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Lecture 1 - Communication Defined. Human vs. animal communication

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Craig Chambers

READINGS for today’s Lecture: Chapters 1, 3, 6 Communication Defined: Human vs. Animal Communication Today we will talk about: - How can we define communication? - What makes HUMAN communication distinct and special? - Does animal communication share any similarities with human communication? What is Communication? - Definition: - What is constitutes to communication? o Talking to people (from one individual to another) o Facial gestures (crying or smiling) o Body language (general aspects of your posture can communicate) o Reading (written words on paper) o Advertisement on a magazine (an idea is sharing ideas with you) (not as obvious to us) o In print form (handicap wheelchair sign) o Traffic light communicates information  functioning in a way like a living agent would communicate the idea of “go” or “stop” o Singing (what is the relationship between singing and communication) The Canonical Case: - One organism “transmits information: to another o But this too vague Can We Make Things More Percise? - In what channel is information transmitted? - What kinds of information are transmitter? In What Channel is Information Transmitter? - Modes of communication in the animal kingdom o Visual – ie. Peacock o Chemical – Ie. the dog marking territory on a fire hydron (peeing) o Tactile – ie. Grooming behavior of primates, also a marker of group affiliations o Vocal/Auditory – ie. Birds chirping Modes Characterizing Human Communication - Vocal-auditory o Predominant in terms of communication (particularly in human history) - Visual - Tactile? What Constitutes “Information”? - There are different ways to approach this: o Consider the FUNCTION of communication  What does this do? What is the effect of this information? o Consider the FORM the information takes Defining Information in Terms of Function - Non-Human Animals – Communication = very limited in terms of effect produced o Ie. Mating call + potential response o Threads related to territory - Human Communication – extremely broad range of effects possible o Social effects – hierarchy o Emotional effects o Requesting information o Disputing information o Confirming information Defining Information in Terms of its Form - A helpful distinction here: Peirce’s classification of “signs” - Peirce*: Philosopher (1839-1914) o In his view: “sign” = stimulus pattern that has some meaning - Pierce clarified how meaning comes to be attached to the stimulus pattern o He came up with three kinds of signs Peirce, Subtypes of “Signs” - Icon – Stimulus pattern physically resembles what it “stands” for o Example: images in mirror, symbol on “print” button, “walk” symbol on streetlights etc. - Index – Stimulus pattern signifies something else because it is naturally correlated with it o Example: Smoke-fire - smoke is naturally correlated to fire, so seeing smoke coming out of a house, it signifies the presence of fire o Dark clouds - rain o Particular facial expression- surprise - Symbol – Stimulus pattern signifies something due to arbitrary association o Example: the sound pattern of words in language o Punctuation marks in writing - Note: o Multiple types can co-exist  Ie. Picture of a sign indicating no cell phone use  Cell phone is an icon and the red circle o Sometimes a sign’s categorization changes over time  The barber shop circle thing outside the shop used to be iconic, but now symbolic  Iconic basis: blood wrapped rags was a symbol that blood bath was taken place o Precise significance typically depends on context Peirce and Human Communication - The use of Peirce’s third type is particularly widespread - A way human uses symbols is completed and sophisticated - Symbols lie at the heart of LANGUAGE - A consideration of natural-occurring animal communication systems will help us see this… Animal Communication in the Wild Case Study: Alarm Call - Alarm calls is a noise created by animals o It is triggered by external event (perception of a predator) o Used primarily by social animals o Function: used to alert other group members - Examples: o Ground squirrels: produce two acoustically distinct sounds and reflect the distance of the predator  Different behaviours associated with these two different calls o Chickens: produce two distinct calls reflecting the presence of aerial predator vs. terrestrial predator  Example: hawks vs. raccoons  Seems to convey escape strategy and not the identity of the predator itself o Vervet Monkeys: have a sophisticated kind of system that involves three kinds of call: Eagle Call, Leopard Call, Snake Call  Somehow this system still “feels” vey limited  Cane we come up with some objective criteria to give substance to this feeling? Capturing the Precise Nature of Human Language: The Design Features of Language - Semanticity - Arbitrariness - Discreteness - Duality of Patterning - Productivity - Displacement Semanticity
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