Human language & animal communication (Animal communication systems…
Human language & animal communication
Charles Hockett, 1960
1. aural-vocal channel
Use vocal tract to send, and aural tract to recieve.
Generally dropped as sign-language is considered a langauge.
2. broadcast transmission & directional reception
send message anywhere (not to one recipient)
to receive message must be in the right position
3. rapid fading
signal does not persist
anyone can be a speaker/hearer
5. total feedback
speakers hear their message
signs have an accepted meaning
no communication without this - any communication
must have this
no direct connection between sign and signified
separate units of communication
communication for its own sake
distinguishes from annimal communication - danger calls esp.
alledgedly 'not controlled' 'inherrent effect on the body'
talk about things not present (space/time)
talk about imaginary things/situations
11. productivity (creativity)
new messages from existing signs
12. traditional (cultural) transmission
not born knowing how to speak a language
13. duality of patterning
discrete units combined into different layers
Ability to lie
can use language to talk about language
speakers of one language can learn another
17. spontaneous usage
not only in response to stimuli
18. turn taking
patterns of communication between interlocutors
19. structure dependence
reliance on grammars or patterns
not a 'natural language', but also not a 'man-made artifact' - particulary in the way we process this
(acquired dyslexia - shows processing of langage is similar)
Animal communication systems
Only performed by forager bees
go and find nectar, bring some back, and tell other bees where to go
part of communication is providing samples
performed in the dark (in hive) so mostly touch
shape of dance
different species have different standards
measure of effort (against wind) rather than distance
Round - short
Sickle dance - medium (italian only)
waggle dance - long distance
plotted wrt sun
direction of waggle line in waggle dance
communicated by vigour
arbitrariness - yes (shape of dance)
displacement - yes (absent objects)
productivity - limited
(messages may be 'new' but cannot tal about new things)
semanticity - yes, but limited
duality of patterning - no. dances can't be combined
can be used to deceive
Alex was an African Grey parrot who was kept by Irene Pepperburg and trained over the course of 30 years to answer questions which involved reasoning, counting etc.
Pepperburg was very sensitive to criticisms of the work and claimed that he could use a “two-way communication code” rather than language.
Limited vocabulary (around 150 words) but could differentiate different shapes and colours and allegedly produced “banerry” to mean “apple” from “banana” and “cherry”.
Whales & Dolphins
relatively underresearched due to water issues
suggests can communicate quite sophisticated information
can understand human commands
largely indexical - not arbitrary
usually symptomatic - in response to stimuli (in humans blushing, surprise)
clicks - respond to novel object
clicks/grunts - while moving or a greeting
purr - while groooming
yip/spat/bark - graded according to threat
note: graded and not discrete
3 distinctive, arbitrary calls
eagle - look up
leapoard (large animals) - climb tree
snake - look on ground
loud calls to maintain territory
acts like self-naming (index)
used for social dominance activity
avoid/threaten/identify higher/lower members
graded calls (16 identified)
greeting, location, emotional state, etc.
some evidence of cultural transmission
vocal vs gesture
more subtle, communicates more meaning
possibly more similar to human language
not clear how to differentiate this from vocal communication
human communication - small percentage verbal
Koko is a female gorilla who has been taught ASL be Penny Patterson. She has a working vocabulary of over 1000 signs and can understand around 2000 English words.
Claimed to have a measured IQ of between 75-90.
Kanzi is a male bonobo raised by Sue Savage-Rumbaugh. He was born in captivity and stolen by another female, Matata. Matata was being taught to use lexigrams (symbols or pictures representing words) but was not progressing. When Matata was away, Kanzi started using the lexigrams apparently spontaneously. He also apparently learnt some American Sign Language from having watched videos of Koko. Claimed to have invented new words using existing lexigrams.
How much of the syntax is required? Very little – only need to understand two words for each sentence.
Note that Savage-Rumbaugh is wearing a mask. Why? To avoid the facial expression problem (the Clever Hans phenomenon).
The Brain & Body
visual representations to audio code
temporal lobe (left)
interprets audio code
communicates between Broca & Wernicke
caused by damage to arcuate fasciculus – connecting Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas.
Usually involves inability to repeat accurately.
Suggests that in normal speech production and comprehension, other routes between areas are available.
Loss of meaning; sufferers speak fluently but often nonsense, including nonsense words.
(Receptive aphasia – because difficulty understanding/receiving language.)
Caused by damage to Wernicke’s area.
frontal lobe (left hemisphere)
controls speech muscles via motor cortex
Developed Broca's area in:
Chimps have developed Broca's area
role for communication but not grammatical speech
loss of grammar (in production and comprehension, but mainly affects production); also phonology/articulation.
Sufferers typically very frustrated by their condition. Also can have word-finding difficulties.
(Expressive aphasia – because difficulty expressing oneself.) Caused by damage to Broca’s area.
word is pronounced
recieves sensory information
voluntary motor functions
memory / reasoning / language
(language as a spearate function debateable)
Other common types of aphasia:
inability to name things (find words for things). Affects us all to some degree. In some cases restricted to very small areas of vocabulary, e.g. a patient who could not remember words for fruit and vegetables. Caused by damage in different parts of brain, both hemispheres.
Foreign accent syndrome
disruption to phonology/pronunciation. Sufferers sound as though they are speaking with a foreign accent, but really that’s just a perception. Caused by damage to Broca’s area.
hemispheres contribue differently
hemispheres physically different
Dichotic listening test
different sounds played to each ear
right ear advantage (linked to handedness)
more accurate linguistic to right ear
more accurate non-linguistic to left ear
most people left-lateralised
preception of linguistic sounds
interpret lingustiic tone (e.g. Chinese)
synthesis, holistic reasoning
perception of non-linguistic sounds
intonation, emotional tone
90% of population is R-handed
of these, 90% are L-lateralised for language
10% are L-handed
of these, 60% are L-lateralised for language
5% total R-lateralised for language
1% right handed, 4% left handed
Chimps show 50/50 handedness
did language lead to fine, but handed motor control in left brain/right hand, or other way around?
large brain must have been selected for
bur does that have anythign to do with language?
are we starting with human language and big brain and reasoning from there (seems like yes to me!)
Neanderthals had this
no advantages for eating
Animal research findings:
best at human language no better than 2yo
intensive coaching vs. L1 learning
some slight evidence of transmission
Grammar is a big problem
humans are born with
which allows acquisition of language
tabula rasa, knowledge from experience
gain knwoledge through reason, some knowledge a priori
emprircism vs. rationalism
behaviourism vs. nativism
Empiricist view of language
language from operant conditioning
Chomsky critiques Skinner's book
language can't be imitation as Language is productive (creative) finite number of symbols / infinite uttereces
must have key rules built in
children make same kinds of errors
and never make other 'possible' mistakes
2 or more langauges come into contact
need for fast communication
grammatical structure of one, lexicon of other
pidgin becomes grammatically complex language
happens because children learn as first language
creolisations follow grammatical universals
all creoles share features even if not in base language
Nicaragua Sign Language
Deaf children at home made up own family sign language
1970s came together as schools
new children creolised language
almost every human acquires languag
unrelated to IQ
animals can't learn it
Poverty of the stimulus
due to agrammatical adult speech, poor signal (noise)
conclusion: children must have some knowledge of language
not punished for agrammatical speech
repeat the corrected version to child instead
despite differences languages are similar
sentences organised around a verb
all laguages have at least 3 vowels
a, i, u
tendencies to particular structures
object after verb then adjectives after nouns
dont find impossible grammar
SUbject, Object, Verb
SVO and SOV account for 90% languages
innate but unspecified grammar
language acquisition device (LAD)
knowledge about lingustifc universals
building blocks of language
to make sophisticated guesses at grammar
tell which version of hypothesis is best
children never make certain mistakes
similarities in human languages
UG has certain paramaters
community goes along
e.g. SOV vs SVO, etc.
K family have SLI
4 generations, 50% have SLI
grammar only, normal IQ
motor control in lower face
One gene: FOXP2
switches other genes on/off
grammar but facial movement
mice squeek differently
how do we know stimulus is poor?
are languages that similar?
is language separate from other cognition?
FOXP2 not language specific
no partial LAD in other species