Human Vs. Animal Communication

Read Complete Research Material


Animal Communication System vs. Human Language Abilities

[Name of College]

Animal Communication System vs. Human Language Abilities


Human languages are unique communication systems in nature because of their enormous expressiveness and flexibility. They accomplish this by using combinatorial principles in phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics, which impose important requirements on the cognitive abilities of language users. Explaining the origins of the structure of language and the human capacity for learning and using it, are challenging and controversial problems for linguistics, cognitive science, and evolutionary biology. Much discussion has concentrated on the following questions: whether or not this capacity has been subject to natural selection; whether it evolved in a single, in few, or in many steps; and whether articulation, perception, or cognitive processing formed the crucial bottleneck. Surprisingly little attention, however, has been paid to a precise, quantitative investigation of the range of differences between human languages and animal communication, and the many methodological challenges that arise when trying to make such comparisons. (Maynard, 1979)

We argue that there is a need to develop formal tools for substantiating comparative claims. Moreover, in efforts to model the gradual evolution of language from a primate-like, ancestral state, it is necessary to model intermediate stages, for which again appropriate formalisms are often lacking. In this article, we review formalisms from various branches of linguistics and evaluate whether, and how, they can be used in such comparative and evolutionary research. Vogt (2006) referred to the unique features of human language as its “design features.” Hockett's list has been updated by several authors, and many of the design features have made their way into introductory linguistics textbooks (Krebs & Dawkins, 1984). Jackendoff (2002) has integrated a similar list of design features into a scenario for the various stages in the evolution of human language from primate-like communication. Unlike many other theories, Jackendoff's scenario assumes several such intermediate stages. Jackendoff's proposal is useful for structuring the discussion in this article for a number of reasons:

• This scenario is a gradualist account, with many intermediate steps. Scenarios proposed by other scholars can be seen as variants of Jackendoff's, where two or more of the stages Jackendoff proposes are collapsed into one. Jackendoff's scenario can thus be seen as a generalization of many other scenarios.

• It grounds the scenario for the evolution of language in a theory of how modern humans acquire, represent, and process language, which is in principle testable. Although Jackendoff's account is not very formal, his partitioning of the problem is sufficiently explicit to identify potentially relevant formalisms and apply them to issues in language evolution, in order to get a better understanding of the precise nature of the specific issues to be explained. By the same token, it allows us to identify relevant empirical phenomena that may be brought to bear on these issues. (Krebs & Dawkins, 1984)

Human vs Animal Communication

In this paper several differences between human language and animal communication would be highlighted. In this regard, we start by saying that communication is ...
Related Ads