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?
- 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
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
o Predominant in terms of communication (particularly in human history)
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
- 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
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
Iconic basis: blood wrapped rags was a symbol that blood bath was taken
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
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
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.
Example: hawks vs. raccoons
Seems to convey escape strategy and not the identity of the predator
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
Capturing the Precise Nature of Human Language: The Design Features of Language
- Duality of Patterning