-vocal animal communication - scent - light - electricity - color - posture - gesture - facial expressions - most animal communication systems allow for up to 30 or 35 different messages 2.3. The Bees - Forager bees display a remarkable system of communicating the location, direction of the food source, its type and quality, its distance from the hive; - Structure and function of the round dance; - Structure and function of the tail-wagging dance; - Dialects in the communication systems of the bees; - Interpretation of the results of the experiments a)Thebee'sabilitytodanceandnavigateisinnate,butexperience increases the accuracy of these activities. b)Thereisnoevidencethatthebeeshavetolearnanyofitsbehaviour, they inherit the dance patterns of the parents they resemble physically, just as they inherit other genetic traits. c) Individual bees raised in isolation from the hive function normally whenthey are introduced to the hive for the first time. 3 d)Oneofthemostremarkableaspectsofthebee communication system is that the successful forager bee who returns to dance is able to indicate the direction to the source without having flown exactly that same direction itself. Once a forager bee has located a profitable source, it returns directly to the hive, where it must communicate the reverse of its own return trip. e) The bee dance is not arbitrary, it is a miniaturized replication of actual flight path (iconic sign). f) The bee dance is very restricted in the messages it can transmit and in the detail it can give (only about food source). g) The honeybee has a remarkably complex communication system, especially for an organism with a brain the size of a grass seed 2.4. The Birds - Two major classes of vocalizations : calls and songs; - Calls: flight calls; specialized alarm call 'mobbing call'; specialized alarm call `aerial predator call' - Flight calls: a) before takeoff, b)during flight, c)before landing. - Specializedalarmcall'mobbingcall'(abruptonsetandoffset), - Specialized alarmcall`aerialpredatorcall' (beginsgraduallyand isatamuchhigherfrequency). - Songs. Differentsongs establishterritoryandattract mates. Acquisition of Calls and Songs 1) The birds recognize the distinctive calls of the parents and they learn this inthetwoandahalftofourandahalfdaysbefore hatching.Thecalls from the neighbours do not attract them. 2)TheEuropeancuckoo'ssongiscompletelyinnate(birdsreared in isolation,deafened,orexposedtoallsongsbuttheirownstillsing the typical song of their species). 3) Some birds like a male bullfinch learn the song. Investigators reared ayoungbullfinchinacagewith acanary.In theSpringduring thebreedingseason,thebullfinchsangthesongofthecanary. Moreover, whenthe offsprings ofthis particular bullfinch matured they all sang the canary song they learn from their father. 4 Recursion and birds 1) Recursion allows phrases to be embedded inside simple sentence or add another phrase to the end of a given sentence. 2) Recursion, once thought to be the unique property of a human language 3) Gary Marcus in his article “Startling Starlings”, arrived at the conclusion that humans are not unique in their capacity to recognize recursions (CC, p.38/1117). 4) “…the capacity to recognize recursion might be found only in species that can acquire new patterns of vocalization, for example songbirds, humans and perhaps some cetaceous.” (CC, p.33/1117). Parrots and Animal Language Research 1) Like primates, “…parrots live in societies in the wild and they live long enough to make the time-consuming process of learning worthwhile”. (CC, p. 50/103). 2) According to Dr. Pepperberg, her parrot Alex, by the end of his life (after 30 years of learning human language) “…had the intelligence of a five-year-old child and had not reached his full potential. He had a vocabulary of 150 words. He knew the names of 50 objects and could, in addition, describe their colours, shades and the materials they were made from … he understood , and could discuss ,the concepts “bigger”, “smaller”, “same” and different… he could count up to six, including the number zero…” (CC, p.50/103). 3) Alex was able to “talk” and perform for anyone, not just for Dr. Pepperberg. It means that no unconscious cues from his trainer were provided. 4) It is not clear whether “…Alex’s skills were the results rote learning rather than abstract thought.” (CC, p.50/103). - Interpretation of the data a) Many birds develop dialects in the songs. b) Like humans the birds have a special hemisphere of the brain controlling the songs. 5 c) There is an interplay between innate and learned aspects: general characteristics appear to be fixed biologically, whereas the details of thesystemapp
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