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PSY274H5 (28)
Chapter 6

Chapter 6 Textbook Notes - Do Animals Have Language?

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Craig Chambers

Notes From Reading: P ART 1: LANGUAGE : THE HUMAN ABILITY(PGS . 3-91) CHAPTER 6: DO ANIMALS HAVE L ANGUAGE (75-90) Introduction - The description of a language, what linguists call a grammar, involves the explicit statement of many rules o Rules about sound and word formation, as well as sentence structure and meaning o We apply them without conscious knowledge that we are doing so - A grammar is a collection of rules that describes a language o A grammar is a definitional part of what makes something a language - We have the ability to acquire language without any formal instruction o Its innateness is another definitional part of language (first language acquisition) - The ability to refer to things that are not physically present (objects here, and times) is known as displacement - Both displacement and the ability to refer to abstractions are common to all human language - Under normal conditions, humans associate meaning with words and sentences and show this by reacting in ways that there are typically neither random nor simple reflexes - Human language is creative; it allows us to express noel ideas rather than simply repeating a closed set of utterances o We can recombine the meaningful unit of words (morphemes) and create new world o Following syntactic rules, we can recombine words and create new sentences Animal Communication - These six are enough to help us determine whether the following instances of animal behavior are evidence of language of the type found among humans o Rules that might constitute a grammar o Innateness o Displacement o The ability to refer to abstractions o The existence of meaningful units (such as words) as evidence by appropriate behavior on the part of listeners o The ability to create novel language expressions - Research on animal language has included the study of bees, birds, sea mammals, and various primates Animals and Language - Observations of bees have shown that honeybee communities send out scouts to look for food o When food is located, the scouts return to the hive and recruit other bees to help them bring the food back o The recruiter first gives the others a sample of the food, and then perform a dance that identifies the location of the food o The dance has two shapes: the “round” dance is circular and is used when the food is within 100m of the hive; and the “wagging” dance involves a stretched- out figure eight used when the food is further away o The rate at which the bee does the wagging dance conveys the distance to the food source; the farther it is, the slower the bee dances - In the wagging dance, direction is indicated by the orientation of the bee’s head o The top of the hive is taken to be coincidental with the location of the sun, and if the bee faces straight ahead when performing the dance, the food source lies directly below the sun Notes From Reading: P ART 1: ANGUAGE : THE HUMAN A BILITY(PGS. 3-91) C HAPTER 6: DO ANIMALS H AVE LANGUAGE (75-90) o If the food is 60 degree off the vertical, then the food is located 60 degree of the sun - Is the bee dance a language? o It has rules, and exhibits displacement in referring to food sources that aren’t present, and gives evidence of having meaningful units as evidenced by appropriate reactions by the bee who witness the dance - Birdsong has also been extensively studied, and it is undisputed that birdsong transmits information o Song differ from species to species, and even within species songs can vary somewhat by the territory of the bird occupies o Bird species can have song dialects - It appears that newly hatched birds immediately begin to acquire song, so they must be hard-wire for this task - The structure of songs also observes rules - Birds are
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