Communication and Language, try #2: The Birds and the Bees September 14, 2012
Questions 1. What’s the difference between language and communication? 2.How do we know that animals don’t have language? 3.Can animals acquire language if we try to teach it to them?
“Design Features” of Language From a 1966 article: “The design features listed below are found in every language on which we have reliable information, and each seems to be lacking in at least one known animal communicative system.” Defined by the linguist Charles Hockett (1916-2000)
“Design Features” of Language All communication systems have the following features: 1.A mode of communication (a medium) Audio-visual for most humans Visual-spatial for sign language users Chemical-olfactory for some plants and animals Electric current for telephones, computers, etc. 2. Semanticity Communication signals have meaning
“Design Features” of Language Some communication systems have the following features: 3. Interchangeability Participants can be transmitters and receivers. 4. Cultural Transmission System gets passed along through interaction with users of the system. “Tradition” IMPORTANT: People are not genetically pre-disposed to learn a particular language.
Cultural Transmission in Birds http://www.bavarianbirds.de/ortolan/ortolan.htm The Ortolan Bunting (found in Germany) exhibits various regional song dialects.
“Design Features” of Language 5. Arbitrariness –No logical relationship between signals (signs) and what they represent (their meaning) SignMeaning “tree” “Baum” “arbre”
Iconicity Arbitrary signs may be contrasted with iconic signs …which bear some resemblance to whatever it is that they signify. Examples: Note: sign languages tend to be highly iconic although they can display abritrariness, too.
“Design Features” of Language Onomatopoeia: iconic language signals Signal FormMeaning English“cock-a-doodle-doo” French “cocorico” Mandarin “kukuku” Note: still an element of arbitrariness in signal form
The Kiki/Bouba Experiment Originally devised by psychologist Wolfgang Köhler in 1927. Updated and replicated in 2001. Look at these two figures: Which one is bouba and which one is kiki? ~95% of both English and Tamil speakers thought the shape on the left was “kiki”, the one the right “bouba”
A Different Experiment Take a look at these three pictures: Now match them up with the vowels “ah”, “ee”, and “oo”. How’d you do that?
Sound Symbolism The association between sounds and particular qualities is known as sound symbolism. E.g., particular vowels are associated with small things: “teeny weeny”, “mini”, “wee”, “petite” Let’s try another. We’ll learn about two groups of sounds in this class: Group 1: p, t, k Group 2: f, s, “sh” (as in “shy”) Which of these groups has “hard” sounds, and which group has “soft” sounds?
“Design Features” of Language 6. Discreteness: messages can be built up out of smaller parts “Human beings have language.” humanbeingshavelanguage being-s [h][æ][v]
“Design Features” of Language 6. Discreteness: messages can be built up out of smaller parts “Alien beings have language.” alienbeingshavelanguage being-s [h][æ][v]
“Design Features” of Language 6. Discreteness: messages can be built up out of smaller parts “Alien beings have spaceships.” alienbeingshavespaceships being-s [h][æ][v]
“Design Features” of Language The following features are crucial properties of human language: 7. Displacement The ability to communicate about things that are not present in space and time. 8. Productivity (Creativity) The ability to produce and understand messages that have never been expressed before. New expressions, with new meanings, are constantly coming into existence.
“Design Features” of Language 9. Another crucial feature: Duality of Patterning (1) A large number of meaningful messages are made up of (2) a small number of meaningless elements For example: meaningful: “have” meaningless: [h] [æ] [v]
“Design Features” of Language 10. Prevarication Messages can be false, deceptive or meaningless 11. Reflexiveness In language, one can communicate about communication. 12. Learnability A speaker of a language can learn another language.
Animal Communication Systems Vervet Monkeys -specific calls for specific predators -loud bark = “leopard” get into a tree -interrupted snort = “eagle” take cover under a bush -whirring noise = “snake” look at the grass Sound files from: http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~mnkylab/media/vervetcalls.html
Vervet Action Movie Which animal is threatening the vervets? Do the vervets have language? Movie file from: http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~mnkylab/media/vervetcalls.html
The Bees Honeybees have one of the most complex systems of communication found in the animal world. They “dance” to indicate the presence of food sources in the vicinity of their hives. The dances take one of three forms: 1. Round Dance For food sources up to 20 feet away. Intensity indicates quality of source.
The Bees, part 2 2. The Sickle Dance Food source from 20 to 60 feet away. Intensity indicates quality of source. Angle with vertical represents angle of source with respect to sun.
The Bees, part 3 The Tail-Wagging Dance For food sources more than 60 feet away. Also indicates quality and direction Slower rate of repetition = longer distance
Bees dancing on the web http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/bees/dances.html You be the bee: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/bees/dancesbees1.html Is the bees’ form of communication language? Which of the “design features” does it exhibit?
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