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Topics: Animal language, Vervet Monkey, Language Pages: 6 (506 words) Published: June 27, 2013
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What is language? Design features Animal communication vs. human language

What is language?

Readings: 1.4, 14.1-14.2

LING 200 -- McGarrity

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LING 200 -- McGarrity

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Design features
Charles Hockett (1960)
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9 Design features
Mode of Communication Semanticity Pragmatic function Interchangeability Cultural transmission Arbitrariness Discreteness Displacement Productivity LING 200 -- McGarrity

Shared by all communication systems

They characterize language, distinguish it from other communication systems If a system lacks even one feature, it is communication, not language LING 200 -- McGarrity 3

+

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Shared by some communication systems

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Interchangeability
A user can both transmit and receive messages

Cultural transmission
At least some aspect of communication system is learned from other users

e.g., Chinese child of French-speaking parents will learn... French

LING 200 -- McGarrity

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LING 200 -- McGarrity

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Arbitrariness
There is no (necessary) connection between the form of signal and its meaning e.g., ‘whale’ is a small word for a big animal; ‘microorganism’ is just the reverse

Arbitrariness
Even onomatopoeia can be arbitrary…
cock-a-doodle-doo
(English)

kokekokko kukuku
(Mandarin) (Japanese)

cocorico
(French)

kikiriki
(Spanish)
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LING 200 -- McGarrity

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LING 200 -- McGarrity

Discreteness
Larger, complex messages can be broken down into smaller, discrete parts [tap] t e.g., [apt]

Displacement
Ability to talk about things not present in space or time

e.g., [pat]

p a

LING 200 -- McGarrity

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LING 200 -- McGarrity

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Productivity
Speakers can create infinite number of novel utterances that others can understand Elvis lives!!

Vervet monkeys
3 Alarm calls for different predators
‘snake’ ‘eagle’ ‘leopard’
http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~mnkylab/media/vervetcalls.html

e.g., “Little purple gnomes living in my sock drawer said, ‘Elvis lives’.” LING 200 -- McGarrity

/

Young vervets make some mistakes

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LING 200 -- McGarrity

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2

Vervet alarm
‘leopard’

Vervet communication
Yes:
Arbitrariness, Cultural transmission, Interchangeability

No:
Productivity, Discreteness, Displacement

LING 200 -- McGarrity

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LING 200 -- McGarrity

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Ape communication
Koko the gorilla
1,000 signs Can combine signs (‘white’ +‘tiger’=‘zebra’; ‘water’+ ‘bird’ = ‘duck’) Tells jokes, lies http://www.koko.org/world/talk_aol.html

AOL chat with Koko
PENNY: Koko are you going to have a baby in the future? KOKO: Koko-love eat ... sip. PENNY: What about a baby? You going to have baby? She's just thinking...her hands are together... KOKO: Unattention. PENNY: Oh poor sweetheart. She said 'unattention.' She covered her face with her hands..which means it's not happening, basically, or it hasn't happened yet. . . I don't see it.

LING 200 -- McGarrity

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LING 200 -- McGarrity

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Conclusion
PENNY: That's a good question. Have you taught other gorillas to sign? KOKO: Myself lip. PENNY: She taught herself. That's really true, too…I think what part of that answer might be, is that she's taught us. In other words, 'myself lip' was her answer and 'lip' is her word for woman. So 'herself' has taught 'lips', perhaps. So there are a couple of interpretations there.

Animal communication is qualitatively different from human language

LING 200 -- McGarrity

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LING 200 -- McGarrity

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