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LI 2023 Nathalie F. Martin


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Title: LI 2023 Nathalie F. Martin

Animal Communication
  • LI 2023 Nathalie F. Martin

Outline of Todays Class
  • Today
  • Animal communication
  • References
  • Introduction The Nature of Communication
  • (chap. 1 Rowe Levine)
  •  La communication et le langage 
  •  Peut-on faire parler les singes? 

Homework for Today
  • Create a glossary of these key-terms
  • Communication
  • Code
  • Language

  • How do animals communicate?
  • Write down how you think animals communicate.
  • At the end of the class, we will see how many you
    were able to find ?

  • Communication is a behaviour, or the transmission
    of information, that affects the behaviour of
  • When a living organism (or machine) communicates
    it sends messages about itself or its
  • The message is placed into a code.
  • Humans have a highly elaborate code called

Animals and Human Languages
  • All living beings can communicates certain types
    of information.
  • But can we say that animals have linguistic
  • We must be careful to distinguish communication,
    which is broad, from language, which is a
    certain type of communication.

Animal Communication
  • Different means of communication used by animals
  • Smell
  • Light
  • Electricity
  • Color
  • Posture
  • Actions/movement
  • Facial expressions

Perception and animal communication
  • Animal communication is unconscious and
  • For example, if an animal lets out a cry in the
    presence of a predator, we automatically suppose
    that it is a reaction and not a deliberate desire
    to warn the other members of its species.
  • Communication results of a stimuli.
  • Produced only in reaction to a given situation.
  • In other words, an animal would never seek to
    communicate if it wasnt enticed by something in
    its environment.

Perception and animal communication (2)
  • Animal communication is understood as genetic.
  • If an animal, like a monkey for example, emits a
    certain cry, it is because it has been
    genetically programmed to do so.
  • Proof Many animals, like eels, have adapted to
    be able to communicate.

An example Bees
  • Their communication system
  • The distance is indicated by the type of
  • In circles, with movement of tale (waggle dance),
    and figure huit
  • Direction is indicated by the orientation of the
    dance in light of the sun
  • The quality of the given source of food is
    indicated by the speed of the dance.

Dance of the Bees
Of Bees and Men
  • A mix of symbolism and clues.
  • Symbolic since the dances are not directly
    associated to the content they represent.
  • Indicial (/?nd???l/) since they indicate the
    quality of the food by accelerating the dance.
  • Limited
  • There is only one subject/topic addressed by the
  • The information within the message is limited.
  •  Code  is mainly genetic (and non cultural).
  • Proof genetic (crossbreeding)

Communication and/or language
  • But can we say that what animals possess is in
    fact what we refer to as language?

Can primates talk?
  • The case of Koko
  • And many other animals

Can humans make primates talk?
  • What do you think? Can we make apes talk?
  • The first experiments with primates seem to have
    shown us that primates can in fact adopt a form
    of human language
  • (whether it be sign language of a similar

Can humans make primates talk? (2)
  • 1- 1966 Allen Beatrice Gardner and Washoe
  • They taught her Americain sign language (ASL)
  • 4 years later, she uses 130 signs.
  • They also affirm that she has spontaneously
    combined different signs that they have never
    taught her
  • e.g.  bird   water  duck

ASL http//
Can humans make primates talk? (3)
  • 2- David Premack and Sarah the chimpanzee.
  • He decided to teach her a new language.
  • This language is made up of symbols attached to
    magnets placed on a board.
  • Sarah learns to manipulate symbols that are non
    iconic (non representative).
  • After many years, she is able a manipulate many
    signs to answer questions.

(No Transcript)
  • The success of there two studies opened the door
    for many researches, including Francine Patterson
    and Koko.
  • http//
  • By these studies are hindered by scepticism ...
  • H. Terrace says that
  • these studies do not show that into account
  • syntax.
  • these chimpanzees have been preconditioned.
  • the true ability for language is lacking.
  • Other researcher says that this study can be
    likened to the Clever Hans controversy.

The  Clever Hans  Controversy
  • German school teacher, von Osten, in 1904
  • Claims that his horse can think
  • and communicate through clicking his heals or by
    nodding his head.
  • Oskar Pfungst
  • Explains this phenomenon  Clever Hans  is
    simply a good observer.

The  Clever Hans  Controversy (2)
  • The horse
  • Has a superior sensory perception
  • Interprets the clues given by his master
    (involuntary movement of the head)
  • Did not have the right answer when his master
    didnt know the answer or when the horse was
  • Therefore, the horse was simply trained
  • in other words, it could read the clues given by
    his master.

Repercussions on the study of primates
  • Many think that the positive results (in the
    study of apes) are the results of training.
  • The humans want to animals to do well
  • This is communicated to the animals through
    involuntary movements
  • The animals perceive these messages
  • The animals give the desired response.
  • Therefore these animals are only trained.

And the studies continue ...
  • In 1977, D. Rumbaugh teaches Lana an artificial
    language called Yerkish.
  • Advantages there is therefore a certain
    distance between the scientist and the
    chimpanzee, since they speak via a computer and
  • This eliminates the clever Hans phenomenon!
  • Get this
  • the monkeys Sherman and Austin, that know
    Yerkish, teach one another the symbols to obtain

And the studies continue ... (2)
  • In 1980, the bonobos chimps Kanzi et Mulika are
    exposed to speech, human gestures and Yerkish
  • The goal is to imitate the manner in which human
    acquire language.
  • http//
  • http//

And the studies continue ... (3)
  • Results Kanzi learns 90 words in Yerkish with
    sentence manipulations (2800 combinations in all,
    90 of which were not taught by the instructor).
  • Like a child, Kanzi shows natural linguistics
  • His unexpected reactions and requests prove that
    he understands the meaning (and that it is not
    only a matter of training).
  • Example Wash the hot dogs

So do primates really have access to human
  • A few conclusions

Do apes really have access to human language?
No, but we have learned that
  • No, but we have learned that primates
  • have access to a symbolic code, whether it be
    inate or learned through training
  • Are able to name objects, not just ask for them
  • Are sensitive to word order (syntax)
  • Can create new sentence by changing word order
  • Can use signs to communicate false information
  • Who learn language profoundly modified
    behaviour and cognitive abilities.

Why dont primates who live in the wild talk?
  • Primates are highly intelligent beings, who have
    developed complex social structures, and can
    manipulate tools so why cant they talk in a
    natural setting?
  • Scientists think that primates have a specific
    intelligence, which short-circuits their access
    to a more evolved language.
  • They are therefore unable to come to a stable
    consensus about the meaning of different signs
    and symbols that could serve are words.

Review Language, Languages and Speech
Language Language/ability
The innate ability to learn and produce language/code. Natural, universal and innate ability (amongst humans). The innate ability to learn and produce language/code. Natural, universal and innate ability (amongst humans).
Langue Language/code
A code or system, used by consensus. Ex different languages (French, English, Spanish, Greek, etc.). Collective (used within a language group, speakers of the language) A code or system, used by consensus. Ex different languages (French, English, Spanish, Greek, etc.). Collective (used within a language group, speakers of the language)
Parole Speech
The individual act of speaking (Concrete use of the language/code). Ex Please stop the bus! Individual. The individual act of speaking (Concrete use of the language/code). Ex Please stop the bus! Individual.
Back to Todays Challenge
  • How do animals communicate?
  • How do animals communicates?
  • Communication and/or language
  • Can we say that animals possess the ability to
    learn language?
  • Do animals have the innate ability called
  • Can they learn human language?

For Next Class
  • What we will see
  • Homework
  • Reading
  • Reminder

Have a nice day! God bless you! Now to him
who is able to keep you from stumbling and to
present you blameless before the presence of his
glory with great joy, to the only God, our
Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory,
majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time
and now and forever. Amen. (Jud 124-25 )
Matériel nécessaire
  • Ce dont jai besoin pour ce cours
  • Photocopies
  • Affiches
  • Livres
  • Autres

Mise en situation
Battle of the Linguists
  • Can primates learn a language?
  • Do primate have the innate ability for language?
  • Justify your answer.