Monday, July 1, 2013
Do animals have language?
No animals (nonhuman animals) do not have language. Language is communicative, structured, arbitrary, dynamic, and generative (Willingham, 2007). The majority of animal communication systems are only communicative. Animals may not have a language but animals do have a means to communicate. In order to communicate specific meanings animals use communicative signals that are not arbitrary, such as howls, grunts, songs, and barks. These used communicative sinals relay amounts of information but this is not language. Only humans (human animals) have language. However, certain animals are able to understand certain amounts of language that humans use, such as dogs and birds. Gandhi (2013), "German researchers have found a border collie named Rico who understands more than 200 words and learns new ones as quickly as many children" (p. 1). Certain birds, specifically pet birds can imitate sounds and distinguish between languages (Gandhi, 2013). Understanding language and understanding many different languages is not the same as having a language.
Willingham, D. T. (2007). Cognition: The thinking animal (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
Gandhi, M. (2013). People for Animals. Retrieved from http://www.peopleforanimalsindia.org/articles-by-maneka-gandhi/211-animals-can-understand-many-languages.html