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Can Animals Talk? - the linguistics behind animal language

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Published on Dec 5, 2014

Is language just for humans? Do other animals speak? Take a few minutes to explore animal communication with me.

Aristotle may snip humans off from rest of the Animal Kingdom, but animals do communicate with each other. Ants leave pheromone trails, bees perform information-rich waggle dances, birds learn to sing. But are bees, ants ants, birds, whales, dolphins and the rest using real language? Well, what makes something a language?

Biologists, linguists and ethologists team up to answer that question with lists of linguistic features! Displacement and duality of patterning (double articulation) are two key terms that often end up those lists. Bee dance language has displacement but not double articulation. Human language has both displacement and double articulation.

What about apes? Didn’t Koko the Gorilla cry when she was told of Robin Williams’ death? Doesn’t she use sign language to build sentences out of simple gestures? Hold on, let’s come back to primates and apes (including ape-human communication) in the future.

art, audio and animation: nativlang
pictures: morguefile.com
music: You So Zany, Happy Strumming (audionautix.com)

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